Private Beijing (Private #17), by James Patterson and Adam Hamdy

Seven stars

James Patterson and Adam Hamdy adds to the long-running Private series, taking Jack Morgan to Beijing. In a city full of mystery and suspicion, Morgan helps when the local team is decimated by an unknown killer. The authors work with many of the tools honed in past Private novels. Not as Sino-centric as I would have preferred, using past novels in the series as a comparison. Still worth a read by those who have enjoyed previous novels..

After an attack in Beijing sees a number of the local Private members killed, Jack Morgan knows that this is serious and rushes to get there from LA. While Morgan has no idea what’s happened, he knows that it must be serous. Some poking around to get a lay of the land does little to help, save find Morgan tossed in jail for a few hours after a disagreement with the local police. Once Morgan is out, he’s back on the trail to see what’s been going on.

Not long thereafter, two major events leave Morgan rushing to determine which way is up. First, The Private Beijing offices are bombed and completely destroyed, leaving fire and rubble. Second, an attack in New York sees one of the local Private members trying to piece together what has happened to his wife and all fingers point to a mysterious man of Chinese descent. Could the two attacks be linked?

Morgan can only surmise that Private as a whole is under attack and that the enterprise could be in danger. Working in China, Jack Morgan must rely on his local team to help him uncover the truth in a country where private investigation is not only unwanted, but somewhat illegal. Trying to get to the core of the matter could prove harder than it appears.

Back in New York, the local Private team looks into the kidnapping and potential destruction of the company. It appears as though a Chinese national has been sent on a mission to deliver a message that will not soon be forgotten, Jack Morgan will have to make a major decision that could impact Private in all corners of the globe. This is more than China, but an international affair worth Jack Morgan the central target. A decent addition to the series by Patterson and Hamdy, offering a little insight into Chinese policing, but more American perspectives than anything else.

Patterson’s development of the Private series has done well to highlight police work all over the world as well as bring new and exciting international authors into the fold. While this piece uses the Patterson-Hamdy collaborative effort, it still has a decent Chinese flavouring to it, making the book appear somewhat realistic. The narrative flow is decent, though I felt myself waving a hand in the air on occasion to get the momentum going. I sought something a little sharper and faster, but the book did not lag to the point of me tossing it in the corner. Decent and relevant characters pepper the pages of the book, giving the reader a sense of being in China, but the strong American angle also promotes some stereotypes that I cannot be sure are true to what actually happens. Decent plots emerge, though again there is more US than true Chinese focus on things, leaving me wishing that the authors had kept things in country or a local author cold have been used to really expand the China aspect. The series surely gains some traction and its roots are deepened here, though I am not sure what’s next or how Jack Morgan will expand his empire. Might this be close to the end of the road, or is Adam Hamdy working on something for Patterson to add his name to again soon? Time will surely tell.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Hamdy, for a decent addition to all things Private.

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!

Shattered (Michael Bennett #14), by James Patterson and James O. Born

Eight stars

One of James Patterson’s strongest series surely includes the Michael Bennett thrillers. Full of great action and offset by the detective’s massive family, Patterson has built a strong collection that series fans flock to whenever something happens. There is great writing here, which can be somewhat attributed to James O. Born, his collaborator, which only adds definite intrigue to the series. I was highly impressed with this newest instalment and hope it means there is more to come from NYPD’s sharpest detective.

After receiving a cryptic call while on his honeymoon in Ireland, Michael Bennett is keen to see what is was all about when he gets back home. After being barraged by his ten (!) children, Bennett makes some calls, only to discover that his friend and colleague, FBI Agent Emily Parker, has gone missing in Washington. Bennett, a dedicated detective in the NYPD, is as loyal as he is hardworking and makes an agreement with his new bride, Mary-Catherine, that he will spend a few days in the nation’s capital looking for Emily.

Using a few leads and a singlet FBI agent who agrees to help him, Bennett follows the crumbs from the last investigation on which Emily worked, which includes speaking to an anarchist group with strong ties all across the country. While they appear to be quite dopey on the surface, this group is strong, well-educated, and connected, making their repeated encounters with Bennett anything but chance. Bennett must also push back on the other police presence who my not want him there, including the Metro PD and FBI, both of whom have their own views on Bennett’s work.

It is only when Bennett learns more about Emily Parker and her personal life that the investigation opens up even more. While she had a calm exterior, Emily liked daring things and found herself involved with some powerful men, something DC breeds. What Bennett discover when looking into the lives of congressmen, business tycoons, and even a US Supreme Court Justice is that anything goes and all are potential suspects. When news comes that it may be more than a kidnapping, Bennett is shattered, but refuses to stand down, even after multiple warnings, focusing his attention on the murder. If he is going to get to the bottom of this, Bennett will do it for Emily and face any consequence put before him. A chilling addition to the Michael Bennett series, which James Patterson and James O. Born have woven together flawlessly.

