Blow Back, by James Patterson and BRenan DuBois

Eight stars

Having been on a slight James Patterson kick, I was eager to get my hands on this collaborative effort between the star-author and Brendan DuBois. Together, their spy thriller has some great twists and proves that there’s s no end to the abilities when Patterson enlists the help of great authors. A president who has let power go to his head, a CIA Director who tries to wrest control before the US enters a war it cannot win, and a number of operatives who are but pawns on the game board, all players in this piece. All this and a great deal more in this thriller that chills readers to the core, reminiscent of some of the great authors in the genre.

It is said that power corrupts, but it can also intoxicate. Such is the apparent fallout when Keegan Barrett assumes the role of President of the United States. A former CIA operative and Director, Barrett knows the Intelligency community, but he is also aware of its shortcomings. Intel must be acted upon and not left to gather dust on the shelf, which is why President Keenan has a plan. He wants to get a new CIA Director in place not long after his entering the Oval Office and begin a system of striking America’s most powerful enemies, both within and outside the borders of the US.

Barrett calls Agents Liam Grey and Noa Himel into his office to explain the plan, citing that it will be completely off the books and they answer solely to him. While the Agency serves at the president’s discretion, there is a pesky thing called the US Constitution standing the the way, something both Himel and Grey point out. However, President Barrett is clear that nothing will stand in his way of keeping the Chinese and Russians in his crosshairs, wanting them to act whenever and wherever he desires, sure that it will ensure there is no second guessing his plans fo the coming months and years.

While the plan begins to work somewhat effectively, there are those close to the president who start questing his authority. Any who dare sound the alarm turn up dead, adding fear to those who are left. A new Director of the CIA and some high-ranking congressional authorities begin to wonder what steps could be taken to wrest control away from this reckless president, but with an incapacitated vice-president and the Speaker of the House in her own hot water over a scandal, there is no clear successor, even though legislation is in place for such measures. Still, the blowback must begin, or President Barrett will keep holding power and push the US into a war with two enemies who will stop at nothing to destroy the Land of the Free, given the chance.

With a roving reporter trying to cobble together a story that will rock the country and lay the groundwork for Bennett’s potential removal, there is hope that all this covert action will come to light. However, with so many people dying, there is a chance that more will come if they speak too freely. Politics, intelligence, and global peace are all in jeopardy with a man drunk on power in the middle, unwilling to hand over the reins of power. Patterson and DuBois do a masterful job with this piece, standing alongside some of the greats in the genre with this novel.

The idea that much of this could take place is perhaps one of the most chilling aspects of the entire book, but Patterson and DuBois do not shy away from the realistic depictions found herein. The narrative, while slow at times, proves to move things along and offers up scary insights of what could be, while hinting at the train wreck that might have been under Trump (making mention of it throughout). Strong storylines are buoyed by the narrative, as is the handful of great characters who shape the story. Politicians, intelligence officers, foreign governments and their agents all play key roles as characters in the book, all of whom are depicted wonderfully. The plot is clear and its delivery is both transparent and forked, just what is needed to add depth. And political intrigue throughout. Patterson and DuBois have shown that they can work well together and this piece is another example of that. I am eager to see if they try more political and counterintelligence thrillers in the future, as this one was surely a hit!

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and DuBois, on a strong collaborative effort!

The Summer House, by James Patterson and Brendan DuBois

Eight stars

Renewing their collaborative efforts, James Patterson and Brendan DuBois present readers with an intense and thrilling read in this new standalone novel. Working a military investigation angle, the authors do more than pump up the US Military, able to spin a mystery like few others I have read of late. In a small Georgia community lies a large house, referred to by locals as the Summer House. However, after seven civilians, including one child, are slain there, the moniker Murder House seems a better fit. Under 48 hours after the bodies are discovered, four Army Rangers are arrested and taken into custody. Enter the Army Criminal Investigation Division (CID) and Major Jeremiah Cook. When Cook’s team is summoned from Virginia, they are tasked with going down to ensure that the Rangers receive the justice they deserve, as well as discover the culpability that may be involved. When Cook and his team arrive, they receive cold shoulders from the local sheriff and police force, as well as the local military personnel. It would seem that the case is fairly straightforward and any more people snooping around is an insult to all involved. However, Cook has his Army psychiatrist attempt to interview the Rangers to get a better idea of what happened, coming up short as they shut down. Soon, one of the Rangers takes drastic measures so as not to share anything. The local D.A. is happy to move forward, hoping for some capital crimes to boost his notoriety. While Cook feels that things are moving along, he cannot help but wonder if he is missing something, as though there is more to the story that no one wants to share. When his commanding officer is temporarily replaced, Cook is told the team is being sent home and their report will be buried. Could there be a cover-up involved to ensure no truths see the light of day? Working on a hunch and without permission of his superiors, Cook sneaks off to the other side of the world to get some answers, hoping his hunch is more than a gut feeling. As the list of witnesses diminish and increased violence leads some of posit that someone’s trying to erase the truth, the CID team must act fast to get some answers for themselves and the locals. A thrilling ride that leaves the reader in the middle of an intense read throughout. Patterson and DuBois have outdone themselves with this piece. Recommended to those who love investigative novels with a military twist, as well as the reader who enjoys some of Patterson’s better collaborative efforts.

