The Good Son, by You-Jeong Jeong

Six stars

In You-Jeong Jeong’s international bestseller the reader is faced with a protagonist whose struggles subsume the narrative, taking away from the story at hand, in my humble opinion. When Yu-jin wakes one morning in a stupor, he asks himself what’s happened. Could he have had an epileptic seizure, which would surely account for the metallic blood smell that fills his nostrils? Or, might there have been something more? When he discovers that he is covered in blood, Yu-jin begins to wonder if he has blacked out. As he meanders around his home, he discovers that his mother is nowhere to be found, though a razor is caked with the same blood. Frantic, though trying to cover up what he may have done, Yu-jin struggles to come to terms with what has happened. He finds his mother’s journal and reads entries throughout, as he seeks to piece it all together. He is supposed to have been his mother’s ‘good’ child, so could he actually have taken her life? As the story progresses and Yu-jin awaits news about his mother or at least her body, panic sets in, which is fulled by his refusing to take his medication. In a narrative filled with flashbacks that thicken the plot and point to potential reasons that Yu-jin may have been harbouring anger, the reader becomes lost in the tangential queries that turn the story from a strong mystery into an exploration of the heightened senses that Yu-jin has while not on his medication. Did he do it or is there another explanation? For me it became a futile query, as I sought only to finish and push the book away like a bad smell. Recommended for those who may able to see more within these pages than I did, and can see what some popular authors seemed to have discovered when they exuded praise in their dust jacket blurbs.

I love a good mystery as much as the next person, even when the story is penned in a language other than English. However, I have come to see that not all cultures feel the same about mysteries or deem writing quality in the same way. I have read many pieces that have gone through a translator and been blown away, both in Europe and across parts of Asia, but this piece did nothing for me. While I must applaud Jeong for developing her protagonist, there was little I found captivating. Yu-jin began as an interesting character, finding himself surrounded by dried blood and wondering if he could have killed someone. His apparent connection to his mother makes the possible crime all the more interesting, though the story left the realm of ‘did he or not?’ and became more of a predatory exploration of the mind of an unmediated epileptic. Yu-jin reveals much of his past throughout, fuelled by a journal his mother penned. While some readers may enjoy this, it began to get highly jilted for me and I began hoping for a quick ending or some miraculous turn of events. Alas, neither happened for me. Jeong adds other characters of interest that serve to pull the protagonist in many directions, though I did not feel much from them as well. The story’s premise was intriguing, though my Western mindset may have expected something more or better developed. One cannot fault the author entirely, as there was great detail throughout and the narrative did continue its forward movement. I took a moment to wonder if it was the translation that may have staled the experience for me, though I think it was more the stylistic differences from what I am used to reading that left me feeling unfulfilled. It happens, but I cannot pad my review and simply fall on my own sword. Add this one to the list of ‘tried it and personal epic fails’. One burning question for me… are novels I love lost on readers from other cultures, if this book is supposed to be so great?

Kudos, Madam Jeong, for your piece. It was not for me and I will blame neither of us for this reading impasse.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:


The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger

Six stars

In a book that many deem a literary classic, J.D. Salinger takes the reader on a ride through a few days of an adolescent’s life at the age of sixteen. Holden Caulfield has just been told that he’s flunked out of another preparatory school and must make the journey home to relay this to his parents. However, as this is not the first time, he is in no hurry to do so, and thus begins the meandering trip back to admit failure. In a narrative told from Caulfield’s perspective, the reader learns much about this boy as he wanders aimlessly around campus and eventually makes his way back to New York City. With a mixture of present-day happenings and tangential flashbacks, the reader sees Caulfield as a man who has seen much, but also knows very little. Salinger allows the slowly-developing narrative to continue, while Caulfield discovers just how much of the world is still unknown, all while he worries about how to tell his family the news that he is academically useless. By the time he reaches home, Caulfield has one last chance to shape his story, but even then, his younger sister steals the spotlight and recounts some of her own drama. Surely, this family loves being vapid and speaking in tangential styles that drown out any hope of understanding a topic at hand. Salinger must have a message here and literary critics found it, sipping from the proverbial Kool-Aid in droves. For me, it sets the bar quite low for what might be called classical literature. This may best be read with a glass of rye, for only then will you catch its meaning.