There are time that James Patterson shines and is not simply slapping his name onto the cover of a book. This is one of those occasions, surely due to the hard work of James O. Born. The two work well together to keep the story strong and the action ongoing. A great narrative flow, helped along by Patterson’s trademark short chapters, provides guidance for the reader as they navigate through the countless spins the novel encounters. Decent characters, flavouring the piece in depth and humour, help offset some of the darker moments of the piece. Plots are strong and leave the reader wanting more, which opens the door to the next book in the series. There are moments when I lost myself in the action, while others were great filler moments to offer character development or series broadening before moving on. I am eager to see where things are headed, as this is one series that has much potential. I will say that I was a little displeased that Bennett’s trio to DC could not, even in passing, have had some Alex Cross.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Born, for breathing new life into Michael Bennett.

Triple Cross (Alex Cross #30), by James Patterson

Eight stars

One of James Patterson’s cornerstone series has got to be Alex Cross. I have followed the adventures of DC’s great investigator for many years and can usually rely on something great. Patterson keeps things sharp in this piece and juggles numerous plot lines effectively, without getting too muddled. Fans of the series will likely enjoy this book and feel a sense of urgency, shelving the idea that Alex Cross ought to hang up the handcuffs for good.

There is a ruthless and very slick killer on the loose in Washington, DC. His focus appear to be families of many generations, leaving everyone dead with little remorse. There is no evidence on which to rely, forcing Alex Cross to wonder if this is a new level of killer. While he is strictly a consultant, Cross has his hands full and finds multiple cases filling in plate.

Cross is approached to handle another crime spree, this one with international implications. A killer appears to be committing crimes all over, though there is nothing tying them together. When a former literary editor reached out to say that she thinks an author with whom she has worked may be the killer. His international research trips and connection to the local police allow him to commit the perfect crimes. Cross is not sold on the idea, particularly when placed in awkward situations, but there is something sitting in the back of his brain that has him wondering if there might be something to it.

All the while, Cross’ wife is working some cases of her own, including a fashion designer who may have been using the models in an elaborate sex slave ring. As Bree Stone tries to get to the bottom of it all, she cannot help but wonder if she’s in way over her head, rubbing elbows with the super rich and well-connected. As all the cases reach their crescendo, the Cross/Stone family will have to up their protection or face possible attack on humoured fronts. Patterson dazzles with this book and has me newly impressed with a series I once thought had reached its limit.

James Patterson has been someone I respect and vilify, depending on the book and my mood. I have come to expect much from him, though there are times I am sure he uses his name to sell books, rather than investing in quality writing. His Alex Cross series has been fairly good over its run, with only a few later novels failing to meet usual standards. Patterson is back, with strong narrative flow and decent character development from the entire Cross family. He has breathed new life into the stories and keeps the reader guessing whenever they take the plunge. I am eager to see what is to come with this series and still hope that there might be some crossover work, perhaps with Michael Bennett or the Women’s Murder Club. That could make for some wonderful reading, especially fans of multiple Patterson series, all of which have stellar writing.

Kudos, Mr. Patterson, for taking the effort to make things click once more.

Ali Cross: The Secret Detective (Ali Cross #3), by James Patterson

Eight stars

One of James Patterson’s cornerstone series has got to be Alex Cross. I have followed the adventures of DC’s great investigator for years, eager to see where things go. When Patterson introduced a series geared for younger readers, featuring the next generation Ali Cross, I could not help but want to read them as well. My son, Neo, has yet to reach for them, but that is a battle for another day. Patterson addresses crime issues from the perspective of a middle-schooler, doing so effectively and with pizzazz. A great piece that should smack younger readers between the eyes and cater to those who love a good crime thriller.

Ali Cross has large shoes to fill, with his father, Alex Cross, as one of the best known detectives in DC. Ali is so excited to follow in his father’s footsteps that he and some friends hack into the police dispatcher radio system so that they can attend some crime scenes. When doing so one night, they discover that a gang arrest goes sideways and one of the members is shot. This hits the news and churns up a great deal of banter.

At school, Ali faces many in his class who side with the people, that the police are never there when needed and shoot first when they arrive. There is merit to the concern, though Ali does not want every police officer whitewashed with this stereotype. As he tries to have himself heard, Ali becomes the scapegoat for the police, with many feeling he is only spouting what his father professes at home.

Refusing to stand down, Ali seeks to find a way to show that the police, and his father, are not a menace, but actually helpful in the community, What follows is a series of—albeit dangerous—trips to other crime scenes to gather needed evidence. Working on the sly, Ali Cross has to detect the truth and bring it back for the masses. Patterson shines here and hits his target audience with something great!

I will be the first to admit that my relationship with James Patterson books is hit and miss. However, with Alex Cross, I can usually get something great from the esteemed author. This branch-off into the world of young readers has worked well, with a strong narrative and short chapters to hold their attention. Poignant topics and writing that would connect with the younger crowd, Patterson does all he can to keep things ‘real’ and on point. While i do not read all of Patterson’s series, for adult or younger readers, this is one well worth my time and can be of particular interest to Alex Cross fans who need something lighter and shorter. I will keep my eyes peeled for more and nudge this series towards Neo soon!

