New Product Placement: Best-Selling Novels

Over the weekend, my wife sat down to read the latest James Patterson novel, “Cross.” This is the latest in a series of mystery thrillers featuring the hero Alex Cross, and I guess they’re pretty popular. My wife pointed out early in the book that Cross detailed a trip to a Mercedes-Benz dealer in detail, and it seemed odd to her — especially in the middle of the plot. Here’s that first excerpt:

“So we stopped at the Mercedes dealer…Jannie and Damon ogled a silver CLK500 Cabriolet convertible, while Ali and I tested out the spacious front seat of an R350. I was thinking family car — safety, beauty, resale value. Intellect and emotion.

The italics are verbatim. He goes on to talk about the rest of the trip to the dealer, but resale value? Anyway, this takes up an entire chapter. Perhaps if it had been just one mention we wouldn’t have been disturbed, but then Cross goes and buys the R350 later and repeatedly goes for drives to clear his mind during the investigation. Even that wouldn’t be that bad if he didn’t describe the R350 each time like this: “I liked the vehicle’s zip and also the dual-dash zone climate control, which would keep everybody happy, even Nana Mama.”

Mercedes gets a handful of mentions in the best-selling fiction novel in the country, and it wouldn’t surprise me if Patterson were shuttling between book signings in a new R350 of his own. Even though this is a work of fiction, the repeated mentions bugged my wife a lot more than seeing James Bond drive an Aston Martin or the “CSI” staff in Hummers.

What do you think? Is product placement in print more bothersome than on the screen?

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