Friday, May 1, 2009

You've Been Warned by James Patterson and Howard Roughan (unabridged audio book read by Ilyana Kadushin)

Kristin Burns is a photographer, but until she can make a living from her pictures, she works as the nanny to Michael and Penley Turnbull's two children, Dakota and Sean. She's also having an affair with Michael, a successful businessman with international connections, but she refuses to let him ease her own path to success.

Sounds like she thinks she's got her life all worked out at age 26. But just like Hamlet said to his childhood friend Rosencrantz, "I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space — were it not that I have bad dreams."

And Kristin has a doozy: a recurring nightmare that causes her to scream herself and her neighbors awake every morning. Who needs an alarm clock? (Interestingly enough, the neighbor that complains the most is named Mrs. Rosencrantz.)

When the nightmare — which involves the Falcon Hotel and four body bags — seems to be coming true, Kristin wonders if she's losing her mind. Is she? After all, she sees her father (dead for 12 years) on the streets of Manhattan and hears a repetitive snippet of music coming from inside her head. And she doesn't know what to make of the strange "warnings" she's getting from a guy in a ponytail, or the homicide detective who follows her, even out of state.

But authors James Patterson and Howard Roughan (Honeymoon, Sail) aren't going to let us off with an easy answer like "she's crazy." They've got something very different in mind for You've Been Warned. And it's not something usually encountered in a mainstream bestseller.

Ilyana Kadushin (who also narrates the Twilight saga — maybe you've heard of it? — in addition to being half of the music duo Lythion) gives a tour de force performance in You've Been Warned, personifying every one of Kristin's idiosyncrasies without judgment (something the authors cannot claim to do). Her sweet-sounding voice makes it easy to root for Kristin, even when we realize she has a serious impulse-control problem and really needs a best friend to talk some sense into her.

You've Been Warned is a totally gripping psychological thriller whose ending lifts boldly from two familiar films in that genre (in fact, so familiar that if I named them, it would give the whole game away, and the ride is too good to spoil). The ending has disappointed many readers, and I guessed part of it early on. But Patterson and Roughan have created such memorable characters, and the rest of the book is full of such fantastic twists and turns — including questions that only seem to lead to more questions — that I don't begrudge them.

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