Kudos, Mr. Patterson, for another great winner in the Cross collection.

Escape (Billy Harney #3), by James Patterson and David Ellis

Eight stars

James Patterson and David Ellis return with another in their Billy Harney series, offering up some great action in a fast-paced police procedural. Full of sarcasm and great narrative flow, Patterson and Ellis provide readers with a great deal of entertainment throughout the reading experience. While not the best of the Patterson’s attributed series, it kept me intrigued until the final page turn, with a cliffhanger of its own.

After five teenage girls are abducted in Chicago, all eyes turn to CPD Detective Billy Harney to find them. Following a few key leads, Harney and his partner travel to a rural home, where they hope to find the girls and solve the case with little issue. However, it’s a trap and the house is rigged, which leads to Harney’s partner dying and the kidnapper slipping through his fingers.

Harney vows not to stand down until the killer is caught and the victims are returned to their families. This is easier said than done, as this is one conniving individual, happy to stay one pace ahead of the rest. Harney’s sordid past and willingness to bend the rules help grease the wheels to ensure that nothing will keep CPD from catching the accused, once they are identified.

While the case ramps up, Harney cannot help but find distraction in his personal life, which could prove detrimental, but also somewhat necessary. Harney’s past collides with the present as he does battle with himself and the killer in tandem. Even when things appear to be clear-cut, there’s a twist and the story reaches a tense climax, with Harney in the middle. Patterson and Ellis offer up a decent piece of writing here, sure to find a number of readers eager to explore Billy Harney a little more.

While I have had some issues with James Patterson and his writing, he has certain collaborators who coax out some superior writing to which the popular author is attributed. David Ellis has done this repeatedly and this proves to be one of those partnerships. The narrative flow works well for this piece, which has moments of greatness and others that link two larger plot lines together. Decent characters pepper the story and provide entertainment throughout, though none standout as being stellar for me. Firm plot lines offer the reader some suspense and leave the book from being too predictable, helping to keep the book mysterious when needed. Patterson and Ellis have worked well together on this series and this is another positive outcome, proving that there is still something to be said of books that bear the former’s name.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Ellis, on a book I could enjoy with ease.

The Ninth Month, by James Patterson and Richard DiLallo

Seven stars

First read of 2023!

Needing something a little lighter, I turned to this collaborative effort that James Patterson and Richard DiLallo published. While I have made my sentiments known about the former, I find there are some gems when he chooses the right collaborator. In a story that surely defies “write what you know”, Patterson and DiLallo offer readers something with a little thrill, some introspection, and just enough NYC to keep things gritty. A decent novel, though it did not grip me by the lapels and shake me into heightened excitement.

Emily Atkinson has been taking New York City by storm. Her powerful job and oodles of money to do with as she pleases make for quite a life. However, every electric high must be countered with a death-defying crash. Emily’s comes in the form of a hospital visit, when her rampant alcoholism and unexpected pregnancy stop her in her tracks. Faced with what to do next, Emily must sober up quickly and decide how to handle the news, while she’s lost her job and is left with shards of her life littered across the floor.

Trying to get her mind readjusted, Emily turns to her nurse and new friend, Betsey. Together, they seek to make the most of the situation and help Emily on her way towards motherhood. All that seems minor, when Emily discovers that others in her social circle begin disappearing. This raises the hairs on the back of her neck, as Emily must wonder if something is going to happen to her. Could that man at the park be staring a little too long? Did the lady at the grocery store glare mischievously?

As the story progresses through the entire pregnancy, there are flashforward chapters about an apparent murder in the present day, with Emily at the centre of it. Could someone have caught up to Emily, making her fears realized? With NYPD involved, the story gains a darker side and the mystery heightens. Emily Atkinson may have been a hot mess in her pre-pregnancy life, but did she deserve to be a crime statistic? Patterson and DiLallo present a decent story, easily digested for a quick read experience.

I turn to Patterson’s work when I need a lighter and easier read, which seems to help offset the more involved novels on my list. The quick chapters and easy to see plot path gives the reader something they can enjoy. Richard DiLallo is here to add his own collaborative flavouring, though I am baffled how two middle-aged men could want to create a pregnant protagonist. All that being said, fiction is about thinking outside the box. With a decent story and some great wit embedded into the narrative, the authors surely succeed in what they are trying to accomplish. Not the most stunning Patterson novel I have read, but I’ll take it as a decent piece to pass the time.

Patterson novels are not known for their complex narratives or plot lines that leave the reader gasping. Still, both are present here and the reader can follow the direction throughout. Some great character development provides the reader an entertaining experience, to the point that I might have been able to picture them throughout. There is a lot going on, through a number of timelines, which makes it a little more difficult to juggle at times. I admit I was not enthralled with the story, but it’s not a total loss. Made for a great filler before my next great read!

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and DiLallo, for a decent collaborative effort. Eager to see what you two have for us next!

