Step on a Crack, by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge; Read by John Slattery and Reg Rogers
Don't miss this book which is one Patterson's best. From start to finish, it is filled with drama, intrigue and emotion. When the beloved wife of a former president dies unexpectedly from an allergic reaction to peanuts, her funeral service is conducted at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City. The security inside and outside is very high, because in addition to the former president and the mayor of New York, the mourners include dozens of celebrities, dignitaries and business leaders. After the doors are closed, a group of heavily armed men appears and announces that they are taking over the church. They force the FBI, NYPD and church security officers out of the building. Then they release all but 34 of the most high-profile attendees. Baffled as to how and why this siege has happened, the police must wait for the demands from the kidnappers.
Mike Bennett, a NYPD homicide detective who was a former hostage negotiator, is ordered to report to the scene. This proves to be difficult for him since his wife, the mother of his ten children, is in the hospital in the last stages of cancer. Mike and his wife have ten adopted children of various ethnic backgrounds from age 3 to 12. It's several days before Christmas, and not only must Mike deal with own grief and negotiate the surrender of the hostages, he must care for his children as they face the saddest holiday they'll ever know. The action in the story shifts from the violence inside the church to the tenderness of the scenes at the Bennett's home and at the hospital with Mike's children and their dying mother. The group at the church doesn't hesitate to torture and kill hostages, and their demands are very different than anyone had expected.
James Patterson and his co-author have written a story that shares little similarity to previous Patterson books, other than ultra short chapters, ingenious plot twists and well-developed characters like the family-oriented detective. The two readers artfully portray the evil of the thugs, the innocence of the children and the desperation of the victims. Mike Bennett is very believable as the strong but sensitive detective, lover and father.
As the story progresses, the listener can't help but be aware of the contrast between the depravity of the criminals in the cathedral and the humanity of Mike Bennett and the environment he's chosen for his children. The wanton evil practiced by the terrorist group is in sharp contrast to the courage, compassion and love shown by the Bennett family. I highly recommend this audio book with its unexpected conclusion and its heartwarming message of hopefulness.