Murder Beyond the Grave (Murder is Forever, Volume #3), by James Patterson, Aaron Bourelle, and Christopher Charles

Seven stars

During a recent binge of James Patterson’s BookShots, I came across his newest series of short stories, non-fiction with a criminal twist. Murder is Forever—now apparently a television program—shows off some real-life crimes that have been committed by dumb criminals and rolls them into bite-sized reads. In this third volume, Patterson teams up with Aaron Bourelle and Christopher Charles to bring two more tales where murder plays a central role in the final outcome of the criminal experience. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

Murder Beyond the Grave (with Aaron Bourelle)

Danny Edwards is a low-level drug dealer who cannot do much of anything right. After being busted for large quantity possession, he turned on his supplier in a sting operation, but even then could not wait for the cocaine to appear before uttering the code word. Down on his luck and money, Danny has a plan; kidnap the local millionaire and keep him for ransom. In order to ensure that Stephen Small does not foil his own kidnaping, Edwards constructs a coffin of sorts to bury him, but provides an oxygen source to ensure that no one will find Small until the money’s been provided, but he is sure to stay alive. Using his unknowing girlfriend—Nancy Rish—to take him to and from the scene of the burial, Edwards places phone calls from pay phones that summer of 1987, hoping to get the Small family to pay up. Edwards thinks he is so smart, alternating pay phones, but does not realise that they can be traced. Soon Edwards and Rish are both apprehended and the police use some tactics to strong-arm Danny into admitting what he’s done and where to find Stephen Small. It is only then that things take a terrible turn for the worse.

Murder in Paradise (with Christopher Charles)

When Jim and Bonnie Hood came upon a potential fixer-upper property in the hills of California, they had differing views. Where Jim saw a cesspool of wasted money, Bonnie saw some potential and set about to make it a wonderful getaway. However, the more time and money she spent there, the more anonymous threats that she received. After a clash with some local loggers at the saloon, Bonnie thought she might have to take some drastic action and made some thinly veiled threats. When, after a tryst with one of her employees, their cabin was attacked by an intruder, Bonnie was left dead, leaving Jim to break the news to his children. After locating a suspect and going to trial, Bruce Beauchamp was found not guilty, forcing the Hoods to fear that he might seek retribution. What came next was truly the twist in the story, which shows that justice does not always follow the most obvious path.

These are two more stories that show the criminal element cannot always get away with a crime that seems almost foolproof at the start. Patterson has a knack for finding some interesting cases and presenting them in an intriguing short story format, which keeps the reader curious and wanted to forge onwards until the end. Using two well-seasoned collaborators, Patterson strengthens the storytelling and keeps the reader wanting more, which is sure to come in the next instalment of the Murder is Forever series. For now, those readers with the option can tune in to see Patterson’s television program on a weekly basis.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson, Bourelle, and Charles, as you recount these interesting tales. I like the style and the succinct nature used to present these stories and cannot wait to see what other cases make their way into the print version of this series.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

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Murder, Interrupted (True Crime Thrillers, Volume #1), by James Patterson, Alex Abramovich, and Christopher Charles

Eight stars

While James Patterson has made a name for himself with his BookShots collection—a series of short stories the reader can complete in a few hours—he seems to always be expanding his horizons. Apparently having secured some television rights to a murder-based true-crime show, Patterson has also spun some of the tales into shorter stories, much like the aforementioned BookShots. While I am on my BookShot binge, I thought that I would include at least the first volume in my binge read, as they are short enough to be defined as BookShots, even though they are somewhat fictionalised pieces of true crime. These stories will capture the reader’s attention, more so because they actually happened, with a few fudged facts to provide anonymity. Sit back and enjoy, as Patterson and his two collaborators in these stories show just how far some people will go to harm those closest to them.

Murder, Interrupted (with Alex Abramovich)

Nancy Howard’s been shot gruesomely through the eye with the bullet’s trajectory headed for her brain. The mysterious man who did this is unknown to her, but her first concern is calling out for help. Moving the story backwards a bit, the reader learns of Nancy’s husband, Frank, is a successful accountant with a penchant for having sticking fingers. He’s also having quite the affair, but does not want to divorce his wife, as it might tarnish his image. Frank takes matters into his own hands by hiring a strung-out addict to act as a hitman, but things take many odd turns, leaving Frank wondering if he will ever be rid of his wife, so that he can fully focus on his new life in California. As the story moves forward, the reader sees Frank’s attempts to ensure the hit goes as planned, but Nancy is able to call for help, leading to an investigation and fingers pointing in all directions. Sometimes, allowing the blood to leave the brain for other regions proves fatal for those who concoct revenge plots. Patterson and Abramovich open the collection with this interesting story that will have readers shaking their heads as they fly through the chapters.

Mother of all Murders (with Christopher Charles)

Single mother Dee Dee Blancharde has made quite a name for herself in the Missouri community she now calls home. Her daughter, Gypsy, hands many health concerns and after they were forced out of New Orleans, it was the kindness of the community that helped provide a much needed crutch. When one of Gypsy’s friends receives a disturbing Facebook message, the authorities are called to the house, where Dee Dee is dead and Gypsy is nowhere to be found. As detectives try to piece things together, the reader is permitted a thorough look into the backstory of both Blancharde women, including the countless ailments that Gypsy has suffered over the years. When a link to a dating site proves to be a strong clue to better understand what might have happened to Gypsy, detectives soon realise that there is so much more to the story than meets the eye. Patterson and Charles provide wonderful twists in this story based on actual events. The reader will surely enjoy the build of momentum throughout.

