Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Andrew Gross - "The Blue Zone" (Harper/HarperCollins)

A disappointing, but still enjoyable thriller from former James Patterson collaborator.

There was something a little disappointing about Mr Gross’s The Blue Zone. Although it sped along at a fair clip (nearly rivalling James Patterson for sheer number of chapters), I found very little of it surprising. This was especially disappointing as I think this is the only book that covers this subject – namely, what happens when someone goes AWOL from the Witness Protection Program (or WITSEC for short). The two main characters – Benjamin Raab/Geller and his daughter Kate – are likeable enough, though Kate does fall into the category of “damp, female thriller character”. Perhaps I’m being harsh, but I have yet to come across any female characters in mainstream thrillers that are not overly-emotional and say the cheesiest of things. Apart from these occasional trips, Mr Gross writes tightly, fluidly and never makes the reading feel like a chore or suffocating.

Not to worry, Ben makes up for it. In fact, the best parts of the book are those where we follow Ben alone, and at the beginning, before he and his family (minus Kate, who stays behind to continue her PhD and get married) are shipped off into WITSEC.

The other main problem with this novel is that I found none of it surprising. Almost every set-up was a little obvious, which has left me feeling a little unfulfilled by the novel. It’s a pity as his previous work has been very good – perhaps he needs the restraining hand of James Patterson to keep him from pouring in the schmaltz too heavily…?

Needless to say, the book is enjoyable, and you will find yourself drawn along by the perfect pacing of the story. While you won’t necessarily be riveted or unable to put it down (which I was unable to do with his previous novels, such as “The Jester”, “Life Guard” and especially “Judge & Jury”).

A perfect summer thriller? I’d say so, yes.

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