News / 

Cornwell, Patterson And James deliver suspense novels guaranteed to leave you sleeping with the lights on

Save Story
Leer en espaƱol

Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.

``Predator'' by Patricia Cornwell; Putnam ($26.95)

``Mary, Mary'' by James Patterson; Little, Brown ($27.95)

``The Lighthouse: An Adam Dalgliesh Mystery'' by P.D. James; Knopf ($25.95)


Just about everyone loves finding a good mystery novel, and three of the best crafters of suspense fiction have new titles in bookstores.

Patricia Cornwell presents forensic sleuth Kay Scarpetta in a new setting - the ever-tense doctor is free-lancing for an independent forensics school/laboratory in Florida. Freed of the chafing budgets and backstabbing politics of state employment, she's able to use the most cutting-edge investigative techniques.

She needs them all, because "Predator" finds her on the trail of an especially nasty mass murderer whose cleverness is all the more imposing because this particular killer seems able to avoid establishing any specific pattern of violent acts. At the same time, Scarpetta's on-again, off-again lover Benton Wesley is up north studying the genetics of an incarcerated serial killer, and what he's learning has eerie parallels to the monster Scarpetta is trying to track 3,000 miles away.

Cornwell remains the master of incorporating real-life science into pulse-pounding fiction. "Predator" is her strongest Scarpetta yarn since "The Last Precinct." Readers who've been somewhat disappointed in the weaker "Blowfly" and "Trace" will be pleased with this one.

James Patterson published four novels this year and expects to have four more out in 2006 - nobody can crank out that many words and have them all be high-quality. And since Patterson specializes in terse three- or four-page chapters (all the better to keep you turning the pages), when he's off his game it's woefully evident from the very beginning, "Fourth of July" being a good case in point.

But "Mary, Mary," which features the further spine-tingling adventures of FBI investigator Alex Cross, is Patterson at his grab-readers-by-the-throat best. A psycho who calls himself The Storyteller is killing off Hollywood movie stars and moguls, and the industry's heaviest-weights have convinced the president himself to order the FBI's finest to investigate.

Problem is, Cross is on a Disneyland vacation with his family, and he really doesn't want to give up his first holiday in years. But once he agrees to just touch base with local investigators, he's dragged in, and that's not the worst of it - it's on a personal basis. An ex-lover cons a judge into granting her custody of the young son she conceived with Cross; his current girlfriend gets tired of courtship "interruptus" and dumps him, and there are the ongoing health problems of his beloved Nana Mama, who raised Cross and is helping him bring up his own brood.

"Mary, Mary" isn't quite perfect. Patterson changes the narrator back and forth between Cross and the killer a few too many times, giving watchful readers ample opportunity to figure out who the bad guy is. This sucks a little life out of the grand climax, but the story getting you there mostly makes up for it.

The elegant Adam Dalgliesh mystery series by octogenarian P.D. James is rightly viewed as one of the finest in modern suspense fiction. The New Scotland Yard sleuth relies on intellect the way Patricia Cornwell's Kay Scarpetta counts on forensic tools to crack cases; there is a stateliness to Dalgliesh's actions and James' prose that somehow has never seemed in the least boring.

Until now. "The Lighthouse" isn't a bad book - I don't think P.D. James could write one - but it doesn't quite match the standard the author has set in almost a dozen previous Dalgliesh adventures.

The Commander isn't really the featured detective, for one thing. That honor goes to Detective Kate Miskin, a supporting character in previous tales. She and Dalgliesh find themselves on an isolated island off the Cornish coast, tasked with finding out which mysterious resident murdered one of the others. Dalgliesh falls ill.

Miskin takes over, and there's another death before she finally figures out the obvious, which readers will have already done. James' writing remains admirable. This time out, though, her story's less spellbinding because the most interesting character is too frequently offstage.


(c) 2005, Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service.

Most recent News stories


Get informative articles and interesting stories delivered to your inbox weekly. Subscribe to the Trending 5.
By subscribing, you acknowledge and agree to's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

KSL Weather Forecast