I have long debated with people about what makes a novel “a classic”. Interestingly enough, no one can really tell me enough to sway my opinion. I am left to wonder if Salinger simply wrote at a time when it was ‘en vogue’ to be tangential and superficial, thus making this the cornerstone of something stellar. My father, who was an English teacher, would surely have some answers for me, though I am at a loss to think about how even he might help remove me from the paper bag in which I found myself. His passing years ago does little to help me now (and I am beginning to write tangentially, which is solely the fault of this book!). Holden Caulfield comes across as a typical teenage boy of the time (post-war), who is trying to make his mark on the world. He struggles with defining himself and those around him, wanting to fit in and yet differentiate himself significantly. While he accomplishes little on his meandering journey from school to the family home, Caulfield is able to show the reader that he has grit and determination, even if it comes across as less than important. Many of the others who cross paths with Caulfield serve as signposts in his narrative, wallflowers when he needs them to be and actively helping to formulate the story when necessary. I had little connection to any of them and found Salinger wanted it that way. The story was nothing worth noting and I am sure I will be scorned for missing many of the nuggets embedded into the tale. That said, when I hear classic, I expect much more than I got and while i cannot take away from J.D. Salinger, I am left to wonder if I was too sober and too grounded to accept this for what it should have been. It may not have been drivel, but the only classic aspect of it was that I was not forced to spend hours of my time for nothing.

Kudos, Mr. Salinger, for being able to bask in the limelight. I missed the mark and I am sure others will educate me. Thank goodness book club does not meet for a while, as I may have my literary epiphany by then and forget the train wreck I currently feel this to have been.

This novel fulfils the March 2019 requirements of Mind the Bookshelf Gap Reading Group.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

Mindfield, by William Deverell

Seven stars

William Deverell has dazzled fans with his wonderful writing on all things involving the Canadian legal system. However, he stepped back with this piece to offer up something quasi-psychological with a dash of mystery. Kellen O’Reilly has served as a police officer in Montreal for many years. There was a period of time spent spent in a psychiatrist clinic, where he was part of an ongoing set of tests, but his recollection of those events are fuzzy at best. Now, 25 years later, he is having horrible flashbacks about his time there, when mild-altering drugs were used to implant suggestions into his memory, including the death of O’Reilly’s own father. Meanwhile, Sarah Parardis is trying to bring suit against the doctor who ran the clinic, Dr. Satorius, claiming that it was the site of CIA testing over a long period of time. Seeking damages for many of the victims, Paradis is being stonewalled by the Agency and cannot produce any records, presumably because Satorius destroyed them when things got out of hand. When Paradis and O’Reilly come together on an unrelated labour dispute between Montreal Police and their union, pieces begin to come together. Might O’Reilly be the key to opening up the Satorius files? When someone fails to delete electronic evidence of these psychiatric tests, O’Reilly and Paradis sense they may have a chance to score a point for justice, but they will have to survive as they enter some very dangerous crosshairs in the meantime. An interesting read that shows the breadth of Deverell’s writing capabilities. Not one of his best, in my opinion, but still quite thought-provoking.

I have enjoyed many of the novels William Deverell has published over the years. While a few have been harder to digest than others, the reader is always given a serious topic on which to postulate and this novel was no exception. Kellen O’Reilly proves to be an interesting protagonist, though I did not find him to be entirely captivating. His past as the victim of serious mind experiments keeps the reader eager to see what he will be able to remember and how much of his ‘planted’ memories have become part of his personal backstory. There is an interesting mix of flashback moments with a little development as he struggles to piece it all together. Sarah Paradis offers some interesting flavouring to the story as well; a leftist lawyer whose love of labour disputes leaves her the hero to some and the enemy to others. She is seeking justice while coming up against The Man if ever there were a perfect definition of one. Seeking justice wherever she can, Paradis will stop at nothing to make sense of a world that does not offer up concrete solutions. While I sped through the book, I found myself lost or lacking complete connection at times. The premise is strong, but I felt myself looking for that gem amongst the tepid moments. I remember that I struggled with Deverell’s opening novel in the Arthur Beauchamp series, but came to love it, so I am sure that one book does not make the man. That being said, there was something lacking here for me, though one-off novels can sometimes prove to be hit and miss.

