Saturday, July 31, 2010

117 Days of James Patterson - Day Ninety-Three

Day 93, Chapter 93
Did you think "America's #1 Storyteller" was skeevy and creepy before today?  Check out the man himself talking to Borders.com (I know - please don't shop there) about The 9th Judgment, his love for Angie Harmon, writing from a woman's point of view, and what he thinks of the Women's Murder Club video games.  That's right, there are video games.  JPatt: "In a lot of ways, I think (The 9th Judgment) is the best (in the series), the cases are really interesting and the love - the romances - in the book are kind of cool too."
-------
The entire plot of Chapter 93: Lindsay finds out that Pete Gordon is holding his own son hostage (however that's possible) and has said that he will only speak to her.  She drives over to his house and calls him, but there is no answer.  Then, Pete calls her on her cell phone.

Here are the best parts:
  • Jacobi hovered behind me. I brought him up to speed in ten words or less and saw the conflict in his face.  (10 words: "Nude driving, killing kids. Oops, I accidentally solved the case."  Or, "Don't look so glum, Jacobi, there're just 75 pages left.")
  • Agent Benbow flagged us down with his hand...  (Rather than using the airplane runway batons he has or a series of signal flags.)
  • "Give it your best, Sergeant," he said. "Be his friend. Don't antagonize him."
  • "Peter, this is Lindsay Boxer. I'm here because you asked for me and I want this to turn out right for everyone."  (I don't want to be here, you don't want to be here, I don't have any proof that you've done anything, ever, but we both know that you're a murdering asshole, so let's just finish this and go home.  And by "home," I mean jail.)
And the finale:
I was out of moves, wondering why Gordon had even asked for me, when my own cell phone rang. I pulled it off my belt and stared at the faceplate. The caller ID was blocked, but I knew.
"Boxer."
"Well, hello, sweetmeat," said the Lipstick Killer.
Go to Day 94

Friday, July 30, 2010

117 Days of James Patterson - Day Ninety-Two

Day 92, Chapter 92
Today is a Pete Gordon flashback chapter - I was kind of looking forward to this, a break from the monotony of half-assed crime solving, child murder, and girl-on-girl action.  Sadly, it is just as fucked up and pathetic as the previous 91 chapters.  (That's right, I'm dropping roadside f-bombs today.)

Pete was riding in the lead car in a military caravan in Iraq when a roadside bomb destroyed the car behind him.  His car got totally rocked by the explosion and he staggered out to assess the situation.  This is where it gets really effed up.
He saw three of his men: Corporal Ike Lennar was lying on the ground, twitching. Private Oren Hancock was holding his guts as they spilled into the dust. The other marine was Kenny Marshall, from Pete's hometown, his legs blown off above the knees.
He'd dropped beside his dear friend, ripped off Kenny's helmet, and cradled his bare head. The picture of Jesus inside Kenny's helmet appeared to shake its head as the helmet rolled on its rim. Pete had murmured empty words of comfort to Kenny, the boy who'd said he'd be ready whenever the Lord called him. Kenny had looked up at Pete - surprise in his eyes - and then the life had fled from him. 
"No, no, no," said Jesus.  "Yes, yes, yes," said JPatt.  Seth lies on the ground twitching as the life fled from him.

Pete went apeshit at this point - he felt "emptied of life" when little Kenny died.  "He tore off his shirt and covered Kenny's face" (lucky Kenny) then he took the rest of his men and went after the people riding in the car that was following his caravan.  He seems to think that they set off the IED.  Hey, another ridiculous leap in logic!
There were two cowards in the front seat, and a woman and a child screamed in the back. Pete dragged the woman out of the car, her arms wrapped around the baby. He didn't understand what she said, and he didn't care.
Yeah, that's right - who cares?  Cowards!  He gets the "insurgents" on the ground and threatens them, waving his gun in the face of the "black sack of woman and baby at his feet."  No really, that's the description - I think she's wearing a burqa, but I'm not sure.  He screams at the two coward insurgents, asking if they love the woman and baby. 
He aimed his gun at the bitch, and she turned to look at him, her hands coming out from her shroud of a garment, palms up to stop the bullets. He fired his automatic, watching her jerk and flutter, and as she died he shot her squealing kiddo.
"Jerk" and "flutter?"  Can you have it both ways?  "Kiddo?"  Really? 
Nothing was ever said about the incident. But in his mind Gordon still lived on the dusty road outside Haditha. It was the last time he'd had a tender feeling.
I have some questions:  Am I supposed to feel bad for Pete Gordon?  Or should I feel indifferent to his fate, chalking it up to casualties of war?  Am I sad that the woman and her baby got killed?  Or happy because they were clearly insurgents and deserved to die?  Am I supposed to have a clearer picture of Pete after this scene?  If anything, his situation makes even less sense than it did before.  How is killing a woman and child - especially if you believe you were getting revenge for your dead friend - the catalyst for a murderous rampage back home?  Why would killing more women and children be a cathartic act for you if you had gone through an experience like this?  Where was the "tender feeling," exactly?  Once again, nothing in this book makes any sense.
Go to Day 93

Thursday, July 29, 2010

117 Days of James Patterson - Day Ninety-One

Day 91, Chapter 91
Pete Gordon was cleaning his gun in front of the TV, watching that video of him buying a phone at the mall.
Just an all-American boy, cleaning his gun while watching TV.  The FBI is letting everyone know that Pete is a suspect in the recent parking garage murders and is considered "armed and very dangerous."  Have all the murders happened in parking garages?  I honestly hadn't noticed.  Pete screws the suppressor "onto the barrel of his Beretta" and heads out to the garage, where his car is ready for his escape, his "go-bag" in the trunk, along with a case of water and "the emergency kits," whatever those are.
He got into the car, buzzed up the garage door, and immediately heard the sound of props twirling overhead. He couldn't see if the helicopter belonged to the Feds or if it was a news chopper, but either way its crew knew who he was and was coming for him.
He had to go to Plan B. And Plan B was a damned fine plan.
Pete buzzed down the garage door.
I included that last line to illustrate how the author couldn't think of a word other than "buzzed" to describe the opening and closing of a garage door.

