Audio Books: ‘Judge & Jury’

“Judge & Jury,” by James Patterson and Andrew Gross. Read by Joe Mantegna. Unabridged, 8 hours. Hachette Audio. $39.98.

The Patterson publishing empire continues with his third best-seller of 2006. In it, a dogged FBI agent, Nick Pellisante, squares off against a vicious mob boss, Dominic Cavello, with the unexpected help from a struggling actress and single mom, Andie DeGrasse.

Despite a couple of groaning references to “The Sopranos,” Patterson delivers his own thrills, beginning with Nick’s dramatic arrest of Cavello in which two FBI agents are killed, and swiftly moving to the trial, where Andie is on the jury.

But the mob boss has something up his sleeve: an assassin who will do anything to get his client free.

Explosions, machine-gun fire and pistol shots ensue — yes, with sound effects — in a story that has predictable character development and a mindlessly entertaining plot. It’s a definite improvement over “The 5th Horseman,” Patterson’s convoluted best-seller from earlier this year.

Mantegna’s performance is engaging, confident and strong; however, the 58-year-old actor seems a bit too wizened and fatherly to be playing a 38-year-old, single G-man.

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