The trio are the lead characters and heroes in the latest works from three of the toughest, smartest, and yet sensitive thriller masters around. Respectively, they are the focus of “Reversible Errors“ by Scott Turow, “Four Blind Mice“ by James Patterson, and “Prey: A Novel“ by Michael Crichton. While each has their flaws, they represent the potential of which their creators are capable of delivering, along with being highly enjoyable, worth recommending, and at present, nesting comfortably on the top of the bestseller lists.
Reversible Errors by Scott Turow
Some regard Turow, a leading lawyer by trade in his native Chicago, as the most accomplished of that elite group of writers who concoct plots involving the law, besting even John Grisham. His trademarks are layered plots with morally and ethically complicated situations and players, and he strides that turf as well as anyone.
Here, he tells the tale of Raven, a corporate lawyer who is assigned to handle the last-minute appeal of Rommy Gandolf, a death row inmate for whom the clock is ticking, years after having been - perhaps mistakenly - convicted for a brutal triple murder. Raven already has plenty on his personal plate, including caring for a schizophrenic sister and dealing with middle age feet of clay, but the challenges of the case force him to deal with greater issues, specifically the death penalty controversy.
The action heats up when another inmate, who is dying of cancer, confesses to the crime for which Gandolf is about to be executed. In ferreting out the truth about his client and what really happened, Raven encounters a series of roadblocks, especially from the judge who heard the case the first time and is back for the second round. As he becomes more determined to save Gandolf, Raven dredges up ghosts from the past, and finds he might have more in common than he thinks with those who seem to have a vested interest in seeing the convict put to death.
Turow balances the past and present storylines with ease, just as he does with exploring the legal, moral, and philosophical issues connected with the death penalty. This is a serious and compelling book with moments of true excitement, and a must for those who seek out criminal justice thrillers.
Four Blind Mice by James Patterson
Washington cop and criminal behavior expert Alex Cross has become a big time franchise for both Patterson, in books like “Kiss the Girls,“ “Along Came a Spider,“ and “Violets are Blue,“ as well as for actor Morgan Freeman, who has done a fine job of portraying him on the big screen.
Fans know that Crosss frequent partner is John Sampson, and in this outing, a friend of Sampsons, a U.S. Army Sergeant named Ellis Cooper, has been indicted by a military court for the murders of three women. As in Turows book, there is growing evidence that the man convicted of the crime did not commit it, but in this case, Cross learns that Cooper is another in a long line of military men from all over the United States who have been accused, convicted, and in some cases executed for similar crimes. There are tips from an anonymous e-mail source that may mean more trouble than help, but breaking through the walls of secrecy that come with the military becomes of more concern. In true Patterson fashion, the action peaks in a series of extremely short chapters, defying the reader to put the book down for any reason.
By the end, with Cross seemingly facing his final moments of life, the tension is almost more than one can bear, and the denouement provides a near-gushing sense of relief. “King Lear,“ this aint, but the fast pace, imaginative predicaments, and cliffhanger action are dished out with such gusto that this is a hard one to resist.
Prey: A Novel by Michael Crichton
Everything Crichton seems to craft turns to gold, whether its previous novels like “The Andromeda Strain,“ “Disclosure,“ or “Jurassic Park,“ or the TV series “ER.“ He has earned each of his successes, even though he can pre-sell millions of copies without even putting a word on the page.
His forte has been stories of science and technology run amok, and in “Prey,“ he delves into a horrific situation that could be pulled from the days headlines. Nanotechnology is the brave new world here, which Crichton describes as “the quest to build manmade machinery of extremely small size, on the order of...a hundred billionths of a meter.“ In other words, the monsters hes conjuring up here are smaller than those in, say, “Jurassic Park,“ but have the potential to wreak even more havoc.
In this case, high-tech whistle blower Jack Forman is getting comfortable being a stay-at-home dad since being fired from his job as a computer programmer in Silicon Valley. Domestic bliss doesnt last long, though, as Jack suspects his dynamo wife, Julia, of having an affair with a co-worker at her technology firm Xymos, their infant daughter develops a mysterious rash, Julia is hurt in a suspicious car accident, and Jack is called in to Xymos to deal with an accident at a remote laboratory in the Nevada desert.
And thats just the start of the book. Suffice it to say, that every burner on this stove is cranking and every pot is on full boil, as Crichton layers on the plot twists that build to a rather shocking and somewhat depressing finale. Much like George Orwells “1984,“ “Prey“ has been written as a warning about the dangers of a world where science, technology, ambition, and a quest for power overtake common sense and human dignity, and Crichton makes a very strong case for taking what he writes seriously.