Pete goes through this elaborate activity of "rejiggering" the wiring on the doorbell and putting the "bell ringer" into a styrofoam cooler along with a blasting cap.  (He keeps the blasting caps in the junk drawer in a box marked "paper clips.")  He puts the cooler out by the mailbox, then puts a similar box with a blasting cap in it out on the back porch.  I have no idea what he's doing.  I'm thinking this is just a ruse to throw off the cops when they come to his door - blasting caps themselves aren't explosive, they're used to set off things like C-4 or TNT.  The process described for this set-up is like two paragraphs long - unusually elaborate for JPatt, so I'm really thrown by the whole thing.  He will most likely forget to go back to this activity and we'll be left wondering for all of eternity.

Pete sees five or six black SUV's park in front of his house, so he grabs his infant son, Stevie, aka: "Stink Bomb," and heads back out to the car.  Even though he seems to be planning on using the stink bomb as a hostage, he has the presence of mind to grab "a box of juice and a bag of Cheerios" on the way out.

That's pretty much it - the chapter ends with Pete starting to flashback to "the day the only person he cared about in the world had been murdered" in Haditha, Iraq.  Great set-up.
Go to Day 92  

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Linkage

Hey look, it's New York Times bestselling author, Don Winslow!  Don was at Warwick's on July 19th for his latest novel, Savages - an ode to French New Wave cinema and a blazingly fast-paced affair.  Check out Janet Maslin's rave NYT review and listen to Don talk about his book on KPBS's These Days.  (Also, coming soon, video proof of Don's Warwick's signing on youtube.com/warwicksbooks.)

In other non-JPatt news, I have a review of Anthony Doerr's new collection of short stories, Memory Wall, over on the Warwick's blog.  Tony's previous novel, About Grace, has long been one of my favorite books and the new collection is super stellar.  The stories all revolve around the central theme of memory and its role in our lives.  Powerful, beautiful, great stuff.

Also, if you haven't been over to the illustrious Culture Lust yet, I have a bit there on my Top Five Crime Novels of all time.

For those of you in Southern California, Gary Shteyngart, author of The Russian Debutante's Handbook, Absurdistan, and the brand new Super Sad True Love Story will be at Warwick's on Wednesday, August 11th at 7:30.  He's getting crazy-good reviews lately - including a glowing one from Michiko Kakutani, who usually hates everybody.  (Even then she slipped in a dig at Absurdistan, referring to its "pretensions and grandiosity."  Hey, you take what you can get.)

I also met David Mitchell last week.  That was awesome.  You really, really need to listen to Skylight Books' podcast of the reading he did there - one of the best author readings I've ever witnessed.  Besides, he has actually been to the Book Catapult and he thanked me for writing my early review of The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet - does it get any better than that?

117 Days of James Patterson - Day Ninety

Day 90, Chapter 90
Ninety days.  At the beginning of this thing, in April, 90 days seemed like a total abstract - "Right, like I'll still be doing this on July 28th."  Is my probationary period over now that I've completed my 90 days?  Do I get a performance review and a raise?  Lindsay Lohan just received a 90-day jail sentence - trust me, Lindsay, it's not that bad.  I feel like I deserve a 90 day chip from my sponsor, except I don't have sponsor and this thing hasn't exactly kept me from drinking.  I found out that you can also read the bible in 90 days, if you're so inclined, according to www.biblein90days.org.  

Chapter Ninety also heralds the return to the page of Dr. Claire Washburn, medical examiner and Girlfriend #1 for Lindsay Boxer.  Heidi and Sarah are watching a news report covering the latest Lipstick murders on the TV in the teachers' lounge at their school.  Claire is seen trying to drive her SUV through a crowd of onlookers at the Pier 39 crime scene.
She blew a hole through the crowd with her horn...
The vehicle's egress was blocked by a crowd of onlookers made up of looky-loos, reporters, and the police, who had sealed off the entrance to the garage. A video camera focused on Kathryn Winstead of Crime TV as she shouted to Dr. Washburn, "How many people were shot? Was it another mother and child? Were the shootings done by the same killer?"
"Move aside. I'm not joking. Step back from the vehicle!" Dr. Washburn shouted back.
"Recently you told women to carry guns," Winstead continued. "The public needs to know."
"I meant what I said," Washburn answered, then blew a hole through the crowd with her horn and pulled out onto the street.
Just in case you've forgotten, Kathryn Winstead is "Crime TV's most appealing reporter," according to JPatt in Chapter 71.  At Winstead's prompting, Crime TV then cuts to the video surveillance from the U-Tel phone store of the dude buying a prepaid phone and Heidi finally realizes just who she is married to.
Heidi's mouth dropped open as she watched her husband buying a cell phone.
But there was a mistake. Pete wasn't the Lipstick Killer.
How could he be?
Need I remind everyone that this piece of "evidence" proves nothing except that Pete Gordon bought a prepaid cell phone?   Good luck in court with that one.  Thankfully, I'm sure that once Pete gets wind that his picture is on the television and people (including his wife) think he's the killer, he will either 1) publicly expose himself as the killer or 2) he will conveniently snap and do something to either get himself killed by the police or 3) he will confess in a psychotic rage, maybe also leading to his death.  I take back what I said about JPatt yesterday - maybe he has seen thousands of cop dramas on TV before.

Heidi, with helpful prodding from Sarah, begins to piece together that Pete might actually be the Lipstick Killer.  Sarah's evidence: 
"He's mean. He's abusive. He treats you and the kids...look, where does Pete go when he says he wants to be 'anywhere but here' and disappears for hours? Do you know?"
"God. You're serious." Heidi looked into Sarah's resolute face, then her knees buckled. Sarah steadied her and said, "Heidi, Heidi, are you all right?"
Sarah's got to be pretty stoked that her lesbian lover's husband is a murderer.  Easy way out of that marriage, eh?  Heidi begins to panic at the end here - understandably so, I suppose - but the final piece of dialogue to Chapter 90 struck me as pretty funny, if anything just for the panicky element.  
"What if this is true? What am I going to do?"
"Where are the kids?"
"Sherry's in school. Stevie's at day care - unless, oh God. What time is it? Pete picked Stevie up. I've got to call the police. Where's my bag? I need my phone. I've got to call the police now."
Go to Day 91