Kudos, Mr. Deverell, for another interesting piece. While not entirely my type of book, I am sure others will enjoy it and offer much praise.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

Ambush (Michael Bennett #11), by James Patterson and James O. Born

Seven stars

Michael Bennett is back, further developed by James Patterson and collaborator James O. Born. In this eleventh novel in the series, Bennett finds himself paired up with a partner, given the task to show him the ropes. When a tip comes in and they are headed out onto the streets of New York, Bennett cannot know what awaits them. As they arrive, a hail of gunfire erupts and Bennett is left injured while his partner dies in a pool of blood. This was some form of ambush, an attack meant to scrub Bennett out of the NYPD equation. Lurking in the shadows is an Columbian national who has been sent to exterminate Bennett as part of a contract to allow the Mexican cartel ready access to the streets of the Big Apple. While Bennett recuperates, he learns that his son, serving time in update New York, has been attacked. Could it be tied to the attempted offing at the ambush? If that were not enough, Bennett’s eldest daughter, Julianna, has been chosen to act in a local television production and has been flexing her independence at every turn. Will a killer on the loose, leaving bodies of rival cartel members strewn around New York, Bennett has little time to wait, especially once he discovers there are crosshairs focussed on him. A man of a million roles, Michael Bennett as little time for capes and phone booths, but he must be a superhero not only to the city he loves, but the family he cannot live without. Patterson and Born offer up a decent continuation to the Bennett series, which has been moving along effectively. Series fans may enjoy this one, though there are also signs that Bennett might want to turn to life with the family and hang up those cuffs!

I have a long history with many of the cop series that James Patterson has crafted over the years. I find that those with a collaborator seem to get a little tepid as they progress, particularly when plots repeat themselves. Bennett was once a sharp cop who sought to juggle life in Homicide with his massive brood of adopted children. It worked well, when backstory and development allowed for adequate action and kept the reader enthralled. It would seem to be that things have remained in neutral, with new killers and more ways to wreak havoc on NYC, but little movement in the protagonist. Sure, as his children grow their life lessons blossom into interesting sub-plots, but they do not have enough momentum to keep the series propelling along for me. Born was brought in recently, perhaps to inject some pizzazz into the series, though it might have been past its best before date already. The handful of characters that have followed the series seem to have grown slightly, but it is time to either make significant changes to them or let the series fade into the sunset. The story is ok, though, as I mentioned above, has not got the spark needed to push it to the top of any list—save perhaps lists that utilise the ‘Patterson’ name for automatic notoriety. Bennett mixes his time between chasing down killers and trying to keep a handle on his family. The series is at a crossroads—or, perhaps it has already left that spot—and needs some revamping and more energetic developments. I leave it to Patterson and Born to see if they want to keep it exciting or let it wither and cause animosity amongst those who have dedicated time and effort into supporting it for this long.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Born, for working your best to make something out of a series that may be turning beige. Perhaps a BookShot or two to tie things off? I suspect your collaborative efforts in the future could make for brilliant work, away from Michael Bennett.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

Running in Circles (Lucy Lewis #1), by Claire Gray

Six stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to Claire Gray and Sapere Books for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

