Run for Your Life
Large Print Edition
By James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
Little, Brown and Company, 2009, 448 pages ISBN: 978-0-3160-3757-0
Reviewed by Israel Drazin - August 25, 2009
James Patterson has generated a generally very interesting mystery novel franchise in which about half of his over fifty books are written in collaboration with other authors, about nine different writers. He and his collaborators publish about one volume a year. Thus his books should not be evaluated as one would evaluate a fine work of fiction, for his books were not written to produce such a product.
One would never expect to find a poignant paragraph such as one finds in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, after Aticus Finch defended the black man in Jim Crow south, when his daughter watched the trial from the balcony among the throng of blacks:
"Miss Jean Louise?"
I looked around. They were all standing. All around us and in the balcony on the opposite wall, the Negroes were getting to their feet. Reverend Sykes's voice was as distant as Judge Taylor's:
Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father's passin'."
This is undoubtedly one of the most moving passages in American literature. It runs chills up one's spine every time it is read.
Yet, on the other hand, Hollywood only made a single movie of Harper Lee's work, while it made two feature films – so far – of Patterson's mysteries.
The books that Patterson wrote himself, especially the Alex Cross series of fourteen volumes, stand in a class by themselves. Patterson is an excellent writer and these books show his skill. The volumes in which he collaborates with other writers are not anywhere near as good.
A Patterson work has to be evaluated with an entertainment test: Is the book interesting? Does it grip us? Are the characters people that we like? Can I sit on a beach in summer and spend an enjoyable four and three quarter hours reading the book – for although the novel may contain 372 pages, the larger than average print and the wider than average margins and the smaller than average chapters that leave half pages empty, allow a reader to complete the mystery at the rate of eighty pages an hour.
Some of the Patterson collaborative efforts fail this entertainment test. Despite some problems, Run for Your Life makes the mark.
The most significant problem of this novel is the haunting notion that you read it before, even though you know you did not. Perhaps this notion arises from the remarkable similarity of Detective Michael Bennett to Paterson's own Alex Cross. Both are widowers. True, Alex only has several children and Michael can boast of ten, but he children play the same role in both novels. Alex has an old crusty grandmother and Michael an old crusty grandfather. And a pivotal moment in one Alex Cross novel and this joint effort is when a deranged murderer comes in contact with the detective's family.
Be this as it may, the story is gripping. It does hold ones interest. Michael Bennett is likable and so is his grandfather. And there are two brief moving moments in the novel where Michael's wife comes back to earth – or so it seemed to Michael – to help him at crucial moments.
This novel tells the story of a man who calls himself the "teacher" because he is determined to educate people of his deranged and twisted notion of justice. Bennett has been assigned the task to find him and stop him from killing people in broad daylight.
The publisher advertizes this book as "the most speed-charged, adrenalin-packed novel from 'the man who can't miss.'" This is, as previously shown, an overstatement, but it is not far from the truth.
Dr. Israel Drazin is the author of a series of books on Maimonides, a twelfth century rational philosopher, and the co-author of a series of books on Targum Onkelos, the earliest existing translation of the Hebrew Bible. Both are published by Gefen Publishing House, www.israelbooks.com.