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

117 Days of James Patterson - Day Eighty-Nine

Day 89, Chapter 89
OMG, Lindsay gets a phone call from Jackson Brady in the middle of the night about the crime lab results!  Guess whose prints got lifted off of the money in the drawer at the U-Tel phone store?  What's that you say?  There's a lot of money in a cash drawer?  And how can anyone be sure that the money dusted for prints was the same as the money paid by the Lipstick Killer?  Shut.  Up.
"You've got something?" I asked, daring to hope.
"Only some partial prints that match to a former marine."
"No kidding. That was your hunch."
"Captain Peter Gordon. Served in Iraq, two back-to-back tours."
Hey, relax.  I'll be gentle.
If you recall (although I'd be worried about you if you did) back in Chapter 36, Jackson Brady hypothesized that the killer had some military training because he uses a silenced pistol when he murders people.  So once again, a character has a totally baseless hunch about something that proves to be true later down the line.  I'm beyond being annoyed by this - I'm now just embarrassed for the author.  At one point in this project, I thought Patterson's style was like that of a television cop drama, but now I'm realizing that he has probably never watched one, nor read any other detective, crime, or mystery novel, or seen a movie with cops in it.  Nor has he done any research with the actual police or the FBI or any other law enforcement  agency.  Had he followed through on any of these valuable research methods, he would realize that nothing ever happens in the way he depicts in this book.  Ever.  I realize that he is allowed to have some creative license here, but he attempts to ground the plot in reality so much throughout, that it completely nullifies the license. 

Alas, this isn't my novel, so all we can do is power through to the end.
I stood in my blue flannel pj's looking down on the quiet beauty of Lake Street as Brady told me of this former marine officer who, after he was discharged, went off the radar.
Awww, she's in her pj's.  There appears to be nothing unusual in Gordon's military records, nor in his life after his discharge from the service.  He returned home to upstate New York after getting out and then moved his family to San Francisco a few months later. 
"So what do you think, Brady? You like him as our killer?"
"He sure looks like Lipstick," Brady said.
That's that, huh?  Here's the detection recap, in case you missed it:  A) one cop thinks the killer shows signs of a military background; B) he's seen wearing a hat at one crime scene; C) a guy wearing a hat buys a cell phone near another crime scene; D) the man wearing the hat must be the killer and E) this hypothesis is proven by the fingerprints of a former soldier taken from cash found at the cell phone store.  Remember, there has been absolutely no evidence collected at any of the crime scenes that would point to any specific suspect.  (Believing that something is true, doesn't make it so.  Especially in police work.)  If the police actually did such a shitty job at solving crimes in real life, we'd either all be in jail or the streets would be awash with our blood.

Brady steps in (a little) as the voice of reason, saying that they can't just arrest Pete Gordon because, well, they DON'T HAVE ANY PROOF.  At least that there's no proof that he was actually seen with the last set of murder victims.  It's funny to me that this is the only stumbling block in this case - everything else they have is pure conjecture, but they can't seem to get around this little fact.  "Uh, yeah, I guess it could have been a different black lady he was seen with, but what are the chances of that?  I mean, c'mon.  He's definitely the guy, right?"
"You have a picture of this guy?"
"It's old, but it's coming at you now."
The picture on my cell phone was of a man with bland good looks, about thirty, brown hair, brown eyes, symmetrical features, nothing remarkable. Was this the man who'd worn a two-tone baseball jacket and had hidden his face from the security cameras at the Stonestown Galleria? Wishing didn't make it so, but I felt it in my gut.
Pete Gordon was the Lipstick Killer.
I knew this was him.
Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhh!!!!  I can't take it anymore!  I don't understand, I can't believe that this passes for quality fiction in this world, I can't believe that he sells as many copies of this junk as he does, I can't believe that this is what people want to read.  It is sloppy, half-assed, lazy writing with leaps in logic so wide that I can't even see the other side of the canyon.  I hate it, I hate it, I hate it!

See you tomorrow!
Go to Day 90

Monday, July 26, 2010

117 Days of James Patterson - Day Eighty-Eight

Day 88, Chapter 88
What happens when we get this thing up to 88?  Does it blast off into the future, where people are all too stupid to read books anymore because previous generations read crap like James Patterson?  Sorry - that was uncalled for and a total comedic stretch.  Please continue. 

Lindsay, Conklin, Special Agent Benbow, and at least three other cop-types crowd up on Daniel Kennedy, potential witness to the latest murders by Lipstick Gordon.
We were standing so close we were pretty much sucking up his air, but he seemed glad for the attention. Kennedy said that he was a crime buff and had read everything on the Lipstick Killer. He told us that he was the owner of U-Tel, a telephone shop at Pier 39, and then he got into his story.
"A white guy in his early thirties came into my store," Kennedy said, "and right away, I thought he was wrong."
Good enough for me, let's go lock 'em up!  Oh, sorry, you want to hear Kennedy's reasoning?
"He goes over to the rack of prepaid phones, picks one with a camera and a two-gig chip. Cheap prepaids fly off the shelves, but expensive phones? Who throws away an expensive phone? Anyway, this guy knows what he wants."
Blue hat! Blue hat! Call 9-1-1!
So, because this guy picks up a more expensive prepaid phone, you think he's suspicious?  Not only that, but Kennedy suspects him to be the Lipstick Killer because he's wearing a blue hat, so after the sale's complete, he leaves the store to follow the guy.  I'm sorry, JPatt, but that would NEVER HAPPEN.  EVER.  Of course, it turns out that this guy was probably Pete Gordon, who went on to kill three people down the street and Kennedy was right to follow him.  Like I said yesterday, this is the sort of plot device that is really starting to wear thin on me: a character has a baseless hunch about something and they are always, completely, unequivocally correct about it.  It makes me want to knock somebody's teeth out.

So Kennedy follows this suspicious character for long enough to see him talking to a "pretty African American woman," before he is called back to the store.  Luckily, he recorded the whole transaction with Mr. Suspicious on "high-quality digital media" so he can give that to the cops.
"Was he wearing gloves?"
"No," said Kennedy. "No, he wasn't."
"How'd he pay for the phone?" Conklin asked.
"Cash," Kennedy said. "I gave him change."
"Let's open your register," I said.
So the print lab is going to lift reliable fingerprints off a bill of currency?  I suppose that's proof enough, provided this suspicious character was the only person to ever touch that money.  That's possible, right?  Besides, whoever's prints are on that bill has GOT to be the killer.  I mean, I have a hunch - does that count? 