With this debut novel in the Lucy Lewis series, I had high hopes that Claire Gray would pull me in from the opening pages and not let go. The premise appeared strong and the cover offered some intrigue, paving the way for an interesting reading experience. Lucy Lewis is a journalist working in Thailand for a local paper, with hopes of getting a major scoop to advance her career. When a bomb explodes close to her hostel, Lucy and her editor, Steve, take a moment to shake off the shock before seeking to cover the story. Might this have been an errant explosion or could it have been an act of terror? With dust and debris scattered around the explosion site, Lucy and Steve begin asking questions in order to better understand what’s happened. Lucy finds herself face to face with another foreigner whose money lines the pockets of many, but when she tries to follow-up, he’s disappeared. Working both to understand what’s happened with the bombing and this mysterious disappearance, Lucy finds herself traveling a circuitous route, unable to get the answers she needs. Just as she feels she’s making progress, she falls victim to a conniving individual who wants nothing more than to shut down all Lucy’s sleuthing and keep this mystery buried under all the dead bodies. The truth will come out, though Lucy may not be around to see it. Gray does a decent job in spinning this tale, though I could not find myself completely connection to the story throughout. Perhaps others who enjoy the genre will find more than I did on the written page.

I found the title of the book to be spot-on, for numerous reasons. While I can see Gray has a few great ideas, I could not find myself connected or really ensconced by the style or plot. Lucy Lewis is a young journalist with much to prove, living and working on the other side of the world. She seeks to prove herself and show her editor that she deserves to be taken seriously. It does not help that she finds herself blurring the lines—at least in her mind—with her superior, which can only have dire results. The handful of other characters who grace the pages of the book made only a minor impact on me, though I could see that Gray was trying to develop them at every opportunity. There were supporters of Lucy’s efforts and those who sought to push her down when they could. Overall, it was a mish-mash of narrative circles. The story could have worked well, though it did not grab me. I cannot fault Gray, as I am not the easiest reader to impress, though but there was little within these pages that left me wanting more. I am sure others will laud this work and rush to get their hands on the sequel, but I will stand back and turn my attention elsewhere, at least for the time being.

Thank you, Madam Gray for your effort. While others may be sold, it just did not grab me, as the publishers likely hoped it would.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

The Vatican Children (World of Shadows #2), by Lincoln Cole

Five stars

The premise of this series by Lincoln Cole left me quite curious, as I enjoy all things related to exorcisms. Those who read my review of the opening book will know that things started off quite well, then took a turn for the worse. With an interesting cliffhanger, I vowed to give the series a little more rope, in hopes that it would tie me in and not hang itself. With the revelation that Bishop Glasser has been summoning demons to inhabit innocent folk, Father Niccolo Paladina is back with sufficient supplies to go to battle, though has not yet received formal direction from the Vatican. Working alongside him is Arthur Vangeest, a Hunter for the Council of Chaldea, a group charged with investigating all things supernatural. After forcefully securing one of the bishop’s followers, Arthur and Paladina try to ascertain where he might have gone and what plans he has. It is soon thereafter that Paladina reveals his knowledge of the Vatican Children, a group of youths who showed much power when it came to sensing the demon life forms and even a degree of mind control. With a list having been taken from the Vatican, it is only a matter of time before Bishop Glasser gets his hands on it, which would allow him to convert them for his own good. While Arthur is forced to come clean with other members of the Council that he has gone rogue, he is determined to capture this evil doer, whom he is sure helped have his family murdered. When Father Paladina and Arthur come face to face with Glasser and his minions, they are forced to use the only weapons at their disposal to protect the Vatican Children. Only one side can survive this spiritual apocalypse, but there is much to do thereafter. Holy water and a few rosaries will not be enough, though the climax of the story only creates a new cliffhanger for readers to ponder before locating the final novel in the trilogy. A unique middle piece that helped to build on much of the information provided in the series debut. I promised myself a second try, but am not feeling enamoured enough to want to tie off all the loose ends! Take it or leave it, I won’t lead you down any proverbial garden path. [There you go, Pat. A book that you can leave off your tipping TBR list!]

