Sunday, October 2, 2011

Kill Me If You Can

PATTERSON, JAMES and MARSHALL KARP. Kill Me If You Can. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2011. ISBN: 978-0-316-09754-3. Pp. 361. $27.99.

I'm disappointed in, you James Patterson. No lovely bikini-clad blond on the cover of this, your latest novel, Kill Me If You Can. Just some bro leaning in for a kiss from his lovely girlfriend, who, by the way, is a brunette. The bro, I presume, is the "Me" from the title, an ex-Marine/struggling artist named Matthew Bannon. The brunette would be his girlfriend/art professor Katherine Sanborne. (He gets an "A" in her class and she doesn't get fired for diddling one of her students. Win-win.) Another, and more dynamic character, is a big ol' bag o' diamonds Bannon stumbles upon in a locker at Grand Central Station. He keeps it and mayhem ensues. Katherine's life is put into danger. Paris. Amsterdam. A lot of badasses come into play. It's all a big jumble, and a month from now I won't be able to distinguish this book from the other two Patterson novels I've read for this blog. The only thing that will always stand out is how ho-hum the cover is. I guess I can still say I like Now You See Her best, and not just because of the cover.

I made mention of a medley of badasses and that's actually not my word choice, but Patterson's (and presumably Karp's). As Bannon's father tells him, "Badasses are badasses". Badasses referring to anyone who kills people, whether for fun or for hire, and I realize now that this is exactly how Patterson feels about them. You can tell from the way he writes about serial killers and assassins, no matter how perfidious--actually, the more so the better--that he finds his subjects incredibly awesome. There is nothing in the world more awesome than a gorgeous babe who knows how to wield a Beretta better than a barrette. One such babe features here, an Aryan goddess named Marta Krall who specializes in killing and then resuscitating her victims over and over again because she loves to kill so goddamn much. For example, "She had once put eighteen bullets into an undercover DEA agent over the course of three days. The man died from shock and blood loss four times, but Krall revived him each time with a makeshift crash cart to keep the party going". This sounds utterly outlandish to me, even for a Patterson novel. Unless she's giving out blood transfusions and topnotch medical care, I can't see how someone can be shot and killed four times over the course of a few days, but this kind of pornographic violence is a Patterson trademark and I get the feeling he does find Krall an arousing figure. After all, he gives her great T and A.

The problem with reviewing another Patterson novel so soon (I think I reviewed Now You See Her in July) is the risk of repeating myself. I've already raised the different issues that I don't approve of--the smugly snappy dialogue, the lack of average-looking characters, the world's infestation of ruthless killing machines. Kill Me If You Can has all of these attributes. Naturally the bad guys get killed in one way or another, never surviving to be tried in a court of law, but that's okay because they're the "bad guys". The "good guys" who kill them don't face any judicial repercussions. It's almost like America is living under martial law. After all, post-9/11 New York City, where this story occurs, is a simple place, as simple as war-torn Iraq, where Bannon did two (or was it three?) tours of duty. The goal is to kill as many baddies as possible with minimal civilian deaths, which, as Bannon matter-of-factly informs us, "was our biggest challenge--collateral damage. You do your best to minimize it, but sometimes it's unavoidable. Innocent people getting killed is part of the reality of war". Never mind whether it's a justified or legal war, and never mind if it's Iraq and Afghanistan or just Grand Central Station at 10:00 on a weekday night. The world is our battlefield, according to Patterson, whether war has been declared or no.