Ah, the hell with it.  See you tomorrow.
Go to Day 89

Sunday, July 25, 2010

117 Days of James Patterson - Day Eighty-Seven

Day 87, Chapter 87
I feel like I'm hitting the home stretch now - just 30 days to go until the end.  Jen asked me the other day if I were at all wrapped up in the actual plot of The 9th Judgment, wondering how the story was going to pan out, despite myself.  No.  No, I am not.

But hey, after an eight day hiatus, the ever poetic Lindsay Boxer is back as our narrator today!
It had been a week since I'd stopped traffic on the Golden Gate Bridge with the front section of the Chronicle clasped to my chest, ten days since that psycho we call the Lipstick Killer had murdered Elaine Marone and her child. I could still feel the weight of the killer's cell phone hanging around my neck, could hear his jeers and gibes as he ordered me to disarm and disrobe myself on the way to the drop that never was.
Now she gets a call that there has been a triple homicide at the parking garage of the giant mall complex, Pier 39 and the FBI, who are now handling the Lipstick Killer case, has requested her presence.  JPatt uses this opportunity to introduce another pointless, yet hilariously named character: FBI Special Agent Dick Benbow, "a square-shouldered man of about forty with a crisp haircut and mirror-shined shoes."  Today's victims are two children in a stroller and a "young black woman" who is "wearing expensive clothing" like a "navy-blue jacket" and a "white blouse with tucks and fancy buttons."  Lindsay assumes that she is from out of town.  Seriously.  I don't know if this is a racial thing from JPatt or what, but it sounded pretty weird.
Benbow said, "The victims are Veronica Williams; her daughter, Tally; and her son, Van. They were visiting from LA. We've notified the family."
I held down a scream of outrage as I stood over the dead bodies of victims number seven, eight, and nine. It wasn't just murder. It was slaughter.
A couple of notes from that segment: first of all, I hate it when Lindsay is right about things she has no business being right about - like the fact that the victims are from out of town.  There was ZERO evidence to this fact, it was just a conclusion she jumped to for reasons that were never made clear and JPatt just rolled with it.  It's infuriating.  Also, since the murder count is now at nine victims and the title of the book is The 9th Judgment, I think it's safe to assume that the Lipstick Killer is all washed up and is ready to be dried and folded by super-detective, Lindsay Boxer.  Bah!

But wait, there's more!
I leaned into the vehicle. The light coming through the glass outlined the lipstick lettering and turned it black. Instead of three cryptic letters, there were six words, just as unfathomable.
WOMEN AND CHILDREN FIRST. GET IT?
No, I didn't get it. I didn't get it at all.
Pete first wrote WCF at a crime scene in Chapter 2 and here we are, 243 pages later and the meaning is finally revealed!  Nice work, detec--  ...never mind.  God, it's on the cover of the frickin' book!
He was smart and slick, and he hated women and children, that much I got. But what set him off? How had he committed nine homicides without being noticed? How could we catch him?
Or would the Lipstick Killer case become one of those unsolved mysteries that haunt cops into their graves?
I said to Benbow, "No question, this is the same shooter. He's spelling out the acronym. It's his signature. I don't have a theory on this case. I wish I had one frickin' clue."
Luckily, the Miami Vice transfer, Jackson Brady, from way back in the hilarious Chapters 29 and 36, has conveniently found a witness.  Thank God!  Now we can stop "detecting!"  Lindsay's reaction is vintage Patterson awesomeness:
I felt storm clouds part and a godlike finger of light break through the concrete ceiling when Brady said to me, "This is Mr. Kennedy. Says he's a witness." 
Go to Day 88

Saturday, July 24, 2010

117 Days of James Patterson - Day Eighty-Six

Day 86, Chapter 86
The worst part about this little project of mine is the unrelenting consistency I have to maintain.  Not in the writing, because that's neither here nor there (and is rarely consistent) but in the physical consistency of getting up & reading this garbage every day for four frickin' months.  I met David Mitchell last night.  I mean, c'mon!  I have to go back to James Patterson after that?!  (And Mitchell had previous knowledge of who I was, which nearly stopped my heart completely.  It turns out that even famous, bestselling authors read the Book Catapult - so tell your friends to subscribe to my feed!)

Sigh.  I shall return to Purgatory...pushing that Sisyphean boulder.

I think Maxine Paetro wrote this chapter herself & managed to keep it unedited by JPatt - it has an uncharacteristic flair and a skilled use of imagery missing from the previous 256 pages.

Keyed up but in control, Pete was aware of everything around him: the smell of newly painted lines in the parking lot, the shoppers walking out to their cars, the lights at Mervyns and Toys "R" Us, and the deepening dusk of the sky.
That's not good writing, but it's certainly more passable as being written by a professional than the rest of the book.  (Not that you can really smell the painted lines in a parking lot.  And the Mervyns thing?  What's up with that?  All Mervyns stores closed down in 2009. Thanks Wikipedia!)  But alas, I think that may be Maxine's only paragraph in Chapter 86 - the rest falls back into the same bad prose stylings.  I guess she only managed to slip those two sentences in.
The adrenaline charging through his veins sharpened his mind as he waited out the last minutes before he would execute the most critical phase of his plan. Once he'd eliminated the Three Stooges, he'd walk to his house and stretch out in front of the TV.
"Eliminated the Three Stooges" could mean several things: killing his wife Heidi & their two kids, murdering a hilarious, 1930's vaudeville act, or it could be a poop-related euphemism.  Considering this work as a whole, I would have to go with the third option, but I'm sure JPatt meant that Pete's planning on killing his family.

Pete is waiting in the Mervyns parking lot, enjoying the smells of the freshly painted lines, waiting for Heidi & the kids to come out to the car, where he will then murder them in the style of the Lipstick Killer, deflecting blame off of himself.  "It was a brilliant plan, and he had to give himself credit, because he'd never get it from anyone else."  The problem is that when Heidi heads across the parking lot, she's talking to her friend, "that dog-faced Angie Weider," making Angie a potential witness.  When JPatt drops names like that - in situations where the characters don't really need full names at all - and calls them "dog-faced," I aways wonder who the real "Angie Weider" is and what she did to earn his ire.
"Hey, Pete," Angie Weider called out to him, "you guys should come to dinner with us. We're going to the BlueJay Cafe."
"Another time, okay?" Pete said, dropping the gun back into the (shoe) box, fury flooding through him, a tidal wave of hatred directed at that bitch who had destroyed both his opportunity and his alibi in one blow. He thought for a moment of killing her and her tot, but he could hear Heidi screaming and see Sherry running and he'd never be able to murder them all without being seen.
Yeah man, murdering people is a total drag sometimes.  

See, I wonder if the real Angie Weider ruined something for JPatt at some point - destroying some opportunity he had and ruining his alibi at the same time.  Interesting.  What are you up to, Mr. Patterson?
Go to Day 87

Friday, July 23, 2010

117 Days of James Patterson - Day Eighty-Five

Day 85, Chapter 85
Worst dialogue ever in this one.  Seriously, you'll see.  Are you really doubting me at this point?
Sarah and Heidi take the kids to the Warming Hut - "a bright-white snack and gift shack at the intersection of the Crissy Field and the Presidio" and a REAL place - to eat "soup and sandwiches" and discuss the ramifications of the last 84 chapters of inane activities masquerading as a "thriller" novel.
"There's something else," Sarah said. "That stone I gave you."
"Let me guess. It's hot."
"Very, very hot. It's a diamond. With a name and a freaky history."
Heidi expresses some mild disbelief concerning this stone.  She believes it to be a citrine, not a diamond. Sarah continues:
"Its name is the Sun of Ceylon, and it comes with a curse."
"A curse? That's insane."
"I know, I know, but the stories go back three centuries. Hey, it belonged to Casey Dowling when her son-of-a-bitch husband killed her. What more do I need to say?"
Ooh! Diamonds!
Uh, how about, "Sorry I didn't do more research on the shit I was stealing" or "I'm sorry I told you it was just a citrine. I guess I should have paid more attention to my jeweler grandfather when I had the chance."  Yeah, wait a minute - if she's so proud of spending so much time in the jeweler's shop as a kid (see Chapter 84) why couldn't she tell the difference between a gigantic, yellow diamond and a chunk of quartz?
Sherry came over and leaned against Heidi. "What's a curse, Mommy?"
"It's a wish for something - bad."
"Like if I wished something bad would happen to Daddy?"
Uh, yeah, I guess so...  Jesus.  "Your kids are fucked up," said Sarah in my imaginary version of this scene.  "Gimme that diamond back."
"I don't want you to wear it anymore," Sarah said when Sherry had gone. "It's tempting fate, you know?"
"Really?" Heidi laughed. "This is tempting fate? My God, that's a riot."
Yes.  Yes it is.  Sarah explains that she plans to meet with her stolen jewelry fence (really the wife of her dead fence - I haven't bothered to tell you about that pointless plotline) to unload her loot so they can all run away together.  (Heidi and Sarah, not the fence.)  Prepare yourself for the onslaught of Pulitzer Prize worthy dialogue.
"I have something to say, Sarah."
"Okay, but take it easy on me. I'm a wreck."
"I can hardly believe you did this."
"You're appalled. Go ahead and say it."
"I'm completely blown away. But I'm so grateful that you'd do this for us. You risked your life, Sarah. If the kids weren't here, I'd kiss you. I've never loved anyone so much."
"I love you too."
Oops, I just threw up.
Go to Day 86

Thursday, July 22, 2010

117 Days of James Patterson - Day Eighty-Four

Day 84, Chapter 84
Sarah has to 'fess up to Heidi about her secret identity today.  The tension builds.  Sherry and Stevie, Heidi's kids, head off to throw rocks while the "adults" talk.  Deep breath before the plunge...
The two women sat together on a bench, and Heidi asked, "What's going on, sweetie?"
Sarah looked into Heidi's face and said, "There's no good way to tell you. I wanted to keep you out of it. I didn't want to involve you in any way."
"Wow," Heidi said. "You're really scaring me."
Oh right, in this scene, Heidi and Sarah will both be played by the same robot that played Conklin in Chapter 76.  "Ididnottwanttoinvolveyouinanyway," the Sarah-bot said. "Youarereallyscaringme," said Heidi-bot.  Or maybe Patterson & Paetro are the robots.
Sarah nodded and, looking down at her feet, said, "You know about the cat burglar they call Hello Kitty?"
"That's the one who killed Marcus Dowling's wife, right?"
"Yeah, well, I didn't do it."
Heidi laughed. "Duh-uh. Of course not. What are you talking about?"
"Heidi, I'm Hello Kitty."
"Shut up! You are not!"
No you shut up!  Duh-uh!  You shut up!  Heidi Kitty?  Hello?  Is this thing on?  What are you talking about?  What am I talking about?  Duh!  Shut up!

Alright, let's hear Sarah's story.  Hello Kitty: the True Hollywood Story.  Her grandfather was a jeweler & she spent time in his shop as a kid - apparently learning how to break into people's homes?
"So when I was thinking how to get us out of here, I realized I could actually get rich quick. I started climbing the wall at the gym, getting strong, and I started researching potential targets, picking only people who could recover from the loss of their stuff. At first I wasn't sure I could do it.
"And then Trevor raped me."
Woah.  Thankfully I don't have any rape jokes.  Whew!

She gives the rundown on all her exploits - the Dowling job, the Morley job, the King job, the running from the cops, the ditching of the stuff, the locking of the keys in the car, then calling her abusive, rapist husband Trevor when Heidi couldn't pick her up (not that she should feel bad about that.)

Wait, did she say "raped?"  Jesus Christ, JPatt.  
"Anyway, Terror didn't like my answer to why I was locked out of my car and barefoot in Pac Heights. I couldn't think of a lie that wasn't frickin' totally laughable..." 
So he beat the crap out of her and "collected his marital due."  Does JPatt know that raping your wife isn't usually considered an element of marriage?  Man, I'm still stupefied by that part.   Ahem, I'd like to use this awkward moment to welcome back the word "frickin'" to the book - it has been far to long since we've seen your comedy stylings, my old friend.
"Oh my God, Sarah," she said. She put her arm around the woman she loved and drew her close. "Sometimes I wonder if I even know you."

