While I've been working, I've been listening to audiobooks borrowed from the library and stumbled across an interesting contrast.
I read a couple of murder mysteries by Kate Wilhelm, the first two books from the Barbara Holloway series (Death Qualified and The Best Defense). (Mysteries are generally lightweight enough that I get the right level of involvement.) Her books were readily available, so I didn't have to wait. They were both good. The intricacies of the plot were reasonably handled, though in both there were a couple points that didn't carry through -- that might have been because I wasn't paying attention all the time.
Then, a book I had requested came available -- James Patterson's 1st to Die, the first book in his Women's Murder Club Series. It is definitely not as good. The heroine is melodramatic and the secondary characters are highly stereotypical. Peoples' actions appear nonsensical because he's pushing them unnaturally into a predetermined plot. The plot was very intricate and dramatic and had some interesting twists, but the characters were like a faint fingernails-on-the-chalkboard in the background. He uses what I call "literary shortcuts" that I dislike, especially when I see them in my own writing.
I think, in the future, I'll go for Wilhelm's more realistic plots and characters, even if they are less thrilling.
Slight SPOILER below:
(As a side note: What IS it with female leads falling deeply in love and then having their beloved die at the end? Can't have happily married (or otherwise relationshipped) women... no conflict, I suppose. That is one reason I like the TV show "Medium." The lead is happily married - though they have the inevitable occasional squabbles - with fairly realistic children.)