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Judge & Jury    by James Patterson & Andrew Gross order for
Judge & Jury
by James Patterson
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2006 (2006)
Hardcover, Audio, CD

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

James Patterson and Andrew Gross - a winning writing partnership - deliver their usual fast-paced, slick, unputdownable summer read in Judge & Jury. It's all about a trial - a very big and very scary trial. Mafia Don Dominic Cavello - aka the Electrician - is being judged by twelve of his fellow citizens for ordering a hit on a building contractor. Senior FBI agent Nick Pellisante - aka Nicky Smiles - heads the FBI's Organized Crime Unit in New York and is satisfied that the prosecution's case is watertight. He has a personal interest, since he saw Cavello shoot two of his colleagues and friends.

Juror Number Eleven - at first an extremely reluctant participant, but she comes around to seeing it as a necessary duty - is spirited single mom Andie DeGrasse (think Sandra Bullock as a natural for the part if/when it hits the big screen). Andie and most other jurors are convinced of the defendant's guilt after two of Cavello's previous associates testify against him. At first, jury duty is only a day job. But then the judge is threatened and decides to sequester jury members for their own protection. Andie is very unhappy that her small son Jarrod has to stay with his aunt Rita for the duration. When Jarrod's birthday approaches, Nick kindly arranges for the boy to join the jurors for a party.

Pellisante tells us early on that Cavello is 'bad, terror-level-red bad' and readers agree with that assessment after discovering the lengths to which a poker-playing Israeli hit man goes on the Electrician's orders. The kind of extreme violence we expect in a Patterson novel leaves everyone involved devastated and creates the need for a re-trial. Time passes, and a shell-shocked Nick and Andie gradually drift together, keeping tabs on what's happening with the second trial. When the Israeli comes back for an encore, and the Electrician takes horrific revenge on the witnesses against him, both ex-juror and FBI agent take the law into their own hands, leading the story to a South American crescendo - at the end of the world - that will steal readers' breath away, but leave them satisfied.

I have a feeling Judge & Jury is headed for a sequel and - if so - look forward to spending more time with Andie and Nick. Though, as always in a Patterson novel, their characters are only sketched in, they're firmly drawn, engaging, and ready for plenty more of the speedy, gory action that Patterson and Gross will inevitably throw at them.

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