I was all set to call it a day today, since I can't find anything funny to say about wife-rape, when I stumbled across this creepy comedy goldmine that cheered me up.  Thinking about the robotic dialogue between Sarah & Heidi today, I Googled "Hello Kitty fembot" (This is how I spend my mornings. I do this for you, people.) and found a ton of pictures of this Actroid DER2 Fembot robot made by Japanese company Kokoro.  Please enjoy:


Go to Day 85

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

117 Days of James Patterson - Day Eighty-Three

Day 83, Chapter 83
I would like to take today's chapter (at least the opening sequence) line by succulent line, if that's okay.
The police car circled the parking lot at Crissy Field like a blizzard.
Got that?  I think JPatt was at the bottom of his list of acceptable metaphors that day - his choices were "blizzard" and "oscillating fan."
Sarah stiffened as she watched the cruiser in her rearview mirror, seeing it loop slowly around the lot while she wondered if her former student Mark Ogrodnick had told the police that she'd been in Whole Foods, barefoot, scraped up, and looking scared.
If he hasn't done that, it's only because JPatt won't let him.  Imagine if there had been a burglary nearby - one of a recent rash of high-profile burglaries - and there are cops racing all over the neighborhood looking for the culprit and someone walks into the Whole Foods down the street from the scene, barefoot and bleeding and acting a little crazy.  Would the clerk make note of this?  Would the cops canvass the area?  Not here, my friends.
Sarah held her breath and moved only her eyes, and then the black-and-white eased out of the exit and continued onto the boulevard.
I like that she "moved only her eyes," like one of those portrait paintings with the eyes cut out and with a secret viewing room behind it.  Just sit there for a second and do the same thing - how ridiculous does that feel?  Not suspicious at all, right?
God, Sarah, chill.
There's no way those cops could be looking for you here. No way! 
No way!  Sarah is waiting in this parking lot to meet Heidi, who she is planning to confess to about being the Hello Kitty burglar.  I hadn't really realized (or cared, maybe) that Sarah had not previously told Heidi that she was robbing local aristocrats.  My God, this plot is so complicated!  My head is spinning off my neck!
Sarah imagined Heidi looking at her as if she were an alien, gathering up the kids, getting into her car, and driving off. Sarah crossed her arms over her chest and doubled over. It killed her to think of losing Heidi. If that happened, everything she'd done would be for nothing.
I love how Sarah always imagines these scenarios of her downfall.  Way to stay positive, Sarah!  Then Heidi shows up with her two kids, Sherry & Stevie in tow.
Heidi broke into a grin. She held on to her floppy hat and balanced Stevie on her hip, the wind blowing her skirt tight against her body. Heidi was so beautiful. And that was the least of why Sarah loved her.
Heidi, on the other hand, is a more sexual being: it's been 55 days since we were lucky enough to play voyeurs to Sarah and Heidi's sex life - revisit JPatt's favorite chapter to get your fix, dirty old man.
Go to Day 84

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

117 Days of James Patterson - Day Eighty-Two

Day 82, Chapter 82
In what is perhaps the longest chapter to date, we flash forward a few hours from where we left off yesterday - Sarah is now home after her ordeal following her latest (attempted) heist.
After Trevor threatened her, drank, shoved her around, and collected his marital due, he finished a six-pack and went to bed. Red-eyed, sore, and frightened, Sarah sat in his chair, squeezing the exercise ball. She changed hands, working her fingers until they were nearly numb. Then she shook out her hands and booted up her laptop.
Once she was on the web, she clicked on Google News and typed "Hello Kitty" into the search bar.
As you can see here, all the "Hello Kitty" news is related to Lady Gaga's latest outfit - Hello Kitty "panties" that she fashioned out of an elaborate necklace/purse thing.  (Seriously, she called them "panties."  JPatt, eat your cold, black heart out.)

Of course, in Sarah's world, there are articles related to her burglaries, but so far nothing about her most recent one. She is worried, however, about the trail of crap she ditched during her "steeplechase" escape from the crime scene: burglary tools, a headlamp, a sweater, socks, shoes.  Uh, and a bag filled with gold jewelry?  She (irrationally) thinks about what would happen if her fingerprints were found on the battery inside the headlamp:
Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, if the shoe fits, you must nail her ass for twenty years without possibility of parole.
How about what will happen if the police notice that Hello Kitty ditched her shoes and their investigation leads them to talk to Mark Ogrodnick at Whole Foods, who just happens to remember his old teacher showed up that same night bleeding and not wearing any shoes?  You never know - deductive police work has happened before.

Among the articles related to Hello Kitty and the Dowling murder, she sees an article that gives a name to the big yellow diamond she stole & made into a pendant for Heidi: "The Sun of Ceylon Stolen in Fatal Armed Robbery."  Hilariously, the Sun of Ceylon is a cursed diamond and has "a long history, marked with sudden death.  Once the property of a young farmer who found it a dirt street in Ceylon, the stone has passed from paupers to kings, leaving a trail of tragedy behind."
Sarah felt as if a fist had closed around her heart. She called up the history of the Sun of Ceylon and everything that had happened to the people who had owned it - a long list of financial ruin and disgrace, sudden insanity, suicide, homicide, and accidental death.
You are fucked, lady.

Sarah reads about all the other cursed gems of history - conveniently listed in Chapter 82 by Mr. Patterson: the Koh-i-noor diamond (or "Mountain of Light"), the Hope diamond, the Black Orlov Diamond, the Delhi Purple Sapphire, the Black Prince's Ruby.  (Hey, what about Liz Taylor's La Peregrina Pearl?)  And the Sun of Ceylon, of course.
Casey Dowling had owned it. And now she was dead.
Sarah had given that stone to Heidi as a romantic gift - but what if it brought evil into Heidi's life?
I've got news for you, Heidi's already married to a serial killer so I don't think it can get much worse than that.
Sarah had to ask herself, Am I really this superstitious?
Crossing your fingers and throwing salt over your shoulder were baloney. Still, call it stress, call it irrational - it didn't matter. Sarah felt it strongly. It was well-documented. People who owned cursed gemstones died.
Hey, guess what?  Also well-documented: people who own uncursed gemstones die.  People who own Honda Civics die.  People who eat ham sandwiches die.  People who read James Patterson novels die.
Go to Day 83

Monday, July 19, 2010

Just a Little Cross Promotion

As much as we, as a species, seem to love lists of our favorite things, I find that it's almost impossible to come up with a list of "all-time favorite" books.  Or your one favorite book or even a top five, ten, 100.  Oh we try - at every year's end, every publication, blog, or nerd with a pencil tries to outdo the other guy with their list of best books for that particular calendar year.  (I am proudly one of those nerds, with the Catapult Notable list.)  Nevertheless, whenever I am asked for such a list, I attempt.  (Like I said, we like the List.)  A friend with a much more respectable blog asked me for my Top Five crime novels of all time and I have made my best attempt to deliver the goods.  Who makes the cut?  Who narrowly misses?  JPatt?  Anyone?  Find out on KPBS's Culture Lust.

