Saturday, 21 November 2015

Alert by James Patterson & Michael Ledwidge (Michael Bennett, #8) - Book Review

4/5 Stars

Every New Yorker's worst nightmare is about to become a reality...


Edition: Hardback
Pages: 368
Chapters: 108 (Plus a prologue with three parts.)
Publisher: Century

Book Links: Goodreads
                      Author's Website


Alert is Patterson and Ledwidge's most daring entry into the Michael Bennett series yet. The sheer amount of content, the radical nature of the plot and the breakneck pace with which everything trundles along to is a step above any of the predecessors.

This is good, and, unfortunately, bad.

A few of the components don't merge: The story is full, precariously packed with thrilling tales of horror, but, in the end, it's a bit much; the pace moves so fast that it often stalls with the amount of moving our characters get up to; and the writing, specifically the use of Patterson's short chapters, does nothing but jar the reader.


Synopsis (For this review I'll be using the synopsis given with my edition of the book.)

Every New Yorker's worst nightmare is about to become a reality.

New York has seen more than its fair share of horrific attacks, but the city is about to be shaken in a way it never has before. After two devastating catastrophes in quick succession, everyone is on edge. Detective Michael Bennett is assigned to the case and given the near impossible task of hunting down the shadowy terror group responsible.

Then a shocking assassination makes it clear that these inexplicable events are just the prelude to the biggest threat of all.

Now Bennett is racing against the clock to save his beloved city -- before the most destructive force he has ever faced tears it apart.

Plot - 4/5 Stars

The reason I'm switching it up and using the blurb from my copy of the book is to highlight how underwhelmed I am by it. It's serviceable, at best, but sounds like any thriller on the market. If it wasn't for my love of this series, I might not have picked it up at all. I think that set me up to see more flaws than I usually would. I know, I think I'm being a tad harsh too.

But inside Alert, there's a fantastic story not reflected by the book's blurb (at least the blurb with my edition). Patterson and Ledwidge waste no time in raising the stakes high, and I mean to astronomical proportions. After an emotional and loving Bennett and Mary Catherine romance-affirming beginning in Ireland, Bennett arrives back in New York (solo) to absolute anarchy. Two deliberate explosions have destroyed a subway tunnel. 

The shock, severity and terror are all genuine.

Then the mayor is assassinated in broad daylight. Then the FBI building is destroyed by meticulously placed explosions. Then, then... Yep, there's a lot more, but let's withhold that for those that haven't read the book yet (and are still reading this review despite the spoiler warning! You brave fools). It's probably the most hard-hitting plot we've had for this series. The scale and loss of life the story's villains incur with their horrific evil is huge and staggering. It's scarily real; a situation that stabs you in the heart.

I also love the authors' commentary on technology. Of how advancement in various technological fields have made lives easier, but have also made taking lives easier. Especially with the ease with which an average citizen can pick it up. Using the Unabomber (yeah, I was caught off guard too) Patterson and Ledwidge ask a simple question: When is a good thing too much?

Buuuuuut (I hate buts...), there are downsides to the massive scale of the story. It often feels convoluted, with varying ideas branching off in too many directions. I guess you could say it adds to the chaotic feel of the novel, and it does, but Alert requires suspension of disbelief in quantities a little too out of reach. 

To top it off, the huge actions throughout build up everything to a conclusion that is, sadly, only adequate. Again, I guess you could say the authors are trying to convey the idea that one small event can trigger hugely destructive consequences. But we build with a bang, and end on a pop.

Pace - 4/5 Stars

Maybe a little closer to 3.5 Stars, but hey. Alert is fast-paced, no doubt about it. The events of the plot have you in a state of shock that makes the book unputdownable, well, at least not putdownable for long.

I did put this entry to the series down a lot, much to my surprise and dismay. But I found the hectic movement of the characters too much. It's probably a silly critique (so don't be afraid to dismiss me), but Patterson and Ledwidge's dedication in being as accurate as possible goes right over my head. When I say as accurate as possible, I mean in the description of locations. It's not a new thing with the author, but his hard work in setting the scene with street names and area names etc. is more jarring than illuminating.

The short chapters mean that a scene is shifting every one or two pages, with the reader being bombarded with names and addresses that make up half the descriptive paragraphs. Natives of New York will likely be fine, considering their geographical knowledge of the city will be better than mine, but others will be cross-eyed.

Characters - 4.5/5 Stars

There's not much development from the cast, but, strangely with me, I don't care. I love Michael Bennett as is: Tough, incredibly efficient and morally righteous. He's the lead cop we don't want to change. There's also the always welcome return of FBI Agent Emily Parker, sweet little interludes with the entirety of the Bennett clan, and new evil masterminds to get to know.

Seamus, our hero's grandfather, has a small portion dedicated to his deteriorating health, so it'll be interesting to see how that develops in the future.

Plus, Mary Catherine's absence from most of the story makes for a heartwarming last page as she returns. Her and Bennett are definitely in a solid relationship, and that makes me so very happy.

Writing - 4/5 Stars

I said it above, I'll say it here. Sadly, the short chapters fail Alert. With the volume of information inside this instalment, a slower, less frenetic touch would have worked better.

Overall - 4/5 Stars

But I do think I'm having an off day, so feel free to ignore my knit-picks. Alert is still an awesome story to read, and for fans of the series, a solid sequel.

Previous Instalment: Burn
Next Instalment: Bullseye

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