01/08/2013 01:01 pm ET Updated Mar 10, 2013

15 Seconds With Gross

First, the bad news about this winter's mystery/crime fiction offerings. The authors we count on to deliver the goods -- are not. David Baldacci's The Forgotten is a flat derivative of Vince Flynn's Mitch Rapp and Lee Child's Jack Reacher stories. Nelson DeMille's The Panther, is an anemic attempt at cloning his successful Arab Terrorist best seller, The Lion. Is Tiger next? So, we dip into last summer's releases and find good news in Andrew Gross's ripping thriller, 15 Seconds.

If name Gross rings a bell with you it's because, he was the workhorse, the second banana behind several of the James Patterson books such as The Women's Murder Club series. When you are the 'and author' for the James Patterson writing machine, his name shines on top, above the title, your billing is on the bottom -- sometimes in darker letters. Fortunately for audiobook listeners and readers, Gross came out of Patterson's shadow, having clearly learned a few things along the way and he's delivered solid entertainment ever since.

15 Seconds is a revenge story -- in reverse. Here, the good guy is receiving and the bad guy is delivering the revenge, gruesome revenge. What makes the story work so well is the compassion you may feel for the killer, as twisted as he is. We get the pain that drives him -- a situation having to do with his imprisoned sister.

Another reason the story works is the target of the revenge -- a reconstructive surgeon and pain clinic doctor who is out of his element, pursued by both the bad guy and the police while trying to figure out who and why someone is destroying his life. It's the kind of part Harrison Ford would have played if this had been a movie. Gross also manages to weave in a developing romantic relationship that helps the ticking clock in 15 Seconds.

It's also helpful to have a deft story teller in Christian Hoff, who's done four of Gross's recent novels for Harper Audio. His subtle, convincing and empathetic reading drives the listener through the twists and turns leading to the intense climax.

If you've got 11 hours of traveling in your future, this audiobook will help whiz you through it. The print edition is 336 pages.