Four Blind Mice by James Patterson
Pros: Reasonably intriguing story
Cons: Missing quite a few details
In some ways, James Patterson’s Four Blind Mice is a typical murder/corruption story. However, it differs from the usual format in that we know right away who the murderers are. We’re introduced to them immediately and we even get the story from their point of view, in half of the chapters. The “thrill” in this book is watching Alex Cross and his partner, Sampson, catch up to us in terms of figuring out who the bad guys are. And, in figuring out why the crimes are being committed.
As the book opens, Alex is contemplating a major change in his life… Retiring from the police force. But he gets dragged into “one more case” when his friend and partner Sampson comes to him for help. Sampson’s friend has been convicted of murder and is headed for Death Row. Sampson believes his friend is innocent, but time is running out!
Is the friend innocent? Well, yes his is. This is not a spoiler – as it’s made clear to us, right from the start. Not only is the friend innocent, but we know exactly who the killers are. The only thing we don’t know – for a very long time – is who is pulling the strings on this group of killers, and why.
All we know is that this isn’t the only case. There are several others just like it. People being framed for horrible, gruesome murders, and being sent to Death Row unfairly. What one thing connects all of the victims – The Vietnam War. Apparently, something happened 40 years ago, something for which someone wants payback!
That’s the basic premise, and it’s pretty good. It was exciting to eventually learn who’s running the show, and what the motivation is. And, in typical Patterson fashion, we get a decent dose of Alex’s personal life. So fans of Alex Cross and his family won’t be disappointed.
However, the book does a horrible job when it comes to “filling in the details”. We’re told what happens, and, eventually, why it happens. But Patterson never bothers with the “how”. And, in this case, the “how” is pretty important to the believability of the story. You simply have to take on faith that the real killers were able to pull off unbelievable feats, without any detail. You also have to believe that prisoners – in solitary confinement – are able to conspire with each other and with people on the outside in order to get messages out. And – worst of all – you have to accept the fact that similar situations are being played out all over the country and not a single person notices the pattern. Well, no one except Alex Cross, of course. Despite extremely obvious patterns and “signatures” left behind by the killers. This, I think, is the worst problem. In other crime novels I’ve read, the authorities are able to check multiple databases of other crimes in order to find similarities. Did no one bother to do so, in these cases?
The thing that really gets me is that I know Patterson can do better. I’ve seen it many times over. And it’s not like this is a short story so there wasn’t room for the details… there’s nearly 400 pages here. But when you got to a restaurant and shell out big bucks for a nice meal, you don’t want to feel hungry an hour later. But that’s how Four Blind Mice left me feeling. Skip this one.