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If any of you have read my recent book reviews, you will know that I have recently entered the world of audio books and my latest 'listen' is I, Alex Cross by James Patterson. I didn't think I would ever become a fan of listening to a book being read to me as I like nothing more than picking up a real book, but I am slowly being converted and much of that is thanks to James Patterson.
Why An Audio Book?
The bottom line is that audio books are sometimes just more convenient. I discovered this when trying to manage a cocktail and a book on the beach in Spain earlier this year. But the newest reason I have for listening to audio books is that they fill the long drive to work and mean that I no longer have to listen to endless replays of terrible music on the radio. It also means that I can continue to feed my addiction to books even when it's not convenient (or legal!) to actually read one.
Why James Patterson?
From my admittedly limited experience of audio books so far, I have realised that there has to be a bit of action in the story in order to keep you listening. Many of the James Patterson audio books are read by more than one person and have added sound effects so it is like you are listening to a film almost. There is plenty going on and his written books in general are quite fast paced and have plenty of twists and turns, making them ideal audio book material.
What's I, Alex Cross About?
Alex Cross is Patterson's most famous and longest running character. He is a police officer of great standing in Washington D.C. and is often called upon in high profile cases. I, Alex Cross is the latest in the series and features the familiar character solving yet another 'unsolvable' case. This time Alex is dragged away from a family celebration to be told that his niece has been brutally murdered. It soon becomes clear that the Washington Police are dealing with a serial killer and that the killer is extremely well connected and, even worse, well protected.
Cross is facing his toughest case yet and finds himself in a world that you can only imagine and fighting against Washington's highest movers and shakers. He has a personal interest in the case and will stop at nothing to get a result.
In the past Patterson has been highly criticised for churning out book after book and using a legion of co-writers to do so, but this book was written as a solo effort - something that hard core fans will be delighted about. Personally I don't have a problem with the co-writers and can very rarely tell the difference and this is the case too here for me. I don't think this book is any better or worse than his others for being a solo effort.
The story line is typical Patterson style; short chapters, lots of action and a nasty killer interspersed with snapshots about Cross' picture perfect family thrown in. Patterson is not a great writer, he is a prolific writer and this is again evident in I, Alex Cross. You shouldn't read this books thinking that you are going to classic work of fiction, because it just won't happen. It is however a fairly good thriller and will keep you (almost) on the edge of your seat. By this stage, all of the characters are familiar to Patterson fans and so there is nothing much new to learn about them and they aren't really expanded any further. Having said that this book does focus a bit more on Cross' new relationship with Brianna Stone and the developments form a sub-story throughout the book. In typical style, the relationship is sickly sweet and verging on the edge of being too perfect.
The book is read by Tim Cain and Michael Cerveris. I hadn't heard of either of them before listening to this production, but a quick Google search tells me they are both actors in the USA who do a lot of stage work. The story is split really into two perspectives; that of the good guys (namely Cross, amongst others) and that of the bad guys. This makes having two readers a good choice, because it is immediately clear from which perspective the story is being told.
Tim Cain reads the good guys part and does a very good job. He really does act with his voice and portrays the different characters very well. He has a deep and authoritative voice that is exactly what you'd imagine Cross to sound like.
Michael Cerveris therefore voices the bad guys and he does an admirable job as well, although one of the characters is an English guy and Cerveris' accent is appalling to say the least. The character in question is an underground business make who runs an exclusive sex club, but Cerveris makes him sound like Michael Crawford's Frank in Some Mothers Do Ave Em - it really is laughable.
There are various sound effects used in the production. At first I thought I would hate this as I thought it would just sound too manufactured and cheesy, but it does actually work quite well. There aren't too many and they are usually pieces of music used to build tension. There was one part in the story when a gun shot was heard and the sound effect for that was quite loud - scaring me half to death when I was driving to work in the early hours of the morning!
This version of the audio book is actually an abridged version and lasts about five hours. I thought this was quite a good length of time as I hadn't forgotten the beginning of the story by the time I was listening to the end, something that I was afraid of considering I was listening to it over the course of a week. I haven't actually read the written copy of the book, so I don't know how the abridged version differs from the original. It didn't impede my enjoyment of the audio book though as I didn't feel that there was anything missing. One thing I did notice though was that the reading was quite quick, particularly the bits read by Michael Ceveris. When I first started listening I thought the speed was going to be too quick to keep up with, but I quickly got used to it, so it wasn't a problem for long.
Overall, I enjoyed I, Alex Cross. It had the right mix of tension and suspense and was generally a good representation of the kind of story you get from 'the master of suspense'. Apart from the few niggles I had with the accent and the initial speed, it was well read and on the whole well presented. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who like me is thinking of venturing into the world of audio books.
I, Alex Cross by James Patterson
Running Time - approximately five hours, over four CDs.
Published by Random House Audio
Available on Amazon for around £7