The Postcard Killers, by James Patterson (audio)

Well, my feelings on this one are mixed.

First let me speak to the format: I listened to this book on audio cd, in the car while commuting, and also brought it in to the house two nights to listen some more. I don’t listen to audio books very often at all. The Husband and I enjoyed some together on our last long road trip, and I think that’s an excellent application. But mostly I find that I enjoy reading actual, physical books. One of my main concerns is that I like to go back and reread a sentence or a paragraph that strikes me or that I want to understand better, and rewinding a cd is just not the same. The voices of the characters or the inflections aren’t always what I would imagine in my reading experience. Sometimes this bothers me. On the other hand, I’ve just “read” another book in the last week that I wouldn’t have gotten to read otherwise; I have a good hour a day spent driving that I can spend listening to audiobooks. Despite my complaints and concerns, I think it’s likely that I’ll be picking up another audiobook next week. 🙂 I guess that’s a net win for the format. But I most definitely prefer reading.

Now, on to the book in question. As I said earlier this week, I picked up this James Patterson novel – my first (I know!) – just to expand my horizons as a reader and (more importantly) librarian and readers’ adviser. I came in with some bias: I have an understanding that Patterson writes “fluffy” novels, that he really cranks ’em out (or rather, puts his name alongside numerous co-authors to crank ’em out), that maybe his mysteries are less intellectual than some. All of this is very snobby of me and I’m not proud of it, but I’m trying to address this bias honestly here.

After finishing The Postcard Killers, I remain conflicted. I had a number of real problems with this book. The plot was somewhat simplistic; there weren’t layers of meaning or action; there were no real surprises. (Of course, there was no mystery for the reader to solve, just some loose ends left to curiosity til the end of the book. We met the killers in chapter 1 and knew them all along; it was just the detectives that didn’t.) The sex was foreshadowed from the first moment; some tension was allowed to build up, but once the dam burst, so to speak, a formerly strong woman just followed the man around like a puppy dog, which I found a bit silly. The police detectives in Stockholm were incompetent beyond comedy to the point of my great frustration. I thought it was totally unrealistic. These are police officers! The characters didn’t have hobbies, interests, or personality characteristics. They were flat. It was rather a flat book in general, in many ways. Michael Connelly may be “fluffy” too, in a way (light, entertaining, pleasurable reading for the beach), but his Harry Bosch is a many-layered complex character, and he meets interesting, complex people and solves complicated cases. I’m afraid I was unimpressed by the Patterson & Marklund team in many ways.

However! I was engrossed! I knew from the start who the killers were, but couldn’t figure out how they had accomplished things. The question of motive was left open, too, although I found the solution unsatisfactory. I was anxious to get back in the car to hear what was going to happen next. And however tired and predictable the sexual tension and eventual release was for Jacob & Desi, I waited anxiously for them to get around to it. So I guess what this says is, for all my criticisms, Patterson’s predictable, flat suspense still got me interested and page-turning (so to speak). I’m not impressed, but I was entertained in the short term. I would probably even grab another one of his novels again – that is, if there were nothing better lying around, at the beach; or if the Husband and I needed an audiobook for a road trip. At any rate, I’m very glad to have exposed myself to this author and know his style. (At least in combination with one of his co-authors. There’s probably a lot I still don’t know, thus the need to pick up some more.)

As it happens, we’re hitting the road this weekend, for a drive to Arkansas and back. I’ve picked out four audiobooks, but no Patterson this time. I have:

Extreme Measures, by Vince Flynn

Gone Tomorrow, by Lee Child

Shoot Him If He Runs, by Stuart Woods

The Pied Piper, by Ridley Pearson

The Husband and I are both fans of Lee Child and his bad-ass character Jack Reacher. The other three are in further pursuit of my well-roundedness in the mystery/suspense genre, and in the hopes of discovering more authors the Husband can appreciate. (He likes Connelly but I’ve read all of his novels and didn’t want to do repeats on this trip.)

So, I give the audio format a “meh” with strong likelihood of repeat use. I give The Postcard Killers a “meh” with medium likelihood of repeat use. I’m open to compromise. 🙂

3 Responses

  1. I was glad to see you listened to this in audio and I did as well. Dont give up on Patterson with this one as I was not really impressed (I reviewed it a few months back I think). I would recommend Step On A Crack – that series is soooo good on audio! As far as his books Honeymoon was good, I enjoyed The Murder Of King Tut, and well… I know there are more 🙂

  2. Okay, thanks Sheila! I’m sure I will give him another chance. (May or may not be audio.) More audio reviews to come; we’ve just returned from a road trip. I’m afraid I have some more criticisms to come!

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