Both of these stories were the perfect fit for this first volume. Murder comes in all shapes and forms, but it is sometimes the glaring errors of the perpetrators that serve as the most entertaining aspect of any story. The key characters from both stories provide wonderful backstories and development throughout their appearances on the printed page. The reader can connect with them, which aids in better understanding the cases and fallout from the criminal acts. While these are true events with a fictional flavour, the stories read well and all characters found herein, while not fleshed out as effectively as in a piece of complete fiction, serve a great purpose and help to accentuate the different angles of the crime. These brief pieces could easily be called BookShots, with their short chapters and the story arc taking only one hundred pages or so. I am eager to tackle the second volume of this collection, though am not sure if I will hunt down the television program, as I like Patterson in small doses (which I am sure I contradict, having almost completed my month-long BookShot binge).

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson, Abramovich, and Charles. Your stories kept me hooked from the beginning and I love how they were presented. Perfectly crafted for an afternoon of reading, much like many of the short stories collaborations Patterson has undertaken.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

The Family Lawyer (A BookShot Collection), by James Patterson, Robert Rotstein, Christopher Charles, and Rachel Howzell Hall

Nine stars

While BookShots are a wonderful way to spend a few hours, bundling them together can also be a great way to carry a few spine-tingling stories together, permitting easier comparison in a single review. In this collection of three stories, the reader is able to explore three distinct stories that will keep them on the edge of their seats. From a legal thriller to a police manhunt, to a familial crime cover-up, James Patterson and his collaborators show the distinct advantage of BookShot reading.

The Family Lawyer, with Robert Rotstein

Matt Hovanes is a fairly successful attorney who left the D.A.’s office when a colleague tried to play bait and switch with some important evidence. When he receives a panicked phone call from his daughter, Hailey, he knows there is trouble. Hailey’s been arrested for cyber bullying and the victim, Farah Medhipour, committed suicide six weeks before. Declaiming her innocence, Hailey agrees to follow her father’s direction, though Matt is still blurring the parent-attorney line when he asks his partner to defend Hailey. While they prepare for trial, Matt’s son, Daniel, a troubled soul himself, tells his own version of events, but backs his sister’s narrative. Matt learns that his daughter is not the angel he thinks she is and comes to see that Farah has apparently been stalking his daughter, and Hailey has retaliated by using her own popularity to isolate the victim. As the trial begins, Matt does all he can to deflect the evidence against Hailey, which is mounting, as he seeks to learn what led Farah to hang herself. When the defence rises to present its case, it is an uphill battle, with accusations, texts, photos, and smear campaigns. Now Matt must decide if the truth or negotiated freedom is the better way to go. A chilling legal thriller with strong ties to current cyberbullying and the effects that some teenagers may not consider when using cell phones as swords.

Night Sniper, with Christopher Charles

The streets of New York are not safe with a sniper on the loose. They kill randomly, in all boroughs with victims of many ages. There does not seem to be a link to any of the victims. As an NYPD Homicide Task Force rushes to make sense of this, the Chief is about to insist on a city-wide curfew. The reader sees the sniper’s perspective first-hand, in alternating chapters, as well as their rationale as they play a high-stakes game of cat and mouse. One member of the Task Force, Detective Cheryl Mabern, is not welcomed by all, especially since she’s voluntarily locked herself away in a treatment facility. A shooting gone bad and a life of vices has rounded the sharp edges that Mabern usually shows her team. As the killer hones their sights on Mabern, things take a dangerous turn, one that could cost more lives and leave Mabern with much blood on her hands. This collaboration between James Patterson and Christopher Charles proves exciting for the reader and keeps the story moving effectively until the final sentence.

The Good Sister, with Rachel Howzell Hall

When Dani Lawrence receives a midnight call from her sister, she knows there’s something wrong. Melissa has a panicked sound to her voice, which Dani realises is justified. Arriving at the house, Melissa’s husband, Kirk, is slumped in a chair and it does not look as if his excessive drinking is the case. Dani and Melissa try to come up with something to explain it, only to have Melissa admit that she’s killed her scumbag husband. Dani knows that the authorities will need to be called, but blood is thicker than any legal necessity, or is it? When the police show up, it turns to mayhem, forcing Dani to escort her young nephew away while Melissa faces a barrage of questions. Dani’s long had suspicions that her brother-in-law has a wandering eye and a group of women on the side, but could Melissa really have been pushed to the edge that dramatically? With the evidence seemingly safely stowed away, Dani soon learns that karma sometimes has a way of getting in the middle of the perfect plan to deflect the truth. Faced with added pressure, will Dani be able to keep her cool, or is Melissa destined for an extended separation from her son? Patterson and Rachel Howzell Hall work masterfully here to create a wonderful story that will enthuse the BookShot reader and keep them coming back for more.

All three of these stories were the perfect fit for a collection, as they explore different aspects of the law and keep the reader hooked from the opening paragraphs until the final sentence lingers in the air. The key characters found throughout offer up unique perspectives when faced with legal matters, each choosing to take their own approach. Character development and backstory is effectively used throughout, permitting the reader to feel a strong connection, even if they do not agree with the decisions being made. The secondary characters also help paint an effective image of the law and its various loopholes, entertaining as well as supporting in their roles. All three stories worked effectively, though none could have blended with the others, their premises unique and the approach distinct. Patterson has chosen well, not only to collaborate with these three, but to bundle these pieces together. I am eager to sink my teeth into another BookShot collection to see if it proves as effective in its presentation.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson, Rotstein, and Charles, as well as Madam Hall, for such a great array of stories. These are the types of BookShots I enjoy reading and will recommend them to all who will listen.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons