Steal (Instinct #3), by James Patterson and Howard Roughan

Seven stars

In this third instalment of the Instinct series, James Patterson and Howard Roughan work together to develop a great thriller with a unique twist. Psychological at times with some gritty crime aspects, the collaboration works well, as the previous two novels did for those who took the time to enjoy them. Patterson appears to mesh well with Roughan, which is a pleasant surprise, as books bearing the former’s name flood the marketplace on a weekly basis. A worthwhile reading experience.

It was a shock to everyone who glanced at social media to see that Carter van Oehson planned to kill himself. Even his Abnormal Psych professor, Dylan Reinhart, was taken aback. Now, a whole day later, Carter has still not turned up, but neither has his body.

While the hunt is on, there is no trace of Carter, at least until his boat turns up on the water, empty and with no signs of a struggle. People begin to wonder if Carter went ahead with his vow or could this just be a means of getting some attention? While people speculate, one person is sure that there is something nefarious going on.

Carter’s father, Mathias von Oehson, is sure there is more to the story, wondering if his fame and popularity might be the reason for an abduction. There is a family secret that could be used as leverage, allowing whoever is behind this to blackmail the van Oehsons and cause chaos. Without being able to turn to the police, Mathias needs answers and knows just who to ask.

Dylan Reinhart is ready to assist, but had no idea it would mean being in the middle of such a massive secret. He’ll need every fibre of his being to locate Carter, but must also rely on his connection to NYPD Detective, Elizabeth Needham. Together, Dylan and Elizabeth turn over rocks and investigate clues that could lead them to Carter, or send them to the darkest parts of the globe where additional trouble lurks. A chilling story that Patterson and Roughan develop effectively, keeping the reader hooked until the final page turn.

While I find James Patterson’s excessive publications too much to handle, particularly when I seek a decently penned book, I was pleasantly surprised by this one. Working alongside Howard Roughan, Patterson has developed a decent series that has potential. While the book had some slow moments, the narrative carried things effectively through to the stronger segments of the story. I am keen to see if there is more collaboration by this pair, be it with this series or elsewhere.

Dylan Reinhart and Elizabeth Needham have grown throughout the series, both personally and professionally. While they try to keep work and personal lives separate, there are times when things blur together, leaving the reader to wonder what might happen. Both have strong development throughout the series, though I did not feel as connected to them in this novel. They are worthwhile characters with much to offer, leaving me to wonder what’s next for this duo.

James Patterson has so many collaborators with whom he works, it is hard to keep them straight, as well as which offer high caliber writing. Based on my reviews from the past books in this series, as well as though that have his name attached, Howard Roughan is one of the ‘decent ones’. The narrative of this book worked well, though there were a few slow moments that left me tapping my finger as I sped through the chapters, though the overall experience was worth my time. Short chapters, what I consider Patterson’s trademark, worked well to keep the momentum going and left me able to focus on the endgame without getting too caught up in the aforementioned slower segments. A decent plot kept me curious and some characters served to flavour the writing in ways that made it a little more enjoyable. As I said before, I am eager to see what else is to come with this series.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Roughan, for a decent read. Eager to see what you have coming out soon.

Killer Instinct (Instinct #2), by James Patterson and Howard Roughan

Eight stars

In another thrilling collaborative effort, James Patterson and Howard Roughan bring another thriller full of geo-politicking and some criminal elements to readers who have been hungering for another stellar novel. Dr. Dylan Reinhart is still living off the glory of uncovering a serial killer when a new situation makes his blood run cold. There has been another terrifying attack on New York City (shocking, no?!) and the casualty count is quite large. One name in particular causes Reinhart to squirm, but not simply because of the loss of life. Reunited with his old partner, Detective Elizabeth Needham, Reinhart begins to sift through the rubble—both literal and figurative—in order to find out who might be behind the attack. There are whispers that an apparent auto-erotic event that left an Ivy League professor dead could be tied into all this, though the parallels are weak. However, any time ‘Iran’ and ‘nuclear’ can be put into the same sentence, there is at least some red flag being raised. With Reinhart and Needham working every angle, they soon learn that the strike could be more than a simple act of terror, but an international play to move policy in a certain direction. However, it would seem the blast was only the beginning, with more attacks planned at unknown locations. As time ticks away, Reinhart and Needham will have to use all the resources at their disposal to get answers, but there’s a wrinkle or two they could not have expected, which sends the entire case in new and troubling directions. Patterson and Roughan do well to develop a strong story and keep the reader engrossed until the final page-turn. Recommended for those who enjoy some light thriller reading, especially the reader who enjoys Patterson when he’s on his game.

