James Patterson and Micheal Ledwidge’s Step on a Crack: A deviation from the norm
Ubaji Isiaka Abubakar Eazy withdrew his boast of reading all of James Patterson’s thrillers after encountering Step on a Crack which strayed from the norm
For those who have been faithful followers of the American writer James Patterson’s thriller stories, you would agree with me that Step on a Crack is quite a different story.
Indeed, I had once declared that with the little I had read of James Patterson, I could as well declare that I have read his entire story. And just as if Patterson heard me boasting and wanted to prove me wrong, I picked up Step on a Crack to read and the novel did say to me: “Maybe there is more to this Patterson guy that you are yet to discover.”
With Patterson, you read of maniacal or psychotic villains who are either frustrated by friends, society, or the world and they unleash a killing spree. With each killing comes a clue that indicates that the killer wants to be found, killed or arrested to escape the boredom or bring the world to notice them. There is always the detective trying to put the one plus one together to arrive at a two (find the killer) and funny enough, the killer is always close; watching every move by the police, planning his or her next murder. The detective would always have a personal cum family problem of his own to sort out while he attempts to crack the murders. The problem might range from a dying wife, sick grandmother, a dying child etc. This is always the case especially with the Alex Cross series.
My point here is that even though the stories have different settings and characters, the similarity in plot construction and presentation could make one boast of reading all of Petterson’s novels, although only few has been read. Had Step on a Crack not come to tell me that the child who says his father’s farm is the largest had obviously not visited another person father’s farm, I would still be living that illusion.
Now what is different with Step on a Crack? The villains in Step on a Crack murdered the former first lady and hijacked the church during her burial simply because of the ransom money; they were not just some psychotic killers on a killing spree. Well, maybe the mutilation and death of the town’s mayor is motivated by a grudge against society and the unfeeling attitude of political holders towards the underlings of a society but largely, if they killed, it is a mistake. Their ultimate aim is the money unlike the sick and psychotic villains cum sadists we encounter in other of Patterson’s novels who were more concerned about killing and leaving a trademark. It does not make the characters better villains though; I only pointed it out as a difference in characterisation in Patterson’s works.
No one who has read Patterson’s Second Chance would deny that he is a master of suspense and thrills but not much of that in this novel though. I began to despise Patterson when I noticed that his plots are sometimes too convoluted in order to draw the suspense to an unreasonable length so that in the end you get nothing but thrills unlike the works of Hardey Chase which does not only thrill but helps in understanding the world of crime and the psychology of criminals. The plot in Step on a Crack is not convoluted and that is alright by me, although Patterson’s skill as a master of suspense did not flourish in the story.
Another thing you always find with Patterson is the sub-plot, there is a detective trying to solve murder cases and he has a problem in his personal life to fix too. The scenario is not much different in Step on a Crack, for the hero detective Micheal working under the homicide department; his own problem is a wife dying of cancer as Christmas approaches. Maybe I do not get it but I could not understand why Micheal had to leave his job in such an emergency situation to attend to his sick wife at the hospital, go home to check on his kids and still return to the crime scene. Virtually, everyone was on their toes waiting to see how the whole hijacking show would end and a cop who plays the pivotal role of the chief negotiator is always running home to his kids or to his wife at the hospital. I would prefer if that sub-plot is added to the story using flashback. To tell it as happening simultaneously with the emergency situation does not just digest me.
Now on the narrative point of view, Patterson has made a success of experimenting with two voices in his novels; he leaves the hero to tell his story using the first person point of view while the author fills in other parts using the third person. In this novel, there exist two voices, that of Micheal and that of the narrator using the omniscient point of view. Is it a good style employing two voices in a story, well maybe it was when I read it first time in Patterson but after the third and fourth story using the same points of view, I have started asking if Patterson cannot try something else.
Patterson should keep to his short chapter style; they help his readers move faster and make the stories suspense packed and enjoyable.
Finally, about all these collaborations, I mean Patterson’s co-writing stories with other authors, I just hope he is not exploiting those writers’ talents, let us hope he is making as much input as the writers whose names are not so boldly imprinted on the novels as that of Patterson. I should hate to think that they do all the work while Patterson get most of the glory.
So, Patterson might have maintained a regular presentation style in his stories which I must confess I was getting tired of, but this novel is a bit different in certain ways in terms of its presentation and it aroused my interest in Patterson again. I am giving it three stars and if you are patient enough to read all through these jargons and you never encountered Patterson before, then you should go buy one of his stories, I can assure you that you will find it much more exciting than my boring review here. Hahaha, kachifo!
© Ubaji Isiaka Abubakar Eazy 2019