Murder House, by James Patterson and David Ellis

Four stars

James Patterson and David Ellis team up to bring readers another great thriller worthy of investment for all those curious enough to tackle this mystery. Jenna Murphy seeks the quiet life. Hampered with a grey cloud during her time with the NYPD, she flees to rural New York and joins the Southhampton Town Police Department, where her uncle, Langdon James, is Chief. When a couple is found slain inside a notorious house, all eyes turn to a potential jilted ex-boyfriend, Noah Walker. Choosing ease over proof, Chief James sullies the evidence to ensure Walker is taken into custody and Officer Murphy turns the other way. When the Chief is murdered, everything points to Walker being involved, but the evidence cannot substantiate it. After a quick trial places Noah Walker in jail, the town breathes a sigh of relief. It is only when Officer Murphy begins digging deeper into the lore surrounding the Murder House, at 7 Ocean Drive, that she discovers a haunting truth and one that sets Walker free. Working to unearth what has truly been going on after a string of murders in the area over the past few years, Murphy is placed on leave and eventually suspended by the new Chief of Police. That will not quell her curiosity, which pushes her to dig deeper and learn more about the family that inhabited the Murder House for centuries. Could there be a killer on the loose using local folklore to their advantage? Murphy’s on the trail, but as a private citizen, her resources might keep her from the truth. Another wonderful novel by this writing duo sure to keep the reader rushing to piece together each clue.

In this most recent collaborative effort, Ellis again adds lustre to one of Patterson’s novels. Attentive readers will see that while Patterson’s ability to write drivel does not hamper his appearance or climb on the New York Times bestseller list, it does punish those looking for decent reading material. Ellis makes the stories more captivating, the narrative crisper and the characters multi-dimensional. While moving away from the über-short chapters, slightly, the novel still flows nicely and uses a great means by which to captivate the reader. While some will critique the story for being too clichéd or boilerplate in its composition (police officer stumbles upon a cold case, is suspended, must fight for it on the outside), this tale does not get too muddied in those regularities and is worth its reading time. It is surely not a turning point for Patterson fans hoping for a new and improved writing style, but when Ellis has his name alongside Patterson’s, readers are thankfully in for a decent piece of writing.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Ellis for this wonderful story. Your collaborations have always made for superior writing, though I know there is some contractual agreement there that limits your working together or actually helping Patterson to improve on a regular basis.