Authors: James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
ISBN: 978-0-316-03622-1

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Once again Detective Michael Bennett pursues a merciless villain through the streets of New York City. In this case—Worst Case—the villain is kidnapping the children of extremely wealthy citizens on the insane pretext that these scions of overly affluent families are too spoiled to be concerned with the plights of the planet—eco destruction, starvation, war.

The frightening twist in the villain’s modus operandi is that he doesn’t request a ransom. Rather, he quizzes his victims. He administers a “pass or die” final oral exam.

Knowing that the police are monitoring his phone calls to his first victim’s parents, who live in the city’s famous Dakota Hotel, the kidnapper demands to speak to the detective in charge—Michael Bennett. Then using cells phones he guides Bennett to the scene of the first murder. Afterwards Bennett is haunted by the “perfectly inflected PBS voice” of the kidnapper that directed him to the body.

Since kidnapping always draws the attention of the FBI, one of its agents—profiler Emily Parker—is immediately assigned to the case. Not surprisingly, Bennett finds himself attracted to Parker and his attraction reciprocated. Bennett’s obvious interest in Parker complicates the already growing romantic relationship between the detective and Mary Catherine, the nanny of his ten children.

As always in a James Patterson novel, the pace of the action is almost too fast for readers to catch a breath. Bennett dashes from a crime scene to his home for a quick supper and hasty hugs from his children. He interrupts his chase and investigation to spend some frantic quality time helping his children with their science fair projects. And led on the inevitable “merry chase” by the villain’s voice in his cell phone, Bennett races through traffic-clogged streets constantly a few frustrating steps short of his goal.

The police investigation discovers that in the past the killer was associated with terrorists. In fact, his present assault on New York City’s wealthy families and on the city itself is potentially a literal “blast from the past.”  Bennett learns that the madman he’s tracking possess a case of high explosives.

In the final chapters—Patterson’s characteristically oh-so-brief chapters—of Worst Case Bennett and Parker, by placing themselves in harm’s way, find themselves in a showdown with the villain in the heart of New York City’s financial district where dramatic tension reaches the breaking point, where fingers are tight on triggers.

Worst Case is standard Patterson fare, a clip-along thriller. What else is there to say?

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