I was hoping that things would resurrect themselves in this second book, as the chase towards catching Bishop Glasser was on. However, things ended up just being a hot mess of writing and odd plot twists. Sure, the reader learns a little more about the Vatican Children and their importance in the plot, but I could not find myself connected to the chase or the stand-off that appears to be the climax of this middle book. Father Paladina and Arthur are just as they were in the previous piece, which does not say much for the curious reader. There are many names dropped and batted around throughout this short piece, but none of whom really caught my attention. I felt as though Cole could have done so much more to better develop this story, which left me feeling cheated and unimpressed. There was such potential here, even in the short amount of time on offer with this book, but much was wasted with trivial discussion and cheesy factoids. I did give the series two books and wished I had the inclination to finish things off, but I cannot see why I would invest even the single day it will take to speed read through it. There are so many books out there I need to tackle, I’ll let others go to Amazon and locate this one for themselves.

Sorry, Mr. Cole, but you don’t have a committed fan in me. Ratings seem to show me others are hooked and I wish them well!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

The Everett Exorcism (World of Shadows #1), by Lincoln Cole

Six stars

Drawn to the premise of this novel by Lincoln Cole, I could not wait to see if it was as chilling as the blurb made it appear to be. In the town of Everett, Washington, something is going on. The priest of St. Joseph’s Cathedral is certain that one of his parishioners is under the influence of something demonic. However, the bishop is not convinced and shuts down any further exploration. Not satisfied, a call is made directly to the Vatican, who send Father Niccolo Paladina to see what might be taking place in this bucolic community in America’s Pacific Northwest. A trained exorcist, Father Paladina speaks to all parties involved and chastises the local priest for leaping overtop of his bishop, as well as trying to create something out of nothing. Father Paladina is not convinced that this is anything other than some mental health concerns with the elderly woman in question. During a more formal a detailed discussion with the aforementioned parishioner, Father Paladina senses something off about the house, which is only further exacerbated when he hears something calling him in a mocking tone. Could there be more to this than meets the eye? When others around Everett begin exhibiting odd behaviours, Father Paladina cannot help but wonder if his first suppositions might have been wrong. Father Paladina soon comes face to face with a man blacklisted by the Vatican for his outlandish claims, one Arthur Vangeest. While Arthur claims that his entire family was murdered by a cult, perhaps possessed themselves, Father Paladina cannot help but wonder if this is all a rouse by a man whose conscience is full of guilt. The reader soon learns that Arthur Vangeest is known as a Hunter, a soldier for the Council of Chaldea, an organization that works at arm’s-length from the Vatican. The Council is tasked with investigating supernatural events around the world without pulling the Church into the middle of them. With events in Everett becoming more troublesome, Father Paladina cannot help but wonder if his expertise in exorcisms might prove useful and whether there is a larger secret yet to be revealed. A unique story that takes many a turn, going from intensely captivating to tepid and back in short order. Those who enjoy something a little different might enjoy this piece. The jury is still out for me.

I was completely sold by Cole’s premise as the story began, finding myself curious about the premise of the exorcism in a small town. The collection of characters proved to be engaging, particularly Father Paladina. This well-established priest presents not only as a professional, but also one who follows the rules and hierarchy as they are laid out for him. He chooses to lecture those who stray from the well-defined rules and will not abide ignorance. However, while he seems to know his job well, Paladina is highly sceptical of the demonic presence in the world, thereby making his role more obsolete. Cole develops him well, though the character takes a nosedive halfway through the novel, with the introduction of the Council. Many of the other characters in their supporting roles have some potential, but I found myself to lose interest and a connection to those who serve to propel the story forward at this point. It was as though there was such potential with the characters and the premise of the Council, but it was lost in some tepid narrative and plot delivery. It was as though Cole needed a two-pronged plot to keep the story moving—at least to him—and it did not work for me. Surely, there is something useful to know about this Council, as this is a trilogy, but I could not, for the life of me, connect to it or its larger purpose. As these are short novels and I find myself between reading commitments, I will likely give the second book a try to see if I can win myself over, but I will not subject myself to something if I cannot latch on in short order. My reading life is too short to spend time on a book that does not make an impact.