I know I tend to whinge when it comes to James Patterson and his numerous publications, but I have a standard that I prefer not be violated in order to sell fluff novels. Patterson has been able to find some quality collaborators over the years and this is one instance in which the novel lived up to the hype. Brendan DuBois injects a great sense of plot and development here and I applaud him for that. The entire CID team can be considered the protagonists of the piece, offering their unique characteristics and perspectives to solving the case at hand. All of them chip in to bring their expertise to the table and much is revealed throughout. Backstories and some evolution in the characters occur throughout, allowing the reader a sense of connection to each of them in their own way. Some of the secondary characters do the same, spinning subplots that keep the story moving ahead and flavouring the narrative so as not to lose any of the momentum. The story itself was unique in a way, as it sought not only to solve a basic crime, but to dig a little deeper and force the reader to think. With a strong narrative that takes on a variety of perspectives, the reader can feel entirely surrounded by the action and in the middle of the developments. Able to effectively break Patterson’s trademark short chapter style without sacrificing fast-pace action, the story clips along and the reader begs to know more before the end. I was pleasantly surprised by this book and the collaborative effort that went into its creation. While I suspect it will be a standalone, I would not mind more in a series, as long as Patterson does not sacrifice quality for quantity, as seems to be his downfall of late.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and DuBois, for a great novel that came out of nowhere. I am hope others who are on the fence about Patterson give this one a try and see what a good collaborator can do for a novel.

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

The Cornwalls Are Gone, by James Patterson and Brendan DuBois

Eight stars

In their latest collaborative effort, James Patterson and Brendan DuBois offer readers an interesting thriller with elements of suspense throughout. Amy Cornwall is part of Army Intelligence and has a keen sense of foreboding. When she arrives home to discover that her husband and daughter are missing, her panic boils over. Worried about the worst, Amy is contacted by the kidnappers, who offer up a plan to have her collect a man in a small Texas town before delivering him and getting her family back. Not caring about the consequences, Amy goes AWOL from the Army and leaves her Virginia home to trek across the country. While on rural roads, she encounters a few troopers and her paranoia almost turns her into a murderer, wanting to get her family back above all else. Meanwhile, the ragtag group of kidnappers seem clueless to the larger plan and bide their time, keeping Tom Cornwall and his daughter in relative discomfort, at least until they are told otherwise. Unsure if Amy is coming, Tom can only wonder what’s led him to be held captive and whether this could be in retaliation to something Amy did while deployed. Amy makes her way across the country and takes matters into her own hands, killing people to secure the target, but is then sent on another wild goose chase, with local police and the military tracking her down for their own reasons, as the Cornwalls remain separated in a high-stakes game of cat and mouse. A page-turner if ever there was one, Patterson and DuBois offer up a wonderful story that is full of entertainment until the very end. Recommended for those who need a good novel to keep them company on a rainy day or while on vacation!

Patterson novels are always a gamble, particularly when one never knows what awaits them. I have come to discover that collaborators can make all the difference, but even then, names plastered across the cover of a book tend to sell more than the quality of the story. Working with Brendan DuBois, James Patterson has crafted a wonderful piece that pulls the reader in and does not let go. Amy Cornwall, an Army vet, has much going for her, though there is a cloud looming over her from time overseas. She tries to put that in the back of her mind when she is forced to find her family without tipping anyone off to what’s happened. Gritty and determined to find success, Amy heads out on a mission whose end game is more important than anything else she has done in her life. Unsure of the rationale, Amy is determined to get to the root of the issue, letting that fuel a fire within her as she treks out to save those who matter most. There are a few other characters whose presence greases the wheels of the story, propelling it forward and keeping the narrative moving. Patterson and DuBois offer up wonderful plots to keep the characters working in harmony, those sometimes out of sync with one another. While the theme of the story may not be unique, its delivery is one that the reader will enjoy through to the very end, as they wonder what has led to this cross-country chase and who is pulling the strings. A great addition to Patterson’s vast library of thrillers, with much thanks to Brendan DuBois for keeping things on track.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and DuBois, for this great novel. Whether we see Amy Cornwall again or this was a one-off, the book is sure to be talked about for a good while yet!

