• Kill Me if You Can by James Patterson and Marshall Karp

      Two hired killers meet over a urinal in a Grand Central Station men's room. It sounds like the beginning of a bad joke or the opening of an impossibly convoluted and entertaining mystery thriller. Bingo, thriller it is. If this review sounds a little flip, it's because the tone of this breathtaking, cleverly plotted mystery thriller is irreverent and breezy from its bloody opening scenes to its heart-stopping conclusion. When The Ghost and Walter Zelvas, both highly successful contract killers, meet at gunpoint, it's a given that one of them will die. Reluctantly leaving Walter's blood body on the floor of Grand Central Station, the Ghost escapes the police who race to the scene of the gunfire. An art student, Mathew Bannon, follows the trail of Zelvas' blood and finds him propped against an open locker. Reaching into the locker he finds something that will change his life forever--a medical bag filled with diamonds. Realizing that Zelvas is dead, he takes the bag of diamonds back to his apartment. When the Russian mob learns that The Ghost didn't get the diamonds from Zelvas they direct him to find out who stole the diamonds and kill him.

      They also hire another killer as backup, so Mathew Bannon finds himself pursued by two ruthless professional killers. What does he do? What any serious art student would do. He takes his girlfriend Katherine, who also happens to be his professor, and flies to Paris and then to Venice. $13 million dollars in diamonds is too much to ignore, so the assassins, financed by the Russian mob and aided by computer surveillance information, track Matthew and Katherine across Europe and back to the U.S. where the spine-tingling action leads once more to Grand Central Station.

      Patterson and Karp have written a first rate thriller with a delightful main character and nary a "beefy cop" among the policemen described. Mathew Bannon comes from a long line of Marines, and he proved himself a hero in Afghanistan. Using his wits, his sense of humor and his Marine training he evades his killers, while causing some collateral damage of his own. His attraction for Katherine and the lengths to which he'll go to keep her safe are endearing. The readers, Jeff Woodman and Jason Culp, people the audio book with recognizable voices, ranging from Russian thugs to effeminate artists to foreign merchants to fearless Marines.

      This is a great story with several completely unexpected plot twists, one of which is major! The light-hearted banter between Mathew, his friends and Katherine belies the seriousness of the danger they face and the mayhem they create. The authors' inclusion of levity counteracts their gruesome descriptions of the villains' sadistic acts, making listening to this audio book like the joy of riding a see-saw. Most highly recommended.

      Kill Me if You Can by James Patterson and Marshall Karp
      Read by Jeff Woodman and Jason Culp
      Hachette Audio, unabridged: 8 hours on 7 CDs