Kudos, Mr. Cole for the interesting premise. We’ll see if you can resurrect things in the second piece!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

Death of an Old Girl (Pollard & Toye #1), by Elizabeth Lemarchand

Six stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to Sapere Books for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Asked to read and review this first novel in a long police procedural series, I leapt at the chance to delve into the world of Elizabeth Lemarchard and her well-developed Scotland Yard duo, Inspector Pollard and Sergeant Toye. During a reunion week at the Meldon School for Girls, Beatrice Baynes appears on the scene with nothing but criticism. From the layout of the garden to the freedoms exercised by pupils through to the scandalous artwork being created, Baynes has gone on the warpath. While others around her try to hold their tongues, there is an obvious animosity towards this ‘old girl’ and her less than laudatory personality. When Baynes is found murdered, the list of suspects is long and the motives equally as lengthy. The crime brings Pollard and Toye on the scene, dispatched from Scotland Yard to catch the murderer before the case gets cold. The investigation pushes the cops in numerous directions, though it is the careful examination of clues and insight that leads them to discover more than first meets the eye. With the killer somewhere amongst the reunion attendees, will Pollard and Toye be willing to finger someone, with the victim’s departure anything but a sorry loss to society? Lemarchand lays the groundwork for what surely became an interesting series with this debut novel. Some fans of police procedurals will enjoy it, though I found it hard to grip, even from the opening pages.

I have often said that first impressions of authors are hard to dispel, particularly when I have so many on my radar. Having this book put before me was likely the only way I would have read it, though I am sorry to say that I wish I had skipped the opportunity. I found the writing not to my liking and the story took too long to get going for me to thoroughly enjoy the end result. It was a tough read, peppered with my skimming at times to get through the experience in order to pen this review. Lemarchand does develop her characters well, offering them life and vigour throughout, but I simply could not find myself latching onto them or wanting to dig deeper. Surely, there will be many who have loved this series and have much praise for Lemarchand. To those folks, I tip my hat and praise the fact that I am able to disagree without it being scandalous. I would recommend anyone who reads the dust jacket to give the series a try, for it is perhaps my jaded perspective that left me unsatisfied. That being said. I take my gut reaction seriously and think it bears some merit in the larger reviewing community as well.

Thank you, Madam Lemarchand, for your large contribution to the genre and the writing community. Alas, it just did nothing for me!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

The White Road, by Sarah Lotz

Six stars

This is my first venture into the world of Sarah Lotz and her writing, which is important to note from the outset. The story took me to new heights and offered some self-examination in some chilly conditions, something that I presumed at the beginning of this reading journey would prove exciting. Simon Newman is a thrill seeker of sorts. Not only that, but he likes to document those who seek thrills, but do not succeed, to the point that they lose their lives. Teaming up with a friend, Simon agrees to go inside a cave to explore, in hopes of finding—and documenting with video—a number of bodies of fellow cave explorers who perished. Macabre? Definitely, but when the exploration does not go as planned and Simon almost loses his life, he has an epiphany of sorts, as well as collecting a ton of emotional baggage. Simon turns to his next adventure, climbing the north side of Mount Everest, where there are surely many bodies are strewn across its paths. Lying to falsify his need to be there, Simon learns about an epic explorer, Juliet Michaels, who lost her life trying to be the first female to ascend to the summit. Through her journals (which the reader also experiences as a secondary narrative), Simon is able to learn that Juliet faced demons of her own, only to perish in the attempt to conquer them. With the climb moving forward, Simon meets a fellow climber whose story is closely tied to Juliet’s, all while he is on the lookout for new video footage to wow his website viewers back home. Struggling to come to terms with his past struggles, Simon realises that there is much more to the Juliet Michaels story than meets the eye, if only he will take the time to follow the path laid out before him. Lotz pens this interesting story, which may ‘pique’ the curiosity for some, though I found it to be an avalanche of convoluted writing.