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

The First Lady, by James Patterson and Brendan DuBois

Eight stars

James Patterson and Brendan DuBois renew their collaborative efforts with a new book full of thrills and political intrigue. As US President Harrison Tucker makes his final push for re-election, he finds himself in an awkward position. Caught leaving an Atlanta hotel with his mistress, Tucker scrambles to save his reputation, but is unable to keep media reports from reaching First Lady Grace Tucker. Understandably upset, the First Lady excuses herself and leaves the White House. While the news is troubling, it’s just another hurdle that Secret Service Agent Sally Grissom has to face. Heading up the Presidential Protective Detail, Grissom will have to keep POTUS safe as he tries to patch his reputation. She’s tossed a curveball soon thereafter, when a senior member of the First Lady’s detail calls to say that she’s gone off the grid, having slipped past those charged with protecting her. Grissom rushes to the scene of where she was last seen, hoping that this is just the First Lady trying to exert some freedom. However, things take a turn for the worse when a note appears in the First Lady’s handwriting. Has her disappearance been orchestrated and is she being held against her will? Meanwhile the president’s Chief of Staff is making calculated moves of his own to ensure the disappearance news does not derail an already fragile situation. He cannot have anything go against his plans or it could spell electoral disaster. With a mercenary slinking around in the background, Grissom’s actions begin to have dire consequences and new evidence push the Secret Service to the brink as they seek to do what’s needed before media outlets use the disappearance as new fodder for the next news cycle. Patterson and DuBois do a great job with this standalone novel, which keeps the reader’s attention until the story’s climactic ending. Recommended for those who can appreciate Patterson’s stronger collaborative efforts.

James Patterson collaborations can be hit and miss, which is additionally troublesome as the market is supersaturated with the author’s name on bookstands at any given moment. However, Brendan DuBois can usually be counted upon to help shape novels in a productive manner and keep Patterson on task. This novel mixes the fast pace of political thrills with the mystery of a missing central actor. Sally Grissom proves to be a decent protagonist, mixing her grit on the job with having to balance being a single mother at home. Still in the midst of marital disintegration, Grissom must try to keep her daughter’s respect while not letting her personal life distract her from the job at hand. As this is a standalone, the authors must ‘sell’ Grissom in short order so that the reader does not lose interest in her, which appears to be done effectively throughout. Many of the secondary characters prove useful storylines to keep the novel moving forward. From the search for the First Lady to those who want Grissom and her team away from the action, the authors can easily use a number of characters to add flavour to a rich narrative. The story is strong and well-paced, with Patterson’s trademark quick chapters that keep the plot from losing momentum. Patterson and DuBois have a great way of mixing first- and third-person narratives to show an entire story from all perspectives. While I do bemoan the excessive number of books Patterson churns out, this is one with a silver lining that I feel would be perfect for those who need a few hours to escape their busy lives.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and DuBois, for a successful novel. I am happy I took the time to enjoy this piece and look forward to another collaborative effort.

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

After the End (Owen Taylor #2), by James Patterson and Brendan DuBois

Eight stars

James Patterson and Brendan DuBois are back with the follow-up BookShot, where the reader met Owen Taylor, a recently-retired member of American Special Operations. With as much intensity as the debut piece, Patterson and DuBois solidify their ability to keep Taylor fresh and at the forefront of the reader’s mind. Owen Taylor is quite enjoying his new life in rural New Hampshire, though some of his less-welcoming neighbours need a little reminder of common decency. When he’s visited by a former colleague, Taylor learns of an issue down in Georgia that has his name written all over it. Travelling down, Taylor discovers a former special ops has been decimated by an IED, though things are not quite as cut and dry as that. While it would be easy to point fingers at the Taliban or ISIS, some raw footage leads Taylor to believe that popular war correspondent, Jack Zach, may have tipped off the enemy to an America contingent, causing significant casualties. This pushes Taylor to agree to help and he finds himself seeking out the source. Jack Zach does not seem to want to engage with Taylor in New York, though the latter will not take a simple no. A tip sends Taylor over to the Turkey-Syrian border, but Zach’s little game of cat and mouse keeps him one step ahead. After retuning the the US, Taylor discovers that his sleuthing is not appreciated and that Zach has friends in high places. However, Owen Taylor is stubborn, if nothing else, and will not stop until he has been able to avenge this cowardly act, if he can make it out alive. Patterson and DuBois show that their collaborative skills are top-notch. BookShot fans and those who loved the opening Owen Taylor piece will surely enjoy this follow-up.