117 Days of James Patterson - Day Eighty-One

Day 81, Chapter 81
Sarah makes it to the Whole Foods parking lot where she has parked her car - which is locked, with her wallet inside - wearing no shoes, black pants (I think), and a neon green t-shirt.  She looks super hot.  A car slowly creeps up behind her as she walks into the parking lot.  Hilarity ensues:
Half out of her mind with fear, Sarah fought her compulsion to turn toward the car. Panic would show on her face. And if it was the cops and they stopped to question her - she was cooked.
Who was it? Who was trailing her?
A horn blared and then tires squealed as the vehicle behind her peeled out and flew past, an old silver SUV with a jerk hollering out the window, "Sweet ass, baby!"
She goes inside the Whole Foods to ask to use a phone and is momentarily dismissed by the clerk until her recognizes her as his former teacher.  After assessing her state - no shoes and a "bleeding gash on her shin" that I was unaware of but is apparently visible through her pants - clerk Mark Ogrodnick loans her his cell phone so she can call for help.  She calls Heidi, but she can't come get her because her husband, Pete the Lipstick Killer, isn't home (presumably he's out killing people) and she can't leave the kids alone, for fear he might come home & find her gone.  So Sarah hangs up, sucks it up, and calls her fat, loser husband Trevor to come get her.

Thus ends the 81st chapter of this piece of shit novel.  Sigh.
Go to Day 82

Sunday, July 18, 2010

117 Days of James Patterson - Day Eighty

Day 80, Chapter 80
Sarah panned her light over the antique furnishings and cabbage-rose wallpaper, then hit the dresser with her beam. She was ready to go through the drawers when she saw a dark figure with a light. "Jeez! Who?" she squealed, then realized that it was her own reflection in the mirror.
Sarah, get a grip.
She flicked her beam back around the room and picked up a dull gold gleam on top of the vanity. She moved closer and saw a mass of jewelry, just tons of it, lying on the warm cherrywood surface. 
Suspicious?  No.  It's perfectly normal for a wealthy socialite to leave a huge pile of jewelry on their bedroom dresser, especially if there's been a rash of home break-ins in their neighborhood.  Hell, why not leave the window unlocked, right?  Who's gonna climb up there and steal your pile of gold?  A cat burglar?  Just have your party downstairs and nothing will happen.  If I were Sarah, I would have no concerns whatsoever.  Perfectly normal.  You can see how confident she is after sweeping the pile of gold into her bag:
  • She'd made a first-class score in just over three minutes. A record, her personal best...
  • Feeling almost giddy...
  • She'd pulled it off.
  • She was outta there.
Almost as soon as she climbs through the window and hits the street, she hears police sirens and sees a cop car turn the corner ahead of her.  Huh. Didn't see that one coming.

The rest of this chapter is of Sarah running - stashing her bag o' jewels in someone's basement window well, ditching her work tools in the trash, taking off her hat & gloves.  She gets cornered by a cop pretty early and ducks behind a hedge.  But hey, this is the SFPD of James Patterson, so it's not like this cop's going to catch her.  She waits for a few minutes, hiding behind a bush until the cop moves on.  

You know what? This little, easily missed scene is starting to bother me now.  She's running away and a cop yells out, "Stop! This is the police."  She's already thrown away her headlamp, so she can't see in the dark very well, so she just ducks down.  How did the cop not see her do this?  I'm assuming that they had some sort of visual on her when they called out, yet she manages to completely disappear without even moving, really.  God, this book is so stupid!

She then runs through a yard and loses a shoe when she falls down.  "Artie, I think someone's out there!"  She jumps the fence & pulls off her black sweater, revealing her awesome camouflage.
She pulled the hem of her neon-green T-shirt out of her pants as she came out of the shadows onto a street she didn't know.
Feeling nauseous and desperate, Sarah stripped off her other shoe and her socks and left them in a trash can at the edge of a driveway...
Then - and this is where it gets really funny - she realizes that her car keys were in her bag of tools that she tossed in a dumpster and her wallet is locked in the car.  Hahaha!  Good luck!
Go to Day 81

Saturday, July 17, 2010

117 Days of James Patterson - Day Seventy-Nine

Day 79, Chapter 79
Seventy-nine days!  Holy crap!  
The good ship JPatt.
I was searching the interweb for references to being adrift in a lifeboat for less than 79 days, since I thought that would be hilarious to include in today's post, when I discovered the story of Maurice and Maralyn Bailey: in 1973, they spent...117 days on a rubber raft in the Pacific Ocean before being rescued!  117!  Woah!  What are the chances? (Their book was aptly named 117 Days Adrift.)  Their yacht was smashed up by a whale - a lot like the famous Essex, of Nathaniel Philbrick's brilliant In the Heart of the Sea, except those guys were out there for 93 days and ended up eating each other.  If I had a writing partner in this experiment - like my very own Maxine Paetro - I probably would have eaten her by now.
Sarah Wells was dressed for her night job, black clothes and shoes, car pointed toward Pacific Heights. She hit the turn signal and took Divisadero as the light went red. A cacophony of horns blared, damn it. Brakes screeched, and she narrowly avoided a collision with a station wagon full of kids.
Oh my God. Focus, Sarah!
She's distracted because her girlfriend, Heidi, showed up earlier that night with "perfect blue fingerprints on the soft flesh" of her arms and a "still-vivid bite mark on her neck" from her abusive husband, Pete "WCF" Gordon.  (Remember, the cases in this book are bound together in an intricate web of... oh, never mind.)
"He's out of control," (Heidi) said. "But it's not his fault."
"Whose fault is it? Yours?"
"It's because of what he went through in Iraq."
Actually, when you think about it, it's kind of Lindsay's fault, since she's done such a shitty job of catching Pete.  If she had just gotten her act together and caught that "freak," then Heidi would never have gotten bitten in the first place, right?  (Iraq?  C'mon.)
"I know, I know," Heidi had cried out, putting her head on Sarah's shoulder. "It can't go on."
Ah, poor, naive Heidi.  Of course it can - for 37 more days, my friend.