I would suspect that the worst thing for an author is to have a reader spend time with a book and think, ‘Ok! So where is the point in all this?’ I felt that way throughout this novel and could not shake that it was not simply me in a poor reading mindset. I cannot criticise the writing, for it was quite well developed, or even the characters, as they did reveal themselves in a decent fashion. While the narrative was excessively long, I can see the Lotz wanted to condense each ‘happening’ into a single chapter, thereby making them long and somewhat convoluted (like a mountain trail?). I could not find myself caring much about the story or how the characters moved from one mindset to another. I like to learn and Lotz offers many chances to explore mountain climbing, going so far as to add a glossary of terms and peppering the narrative with ‘mountain-speak’. I just felt that the story left me feeling disconnected, like an old piece of Velcro that no longer has the ability to adhere to much of anything. Surely there are others who loved the book and praise Lotz for her writing. First impressions are strong and I simply could not find myself loving the book or the premise. Maybe I am just too jaded or want action rather than epiphanies embedded in a deeper meaning. Whatever it is, I cannot pretend that I am the problem, though perhaps I need my own hike away from the rest of the world to clear my head.

Thanks, Madam Lotz, for sharing this piece. I did not find it engaging, but I am sure others will lap it up.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

Private #1 Suspect (Private #2), by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

Six stars

There are times that a reader will find themselves trying to get into a novel or even a short story, but cannot seem to get a handle. It could be poorly developed characters, a weak plot, or even an audiobook narrator that sucks the life from a wonderful opportunity. While many will shelve the book or write a horrid review, I thought it a good time to test the theory that sometimes coming back to something could save it from an eternity on a DNF shelf. Here is my effort of a James Patterson book that started my jaded view of his writing and mass-publication for the sake of making money. Jack Morgan returns from a trip to Europe, tired and ready to sleep. After a quick shower, he makes his way to bed, only to find a body. It is that of his former flame, bloodied and garrotted. While he knows he could not have killed her, the police keep an eye on Morgan, who seems to be acting slightly off. Meanwhile, Private HQ is being flooded by calls for cases, including from a hotel owner who has discovered numerous bodies in her chain of hotels across California. Additionally someone carjacked a shipment of narcotics from Las Vegas, a case on which Private would not normally work, but Morgan’s had a chit called in. Struggling to put the pieces together with these cases might be the distraction Jack Morgan needs, but it will not replace that ache in his heart, as the killer remains free and in the shadows. A decent output by Patterson and Paetro, though it remains one that has not captivated me, which begs the question why I kept devouring the books in this series.

I have mentioned before, I am not a fan of some of these new series that Patterson has glued together with co-authors, for I find them to lack a really strong foundation. This was, again, one of those books. I admit, I read because of the Patterson name, though I rarely go into a book assuming that it is going to be stellar (I let his Alex Cross, Women’s Murder Club, and Michael Bennett woo me that way). This was a mediocre book, but somewhat worth the time I spent. Having read all the books in the series, I must take a giants step back and forget much of what I know about the characters found herein. Jack Morgan has become a super boss in later books, but here, he was still that vulnerable fairly new head of Private. He is not the gritty man I have come to enjoy, nor does he receive much of the accolades from others around him. The rest of the team seemed to fit nicely into this story, though I felt that there were too many of them active and more cases than should have been combined in a single book to keep proper track of them all. As I did the first time around, I simply felt the whole book was less than interesting, but will elevate my star rating to three (of five). It could be that I set the bar too high (see above series preferences), but it is now the label of JAMES PATTERSON that has this on the bestseller’s list, I fear, not its content. As many of you know, I coined the phrase James Patterson Syndrome, and this may have been an early novel that helped me form the diagnosis.

Kudos, Mr. Patterson and Madam Paetro, for this early novel in the series. I am still not sure I liked it, but there have been some interesting follow-up novels that span far reaches of the world.

This book fulfills Topic #2: Still Tepid? for the Equinox #4 Reading Challenge.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: