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Story Time Review by
Christopher Treagus
by James Patterson
Little, Brown and Company
ISBN: 0 31669323 5

In James Patterson's newest release, VIOLETS ARE BLUE, Detective Alex Cross this time chases after vampires. My first thought when looking at this novel was one of derision. Vampires are already so overdone, what more could this author say about them, even if he is a best seller? And I also figured it was likely that, being a crime/thriller/mystery type novel and not horror, that it would likely have the Scooby-Doo approach to the monster. The one where the mask is pulled off in the end to reveal that the monster was never real after all and there was no reason to be scared of it. But as I read the jacket cover, I found myself intrigued. Yet intrigued was all I remained throughout the story, and I don't think the novel ever lived up to its promise.

Cross takes on the case and plunges into a netherworld of secret clubs and role players, a world full of poseurs and play actors - and someone demented enough to have crossed the line from dark ritual to real blood. This is the line that captured my attention. But this was also not a very accurate depiction. Knowing of the kind of "netherworld" that this seemed to refer to, I was imagining a story that could perhaps be very frightening because it struck close to home. I never expected real vampires. I know many people who attend Goth clubs that seem sometimes literally fashioned after the vampiric ideal of a century before. I am aware of people who play the role playing games and act as though they are vampires. I have even from time to time played in such things myself. No one I know takes it that seriously, or that far. But the potential is there, for the right (or wrong) mindset. Someone could take it from the pages of fiction to real life and commit horrible crimes. It has even happened before, not too long ago. A group of teens in Florida come to mind. No. I did not expect real vampires from James Patterson. But the concept, to me, seemed that it could have some fright involved - if only because of its all too realistic ramifications.

Patterson's vampire killers fall far short of the mark, however. They are brutal, yes. They are gruesome as they drain people of blood, definitely. But they never quite succeed in being frightening. And in the end, they are not very well drawn characters. Their motivation is sketchy at best. This is continually commented on by Cross himself as he is unable to profile the killers or understand their mindset. But the problem is, that though this attempts to explain the antagonists lack of motivation, it only seems to highlight it. In the end when they are caught (and you knew they were going to be, eventually) it is not very satisfying because without direction, they were also lacking in threat.

But this is not the real story of the novel, anyway. This is at best a sub plot, though it is billed as the primary focus. Alex Cross may be assigned to the task of chasing after these vampire killers, but it is really the confrontation with his old nemesis, known as the Mastermind, that the plot is really concerned with. And this, consequently, is also where the true suspense and fright comes in. All during the course of his investigation, Cross himself is being stalked and harassed by the Mastermind. He seems to know his every whereabouts and is a step ahead of him at every juncture. It is all that Cross can do to protect himself and keep his family safe as he continues with his job. But he soon discovers that his dreaded Mastermind could be anyone and anywhere.

Patterson does excel at pacing. The novel is a quick and entertaining read, even if his characters could be better motivated and fleshed out. He keeps the chapters short in order to lure you in to reading more, and has a good sense of timing - revealing things in stage and at just the right moment - to again, lure you further in. Many a time I found myself wanting to put the book down and go to bed, but told myself that I could do "just one more chapter" so I could find out what happened next.

As a novel of suspense following the confrontation and eventually showdown of Alex Cross and his long time adversary the Mastermind, VIOLETS ARE BLUE succeeds very well. But the vampire story line is nothing, really, but filler. In way, when it was all said and done, I felt as though I had been lured in with the promise of one story, and given another. Though there are things of merit in the book, overall, I must say that I think that it could have been better. I give it two book wyrms.


This review copyright 2002 E.C.McMullen Jr.

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