Anyway, Lindsay is on a new job this evening - her "grand finale" of burglaries.  She's headed to "widowed philanthropist," Diana King's house to steal all her jewelry.  Diana is "a big wheel on the charity circuit" and is "frequently photographed and written about in the glossies and every month in the Chronicle."  On this particular evening, King is having an engagement party for her son at her home - the perfect opportunity for Hello Kitty to strike.  Sarah parks her Saturn in the Whole Foods parking lot, locks her wallet in the glovebox (good thinking!), and sneaks into the side yard of King's "superbly restored cream-colored Victorian."  (What wealthy socialite lives next to a Whole Foods?)  She catches a break when she finds an air conditioning unit in a window below the master bedroom, which acts as the perfect step stool for her to get up to the second floor window.
Using the air conditioner as a foothold, she easily gained purchase, and then she was through the open bedroom window and inside the house.
Getting in had almost been too easy.
Tell me about it - you're definitely gonna get caught this time, Sarah!  You were doomed as soon as you called this job your "grand finale" - that always means that you're going to get caught or killed or maimed in some way.  See you tomorrow!
Go to Day 80

Friday, July 16, 2010

117 Days of James Patterson - Day Seventy-Eight

Day 78, Chapter 78
I had dinner with someone the other night who had never heard of James Patterson.  I can't tell you how refreshing that was.
I called Jacobi from Yuki's office and told him that Marcus Dowling had been having an ongoing relationship with a woman, not his wife, for two years.
"Go get 'em," Jacobi said.
The leaps in logic within this thing are getting pretty ridiculous.  I understand that the police may be doing whatever they can to get a leg up on this case, but there seems to be absolutely no evidence that Marcus had anything to do with Casey's death - especially since the cops bungled the crime scene and the interview of Marcus on the day of the murder.  How does the fact that he has been having an affair prove that he killed his wife?  Even if that were true, there's no physical evidence of it because you let him take a fucking shower after the murder.

Lindsay and Conklin head to Caroline Henley's house to confront her about her affair with Marcus.  She opens the door to her home "wearing her blond hair in one long braid, black tights under a blue-striped man's shirt, a big diamond ring next to her wedding ring."  Just in case you feel that may be relevant.  Sometimes I hope that these descriptions will come back around later, like, a mysterious figure will be seen wearing black leggings and a man's shirt and only those of us who've been paying attention will know that it was Caroline Henley.  But, no that never happens.
Conklin has consistently proved that he can get any woman to spill her guts, so once we were ensconced in overstuffed furniture, I turned the floor over to him.
That may be the worst sentence in this book.  Or maybe I'm just grumpy this morning.  Or both.  

They tell Mrs. Henley that they know about her affair with Dowling and that they just need her to confirm his "whereabouts" at certain times.  I'm not sure what this will prove, since she wasn't in the bedroom having sex with Marcus when he shot Casey, although I'm sure Patterson tried to work that scene in somehow.
"Casey stifled him. She ground him down with her jealousy and her constant demands. Marc was waiting for the right time, and then he was going to divorce her and I was going to leave Graeme. We were going to get married. That's not bull, that's the truth."
While Conklin listens to Caroline, Lindsay walks around the living room, looking at family photos - all featuring Caroline at the center.
I wondered why she was attracted to an aging movie star twenty years' her senior. Maybe her vanity demanded more of a catch than a stockbroker ordinaire.
Wow.  Bitch.

While talking to Conklin, Caroline realizes that Marcus is a suspect in Casey's murder (how it took this long, I don't know) and wonders aloud if Marcus were capable of killing someone. "You think he killed Casey for me?"
Back out in the car, I said to my partner, "So maybe he wanted out of the marriage but didn't have the guts to tell Casey. The Kitty shows up in his bedroom, for Christ's sake. Dowling couldn't have planned it better."
"Another way to look at it," Conklin said. "Divorce is expensive. But, if you get away with it, murder is dead cheap."
What could I possibly add to that?
How 'bout, Go to Day 79? 

Thursday, July 15, 2010

117 Days of James Patterson - Day Seventy-Seven

Day 77, Chapter 77
Today's chapter is only 3 lines longer than the infamous Chapter 74 (the shortest chapter in the book, to date.)  Chapter 74 had 272 words, while this one has a monstrous 326, yet the interesting thing is that NOTHING HAPPENS in Chapter 77.  Really, it's a stretch that I've even written this much.  This was bound to happen, I guess - there's not even anything worthy of full-on mockery or excerpting, really.  Here's a quick recap: 

Yuki gets a warrant for a wiretap on Marcus Dowling's phoneline and Lindsay and Conklin set up in "a small, windowless" office, listening to Dowling's calls.  
I was keyed up and bordering on optimistic. The odds that Dowling would say something incriminating were a long shot - but a shot that we actually had.
Alright, so maybe there are a few lines bad enough to post here.  JPatt never disappoints.  Eventually, Dowling calls the girlfriend - Caroline Henley with the "big bouncy boobs" - and Lindsay & Robot Conklin learn that the two have been seeing each other on the sly for several years.  Apparently, this means that Dowling killed his wife.
Conklin broke into a grin. "Two years. He's been seeing her for two years. It's not a smoking gun, but it's something."
I know the chapter's over, but I have a few questions. (No seriously, that was the end of the chapter.  You can leave now, it's just the credits rolling.)  The thing I can't get past is the fact that they only seemed to have tapped Dowling's landline phone.  First of all, (and I'm being deliberately obtuse here) how many people have landline phones these days?  Okay, I do, but I also have a cellular phone that gets much more use than the landline.  Imagine that I were a high-profile Hollywood movie star like Marcus Dowling - would I have a cellphone?  Would I use the cellphone more often than I would a landline phone?  Would I call my girlfriend on the landline?  Would the cops be stupid enough, in the event that they needed to tap my phone lines, to only get a warrant to tap the landline?  If I had killed someone, would I use my landline, knowing that the cops probably had it tapped?  

Ah, never mind.
For the record, not including this sentence, this post has a whopping 383 words.
Go to Day 78