While it is sometimes a risk when James Patterson’s name appears on a book jacket, this novel is a strong collaborative effort. Everything seems to come together nicely and the end result is a book the reader can enjoy, even if they are forced to endure some cheesy jokes along the way. Dylan Reinhart and Elizabeth Needham are strong co-protagonists, working angles independently and together with much ease. Mixing some of their great personal backstories with strong character development allows the reader to feel a connection to them both, while not being left that the case is left on the back burner. The plethora of secondary characters offer wonderful tangents in an already strong piece. Patterson and Roughan serve up interesting interpretations of those working the case and stirring up trouble, including their own spin on geo-politics. The story emerges from these strong characterisations and keeps the reader engaged with the plot. Using Patterson’s short chapters and constant cliffhangers, the reader cannot help but want to forge onwards to get to the core of the story at hand. Well-paced and with just the right amount of sarcasm, this is one of Patterson’s stronger novels of the year. One can hope it is not lost in the shuffle.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Roughan, for a strong collaborative effort. I enjoy how well you work together and look forward for other joint ventures soon.

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

Murder Games, by James Patterson and Howard Roughan

Seven stars 

In their recent collaboration, James Patterson and Howard Roughan have created a wonderful standalone piece to entertain readers. Dr. Dylan Reinhart has done well for himself: an established Professor of Psychology at Yale, happy in his long-term relationship, and a popular textbook on Abnormal Psychology that has received many accolades. When he is approached by NYPD Detective Elizabeth Needham, her message is as ominous as they come. “Someone may be trying to kill you!” Soon Needham and Reinhart are teaming up to crack open a homicide investigation with a serial killer who uses playing cards to hint at their next victim. Deemed ‘The Dealer’, Needham and Reinhart must try to remain one step ahead of the killer, whose obsession with Reinhart is quite apparent. In the background, a power-hungry Mayor of New York City (are there other kinds?) demands updates as he delves deeper into Reinhart’s past while a crime beat journalist relishes all the headlines the case seems to be garnering. The reader soon learns that Reinhart has a secret that he has been keeping from everyone, perhaps one reason he has been tapped by The Dealer. Juggling the case and some developments in his personal life, Reinhart must find a balance before he becomes a victim himself. As The Dealer ups the ante, Needham must rely on this man she barely knows to keep her from going bust. Patterson and Roughan have a firm grip on his story and keep the reader connected throughout. Fast paced and perfect for a short beach read, this novel shows that Patterson still has some good work to offer.

Many know of my love/hate relationship with James Patterson in recent years. The man has amassed much of his wealth with less than stellar pieces. However, when paired with the proper collaborator and using the perfect literary recipe, a decent book emerges. Roughan seems to have brought out some great ideas as they craft this decent thriller that exemplifies another NYPD cat and mouse game with an intelligent serial killer that has much to prove. The characters are varied and well-developed, though there are many whose presence is used only to be a quick victim in the larger narrative. The Reinhart-Needham connection is decent, though not unique from other Patterson novels where a cop and civilian find themselves intertwined during the story arc. The story is paced well and the use of Patterson’s short chapter technique keeps the narrative clipping along with ease. While not psychologically stunning, the story is decent and it keeps the reader’s attention. Sure to laud some praise on Roughan and give Patterson another pat on the back, this book has all the elements of a decent summer novel.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Roughan for a great piece of work that will bring readers back again. I hope to see more collaborative efforts in the near future, as you two have a symbiosis that cannot be taken for granted when Patterson’s name appears on the dust jacket.