It is sometimes difficult to produce a second high-quality short story in such short order. Patterson and DuBois did well with their BookShot ‘The End’ and this sequel offers just as much to the curious reader. Owen Taylor’s character is again wonderfully developed. There is less backstory here, though Taylor does flashback to his crew on the final mission (which was the crux of the opening story). I was certain that things would remain focussed in New Hampshire, where Taylor had a new group of enemies to keep him busy, though he seems to have handled them in a single (short) chapter. Working through the skills that Taylor honed while serving his country, the reader is able to see a decent snapshot of the man and his capabilities. The story is brief and the chapters speed along, permitting the reader to catapult through to the end in a single setting. Doing the reverse of the first piece, the reader sees Taylor in his nirvana before being thrust back into the combat zone he so quickly fled. An interesting contrast and should be noted for those who like to dig deeply into a story’s symbolism. I said that I would formulate an opinion of whether I wanted to see Owen Taylor in a full-length novel after reading this piece. I can say that I would not, as I feel the quick pace of the story is the perfect setting. However, I would also not want to see numerous BookShots that pull Taylor back into the mix and away from his home. It seems too ‘agent for hire after he retires’ and would surely get old quickly. Patterson and DuBois have done well with these two stories. We’ll see if they are done or have another idea floating around between them, Owen Taylor or otherwise.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and DuBois, on a great follow-up piece. Your collaborative effort offers up some great storytelling and I can only hope to find more in the months to come (or this BookShot binge month)!

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

The End (Owen Taylor #1), by James Patterson and Brendan DuBois

Eight stars

It’s nice to be able to pick up a BookShot and commit only a few hours to a story that can—though, not always—take you away somewhere wonderful or exciting. A few cups of coffee and a little quiet time allows you to fully commit and see what James Patterson and his collaborator have to say. This story is anything but peaceful, though it reads so well that I cannot heap enough praise on it. Brendan DuBois shows that he is not only an accomplished author, but also that he has just enough flair to pull this story off and keep a large group of readers entertained. Owen Taylor is ready to retire, but has one final covert mission to accomplish before returning to civilian life. Alongside his team of four other operatives, they parachute into Serbia to handle a warlord who has been trying to drum up enough panic to bring about another World War. As Taylor and the team begin their night operation, something goes wrong, and it’s not just a hankering for home cooking. As the trek through snow and sleet continues, Taylor gets the sense that they are expected, as if someone’s tipped off the locals and traps await. One by one, members of the team end up on the short end of the lucky stick, leaving Taylor to trudge onwards to complete what he’s been sent to do, all before the sun rises. By the time he reaches his final spot, there is a new threat that awaits him and he finally comes face to face with the reason for the compromised mission. The second half of the story explores Owen Taylor from a new angle, as he sifts through not only his last mission, but his time as an operative. His dreams for solitude, love, and stability flash through his mind as he tries to decompartmentalise after years of military service. However, they say that once a soldier, always a soldier. No quiet lakeside living can remove those ingrained traits… but Owen Taylor may have no choice. Patterson and Brendan DuBois do a masterful job at jamming much into the story, without leaving the reader gasping or seeking to pull the proverbial ripcord. BookShot fans, particularly those who enjoy something with a military flavour, will surely devour this in short order.

While still early in my month-long binge of BookShots, I have come across some great pieces that those I feel should remain on the shelf. This one has been on my TBR list for a while and I wanted to see if it lived up to some of the hype. With a sequel (which I will tackle in short order), I wondered if Patterson and DuBois could bring the intensity and yet leave some threads dangling to lure me into pushing through and getting my hands on that second piece. Owen Taylor’s character is wonderfully developed, though there is still much that can be done with him. The reader receives some backstory about Taylor’s past missions, though it is the current one, seen through a pair of Night Vision Goggles, that really pulls the reader in. Taylor’s feelings and deep-rooted sentiments as things happen in real time provide the reader with a general idea of who this military man might be. Without revealing too much, the latter portion of the book further explores Taylor and his thought processes, personalising the man and divorcing him from his soldier stoicism. While the story is brief and the chapters speed along, the reader is also able to learn a little more about those on the team alongside Taylor, which offers further exploration into the different individuals who find themselves on these sorts of missions. Patterson and DuBois do well in short order to present believable and intriguing characters, both in the Serbian darkness and the locale of the story’s latter portion (trying not to spoil!). The story was well-crafted and left me wanting to know more, though I am sure the sequel has just as much punch to it. A mix of military thrills with personal reflection offers a larger group of readers something to enjoy. It’s not all blood and gore, but also not saccharine and lovey. Patterson and DuBois have laid the groundwork for something here and I cannot wait to see where they take it. Not quite sure if I can see a full-length book out of his yet, but I suspect that my the time I finish the second story, I’ll have an opinion.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and DuBois, on a great piece of writing. Your collaborative effort offers up some great storytelling and I can see the partnership going places (as it has already).

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