22 Seconds (Women’s Murder Club #22), by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

Eight stars

James Patterson and Maxine Paetro are back for another explosive instalment of the Women’s Murder Club. Detective Lindsay Boxer packs a punch in this piece, alongside her friends, as they unravel numerous mysteries, including a major shipment of drugs and arms fro Mexico. Tossing caution into the wind, Boxer will have to uncover just who’s dirty and protect her family at the same time. Another great piece in the series, showing that the Patterson-Paetro collaboration works wonders.

Word on the street is that a major shipment of drugs and guns have made their way into San Francisco from Mexico, led by members of a dangerous cartel. Detective Lindsay Boxer leads the SFPD portion of a task force into cracking the mystery wide open, while also discovering who is the head of the snake. What she uncovers is baffling and quite worrisome. Not only are the illegal items finding their way onto California streets, but people are being murdered in an apparent attempt to silence any leaks.

It would seem that there are crooked cops all through the shipment’s route, turning head or greasing wheels to ensure these illegal items make their way onto the streets. As Boxer and her husband, a veteran of various US Agencies, work to discover the truth, they come to the realisation that they could be putting themselves and their family at risk.

As the dead bodies mount, there is a troubling sense that this is one fight that cannot end peacefully. All the while, others in the Club tackle their own issues, from the body of a young girl found in a ditch to the daunting task of writing the memoirs of a serial killers. Patterson and Paetro impress with another novel in a series that seems to be working well!

This series has been one of the more reliable collections with Patterson’s name affixed, leaving readers able to predict that something good will come of it. The premise is simple and the delivery quite accurate, especially when there are usually numerous plots taking place in a single novel. Patterson and Paetro offer up some decent writing and keep the characters progressing nicely, something that is surely difficult this far into the series. I’m always eager to see what is to come with Lindsay Boxer and her Women’s Murder Club. This novel solidified that for me.

Twenty-two books into the series. an make it difficult to find development or new backstory that has not been discussed. While the pile of novels is high, the central characters appear to find ways to make things exciting. There is always the progression within Lindsay’s family and the odd mention of certain personal details surrounding the other three, all of which permits the series fan to feel connected to all that is going on. I read, not only for the mystery, but also to see how things will progress with the characters, and am rarely left disappointed at any point. I do wonder what awaits me in novels to come, especially how some of the breadcrumbs left in the narrative will come to fruition.

While the writing and plots are rarely something that I would call stellar, the books are reliable when it comes to entertaining. There is always somehting going on and I can usually get some great action within the pages of the story. A well-plotted narrative keeps the story moving along, as well as some keen twists to keep things from being too predictable. I can usually count on something decent when it comes to character development, all strung together in short chapters, as per Patterson’s trademark. While there have been so many novels, things have yet to go stale, which is nice for a series reader such as myself. I have said it before and will repeat myself here; there needs to be a decent crossover with some of the other Patterson series, pulling together some great detective work with a cast that many fans of Patterson’s work can enjoy.

Kudos, Mr. Patterson and Madam Paetro, for another decent addition to the series. Where will you take these ladies from San Fran next, I can only wonder.

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.

The Jailhouse Lawyer, by James Patterson and Nancy Grace

Eight stars

James Patterson and Nancy Grace collaborate again on a pair of legal thrillers that are sure to keep the reader on their toes throughout. The stories stir up a great deal of emotion and intrigue in equal measure as they explore the legal world from new perspectives. The first story has a small town lawyer accept the job of county public defender, only to realise that the sitting judge has an agenda of his own. Many citizens are under his thumb and no one has the wherewithal to stand up to the man in the gavel. No one except Martha Foster. The second story turns the attention to Leah Randall, who leaves her Chicago firm to return home to Arkansas. While her primary goal is to assist her sick father, Leah is soon pulled into the middle of a criminal case with a suspect who has everything to lose. Exploring many facets of the law, Leah will have to work hard to ensure a young woman is not railroaded in a state where the jury is public opinion! A wonderful set of stories by Patterson and Grace that solidifies the power of their collaborative efforts.

The Jailhouse Lawyer

After leaving her job and looking for something more fulfilling, Martha Foster brings her son to Erva, Alabama. They are ready to take on the world and set up some roots, especially after Martha is offered the position of Public Defender for the county. While Martha tries to get her bearings, she learns that Judge Pickens is not only revered, but also might be feared around town. Still, Martha has a job to do and is prepared to accomplish it.

As she begins her work, Martha soon realises that Judge Pickens has a reputation for legal firmness around the county, holding many to a higher standard. This standard includes locking them away for small offences and using a ‘chair’ to ensure people follow the law, his law. While Martha can respect the bench, she cannot stomach anything that Judge Pickens has been doing. Now, she’s forced to stand her ground, which may mean upsetting the scales of justice and landing her in some hot water.

With little holding her back, Martha takes on Judge Pickens, hoping that she will be the one person who can stare him down. Pickens is ready for this and tosses everything he an in her direction, hoping to break her. That being said, Martha Foster is not one to bend to the will of others without a fight. Will this fight be more than Martha and her sick son, Andy, can withstand?

Power of Attorney

While Leah Randall has had a great deal of success defending insurance companies, she cannot stomach the slimy nature of the work and quits. This is fuelled not only by her conscience, but an odd message from her mother that she is needed back home in Arkansas. Leah learns that her father, a prominent attorney in the small town of Bassville, is sick and headed downhill fast.

When Leah returns to her hometown, it is as if nothing has changed. She is welcomed home with open arms, but eyebrows raised, as she gets reacquainted with everyone she left behind. While her focus is to help her father, Leah is soon pulled in to assist on a tricky criminal case. Amber Lynn Travis, a missing young woman, has recently resurfaced. First thought to be the only survivor in a house fire that was likely arson, Amber is soon at the centre of the investigation, the likely murderer of her cousin and his wife. While Leah is shocked to hear this, she is even more baffled at the simple nature that Amber portrays, which is substantiated by the fact that she has only a second-grade education.

With the court ruling that Amber must stand trial for the murders, Leah prepares a defence as best she can, stymied by the limited resources at her disposal. Amber wants the proceeds of her cousin’s will, which she vocalists repeatedly, though it is a contract that Leah discovers which proves more disturbing, especially since the elder Randall oversaw its creation.

While Leah can rely on no one else and Amber looks even guiltier the more evidence is presented, she will stop at nothing to ensure her client has the best possible defence. What Leah cannot know is just how much Amber knew or realised throughout her servitude at the hands of a cruel cousin for a number of years. As always, justice might be blind, but the courtroom has a way of twisting the truth.

Nancy Grace brings a strong legal background to these stories, which are vastly different, yet both well balanced. She complements the Patterson style of delivery and helps develop a great legal thriller (two, actually), for the reader to enjoy. Pulling on lesser discussed tactics, Patterson and Grace deliver something the reader can easily enjoy and use to whet their appetite for more legal thrillers. With a strong narrative in both pieces, Patterson and Grace capture the legal themes well and keep the reader hooked until they discover the crux of the story’s argument.

These two stories explore completely different legal elements, but use a strong female protagonist to do so. Both Martha and Leah have completely different backstories, though it is the development that each presents throughout the process that is sure to impress the reader. While these are likely one-off stories, Patterson and Grace have done enough to create some strong roots and have me wanting to know more about both women, whose gritty determination will not allow the pressures of the courtroom leave them weak in the knees. Wonderful characters in both pieces had me cringing and cheering at various points.

While James Patterson is not known for his legal thrillers, he has teamed up with some great individuals over his career to pen some formidable pieces. Working with Nancy Grace a second time here has proven to be a masterful choice on his part, as both these stories read as some of the better thrillers I have read in a long while. Paced well, with a narrative that pushes forward easily, the stories offer much for the curious reader. Using the underdog technique, both stories tap into the darker side of the law and how the ‘little guy/girl’ can sometimes be left to suffer because they are a single voice. Fans of courtroom thrillers will likely enjoy these, as there is a definitely uniqueness to them, which I usually find in some other authors, whose fame matches Patterson’s. Pleasantly surprised, I will surely keep my eyes peeled for more by this collaborative duo!

Kudos, Mr. Patterson and Madam Grace, for a great set of stories. Please do consider working together again, as you have a knack for great storytelling.

Fear No Evil (Alex Cross #29), by James Patterson

Six Stars

Just as readers sometimes find themselves in a rut, the same can be said of authors who try to churn out something worthwhile. Many who follow my reviews will know that I have a love/hate relationship with James Patterson and his novels that appear to sell based on his name, rather than on any level of quality. I came into this book knowing that the Alex Cross series was one that had not been sullied with subpar writing or delivery. However, after reading this book, I am beginning to wonder if Dr. Cross may have overstayed his literary welcome and ought to hang up the cuffs for good. I could not connect with the book, the characters I have come to love, or even the action. Others may disagree, and I welcome it, but I am left wondering if it’s time to stop and let others fight crime. One of the cornerstone series for James Patterson, this one may have finally lost its steam and needs to be shelved for good.

While I usually offer a detailed summary of the storyline for other reviewers to enjoy, I can’t be bothered today, preferring to offer a quick summary of my sentiments so that I can move along. Patterson resurrects an old nemesis of Dr. Alex Cross’ and places the detective in the middle of a serious manhunt. Cross is his usual go-getter self, swooping in to help as best he can, while also rescuing his wife from danger as she investigates something over in Europe. The tension and action that is usually built up with short Patterson-esque chapters is gone, leaving the reader feeling flat and underwhelmed. Don’t get me wrong, there is action and some heart-thumping suspense, but I did not feel the push to keep reading well into the night or caring much about what was going on. I need that on occasion and this novel did not deliver.

While some authors can use their name to sell a book, I cringe at that, as the reader is left wondering if the quality is there. With another Cross novel on the horizon, I can only hope this was a stumbling block for Patterson (or if I am just out of sorts with my reading these days), and that Cross can return to his earlier glory. That being said, thirty novels may be a sign that Cross should enjoy time with the family and let the likes of Bennett and Boxer, other stalwart Patterson detectives, take the reins and keep things going. But, what’s do I know, right?

Kudos, Mr. Patterson, for finding new ideas to challenge your protagonist. It just did not impact me as I had hoped.

The President’s Daughter, by James Patterson and Bill Clinton

Nine stars

Never sure what to expect when his name dons the cover of a book, I reached for this James Patterson thriller with some trepidation. After reading just a few pages, I was hooked and could not get enough of this collaborative effort with former US President Bill Clinton. The story was both intense and well-structured, with details that added to it throughout. Patterson and Clinton write well together and keep a political, emotional, and dastardly high throughout the plot, leaving the reader to wonder what’s to come. I could not put it down and can only hope that they will collaborate once more, in the coming years.

The presidency of the United States is a delicate balance of decision-making and appeasing the masses, as Matt Keating has come to discover. On one fateful night, while trying to extract some soldiers in a far-away land, President Keating made a fateful mistake and caused a gaffe that resonated around the world. The fallout of this led to his own vice- president challenging him for re-election and Keating was sent packing from the White House.

With a new Administration in control, the Keatings return to some semblance of order in New Hampshire, trying to recapture a life of solitude and normalcy. However, Matt Keating’s past can never entirely separate itself from him. While out hiking one day, Mel Keating, the former First Daughter, is come upon by a group of men. They take her into their custody an set off a series of panicked calls. Mel Keating has been kidnapped and the Secret Service meant to protect her has failed.

What begins as a small panic soon turns disastrous, as ransom demands are made by a powerful terrorist group, claiming retribution for an attack in Libya years before. Matt Keating is beside himself and does all he can, but the new POTUS stands firm with her decision not to negotiate with terrorists. After a video of Mel Keating’s execution is broadcast, things turn dark and the world takes notice.

As a former Navy SEAL, Matt Keating cannot sit idly by and wait for fate to take its course. He vows to do al that he can to find the man responsible for the kidnapping and murder of his daughter, seeking his own form of retribution. Working back channels and avenues no politician could be expected to know, Keating travels to the far reaches of Africa in search of a man who has also lost a great deal. Two fathers, a similar sentiment in them both… one fate. A stellar piece of writing from both Patterson and Clinton, which kept me flipping pages and gasping.

While I have had mixed results when it comes to novels by James Patterson, this was one book that did not disappoint in the least. The writing was top-notch and the story continued to develop throughout the reading experience. I could not get enough of things and kept pushing to learn more with each moment I had to enjoy. Patterson and Clinton make a formidable duo and their style is sure to impress many who enjoy the thriller genre. Mixing politics with personal passions, the story was truly impactful and sure to be talked about well into the future.

While Matt Keating is the obvious protagonist, the story pulled on the first hand accounts of many throughout the experience. The struggles of being a world superpower cannot be dismissed, but it is Matt Keating’s role as father that fuels much of his development in the novel. Having had to make some tough decisions, it is all on his shoulders to right a wrong, or at least save his family from the fallout of his choices. His grit and determination is like no other, as he faces down many who would again wish him to fail. The love of a father cannot be overlooked, on both sides of the coin.

Experiences drawn from the Clinton White House surely flavoured parts of this book, but they can only go so far to create a stunning thriller. The writing must take the reader that extra step and create a story that is worthy. Patterson and Clinton do that here quite effectively, pushing the limits with political backstory and emotional development. The narrative worked well to drive things forward, gaining momentum with each passing chapter. The plot did not remain stagnant or follow a linear path, but rather twisted at the right moments and kept the reader on the edge of their seats. Strong characters on both sides emerged, as well as a third party with their own ideas on how to capitalize on the situation, making for added intrigue when the time was right. I could not get enough of this piece, which still included the Patterson-esque short chapters to tease the reader throughout. I can only hope there is more to come by these two men in the foreseeable future.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Clinton, for a winner. Just what I needed to pick me up at this time of year!

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

The Coldest Case (Black Book #0.5): An Audible Production, by James Patterson, Aaron Tracy, and Ryan Silbert

Eight stars

Having recently discovered James Patterson’s experimentation in ‘direct to audio’ work, I was pleased to get my hands on this piece. It brings to life a new series that has a great deal of potential, working with collaborators Aaron Tracy and Ryan Silbert. The story is layered with a great plot and some sensational character interactions, which is intensified by the audio. While the Chicago PD is not known for its simple cases, this one is particularly tough. Thank goodness Detectives Billy and Patti Harney are working it as best they can. When Billy’s partner gets too deep while undercover, she needs to be extracted, but that only leads to added issues. Billy soon realises that there is a powerful list of names in a secret book, ones that could lead to the death of countless others if it falls into the wrong hands. Patterson wins with this one, in a story that comes to life through audio.

A sinister drug ring has been working in Chicago for years, something that Chicago PD Detective Billy Harney has been investigating. Working alongside his sister, Patti, they are trying to eke out some information about something big. When Billy’s partner, Kate, embeds herself into the group, there is hope that something will come of it. After a gaffe sees many turn up dead, Kate is almost revealed as a cop and she must be taken into protective custody, but not before an essential informant goes missing. Amongst all the chaos, a special black book containing key information has gone missing and the drug ring is hell-bent on finding it, no matter the cost. Key clients could be outed otherwise!

As Billy and Patti investigate the contents of the black book, they realise that it is more than meets the eye, with crooked athletes and corrupt politicians front and centre on the list. On the side, Billy and Patti discover the intense world of on-line gaming and how ruthless it can be. This helps them crack open a little part of the case, but also pushes them deeper into confusion as well. When the black book reveals a chilling secret that could lead to many deaths, it’s a race to get to the scene on time to prevent disaster. The fate of many rests in the hands of the Harneys. Patterson excites with ease as he creates a story many can enjoy in only a few hours!

While James Patterson has moments of greatness and others of frigidity, this was surely one of the greater publication, released solely through audio. The story was crisp and the plot flowed well, keeping the reader engaged throughout and eager to see how things would progress. Said to be the prequel of the Black Book series, this story works really well and offers listeners something exciting in a short period of time. Patterson and his collaborators develop a wonderful script and use a star-studded cast to bring it all to life.

The characters were all cast well and the multitude of voices surely brought things to a new level. I was able to follow things with ease, even if I had to listen very carefully to ensure I did not miss anything. The plot was on point and left me begging for me, as I learned a little more about the Harneys and how well they function together. While I do love a good book, this was an excellent alternative and gave me something special to enjoy amidst all the craziness I find surrounds me these days. A step above a simple audiobook, Patterson and his collaborators have left me wanting more!

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson, Tracy, and Silbert, for a great story and wonderful experience. I look forward to future collaborations, as they become possible.

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

The Guilty: An Audible Production, by James Patterson and Duane Swierczynski

Eight stars

James Patterson and Duane Swierczynski venture into a newer medium for this piece, the ‘direct to audio’ production, where a handful of talented actors portray the story for the listener to enjoy. A play that no one knows anything about, a genius actor/director with a plan, and an audience that is lapping it all up. Welcome to ‘The Guilty’ and all that it entails. A unique approach to a murder mystery, but one I quite enjoyed, if only because it was a quick experience and permitted something different.

Osmond Box is a living legend, the King of Broadway some may call him, even if he is reclusive and few have seen him. His productions are always over the top and audiences have no idea what they are going to receive. The house is full and people await the stage lights for everything to begin.

As the evening progresses, things become more and more mysterious. What begins as an apparent reality show on stage soon turns dark, as Box accuses his fellow actors of heinous crimes. Is it all part of the script or improvisational? And when a stage gun turns out to shoot someone, who is the murderer?

With cell phones confiscated and the doors locked, no one can leave as things progress. Audience members gawk in awe and await some sort of resolution. When all is said and done, the police arrive to question many of those who witnessed the event. Was it murder? Has Osmond Box done it again and pulled off the greatest theatrical production of all time? A great piece that Patterson and Swierczynski concocted as they leave the listener guessing.

This was definitely an interesting spin for the master of storytelling, using one of his best collaborators to develop the piece for listeners. Told solely through audio, the story develops and keeps the listener enthralled as they try to piece it all together. Some may balk at having to listen, rather than flip through the pages, but it was certainly the experience that will keep people talking for months.

Told through nine episodes, the story progressed well and held my attention throughout. What is going on with the actors and how will things progress with each passing moment? There was just enough character development throughout to keep me satisfied and the plot advanced in odd ways, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. While dramatic reproductions are not always my thing, I did enjoy the different perspectives and voices telling this story, as it breathed some life into the piece and left me wanting more.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Swierczynski, for this interesting experiment. I felt it was a success and am eager to try some more of them soon.

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

2 Sisters Detective Agency, by James Patterson and Candice Fox

Seven stars

Working together yet again, James Patterson and Candice Fox present a standalone thriller with all the ingredients for success. Two unsuspecting women are thrust together and find themselves in the middle of something truly terrifying, only to learn that there are even more layers yet to be seen. Rhonda Bird is not naive in the least, but is truly shocked to learn of the fallout of her father’s death. She travels to Los Angeles and learns that she has a sister, one who is not used to following rules. When they get tangled up in tracking down a crew of privileged teens, the end result is nothing less than horrific, particularly when one of the group’s victims seeks revenge for what’s happened. Patterson and Fox show that they have some magic within them, using this piece to prove it once again.

Rhonda Bird is a juvenile public defender, working the system as best she can with clients who feel they are untouchable. When she receives news that her estranged father has died, she agrees to go to Los Angeles to handle some of the paperwork. It is only then that she realises something truly baffling, she has a half-sister. Baby Bird is an entitled teenager who does not like to follow the rules, making it even more difficult for Rhonda to take control of the situation. If that were not enough, they girls’ father was no longer the boring accountant he presented himself to be, but a private detective with an active business.

While Rhonda tries to digest all that is put before her, Baby wants nothing more than to keep living the life she’s been streaming online. This includes interactions with other privileged teens. When one acquaintance comes for help, he soon discovers that he does not want to involve Rhonda in what’s going on, leaving Baby somewhat concerned.

As she’s used to prying information out of teenagers, Rhonda soon discovers that the boy is part of a gang of youths who target those in need of a message, roughing people up and causing havoc wherever possible,. Their leader, a psychopath if ever there was one, relishes the power they have been able to exert and cares little for the fallout. As Rhonda and Baby resurrect their father’s agency to work the case, they find themselves enmeshed in trying to bring this group of youths down, knowing little of those that have been victimized.

What begins as a hunt for a group of entitled brats soon takes a darker turn, as one of the victims, with a sordid past of his own, decides to take matters into his own hands. With a killer lurking in the shadows, Rhonda and Baby will have to watch their every move, sure that no one is safe or can be trusted. Rhonda may have wished she never answered the call that brought her to L.A., but now that she’s here, it’s all hands on deck to protect a sister she never knew she had. A decent crime thriller that had its moments of intrigue.

I have come to enjoy both the collaborative and individual work of James Patterson, as well as Candice Fox. They have been able to create some fascinating characters, plots, and novels that usually leave me flipping pages for hours at a time. While I applaud the ideas, this book did not grab me as much as their previous work, though there were moments of intrigue and captivating writing. The jury is still out on this one and I am left to wonder if this is a new collaborative series in the making.

Rhonda Bird proves to be a gritty protagonist in this piece, offering up her no-nonsense side with capable mind throughout. I was intrigued to see the balance of her professional and personal life, as it came to light throughout this story and could only wonder if Patterson and Fox had more in mind for her in upcoming novels. Strong-willed and ready to make a difference when it counts, Rhonda must also juggle being a quasi-parent to her new half-sister, more trouble than it is sometimes worth.

I spent a great deal of time thinking about this book, trying not to compare it to others I have read of late, or even the past collaborative submissions of the authors. I am almost certain that it is tough on writers who have had success to always achieve the same standards in their novels, as readers come to expect stellar work. Patterson and Fox are great writers on their own, and together, but this one did not resonate for me as much as I would have liked. I needed something grittier, darker, with more seriousness and complexity. Instead, I got some teenage vapidness mixed with amateur sleuthing on a case that did not fully captive me. This is nothing against the authors or their hard work, as the narrative flowed pretty well and the chapters moved things along. I simply felt that there was a disconnect with the plot and what I needed at the moment. Perhaps the next one will be a return to their old ways!

Kudos, Mr. Patterson and Madam Fox, on a valiant effort. I know what you can do, so there is no point bemoaning or panning this one blip.

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

Private Rogue (Private #16), by James Patterson and Adam Hamdy

Eight stars

Another collaborative effort by James Patterson and Adam Hamdy proves to be quite entertaining for the reader, as the Private series continues. Jack Morgan has built a strong detective agency the world over, though he is still happiest at home in Los Angeles. When a wealthy man comes to his offices and asks for his help, personally, Morgan cannot refuse, travelling to New York to begin the search for a woman and her children. What follows will take him to the far corners of the earth and test his resolve. A fast-paced story that keeps the reader intrigued throughout.

It was just another day for Jack Morgan and his team in Los Angeles, when a man of some means entered Private headquarters. He told a story of his missing daughter and grandchildren, who were somewhere in upstate New York, begging for help. While Private did not usually assist in simple missing person cases, there was something about this one that left Morgan feeling as though he ought to help.

Choosing to personally take on the case, Morgan flew to New York and began the hunt, alongside one of his Private New York colleagues. Searching and trying to be inconspicuous, Morgan was able to locate the family, only to discover that those searching for them have another motive. It would appear that the father figure of the group was on a covert mission in Afghanistan and may have something this group wants for their own.

Never one to bow to the pressure, Morgan made his way across the world to the deserts of Afghanistan’s to find a military pilot who may have all the answers, while also trying to stay one step ahead of a ruthless gang. It was a battle of survival, with a mission to reunite a family safely. A great addition to the Private series.

While James Patterson has often spread himself too thin in his writing, this was an exception to the rule. Working alongside Adam Hamdy, Patterson is able to elevate his series and keep the Private name on the level of some of the other strong series bearing his name. Great action, decent characters, and an entertaining plot, Patterson and Hamdy have great collaborative effort.

Jack Morgan takes centre stage in this piece, something that he does not usually do in the novels. His backstory is known to series fans, though there are some added elements here that can help intrigue the series reader. Decent development, both in a personal and professional sphere, keeps the reader in tune with how he works as a character and provides some needed depth to keep the series going.

Patterson and Hamdy work well to keep the story moving along and have decent narrative development throughout. The plot works well in this piece, allowing the reader to push forward with ease. Perhaps a few overused themes (Afghanistan, Russian operatives), but they worked well and did not get too clunky for my liking. This series flows well, though the interconnectedness of the novels is more the Private thread, than an ongoing storyline throughout. With Jack Morgan in the central role, there is more cohesiveness to the overall series, though reading any of the books as a standalone would not ruin things. I look forward to more of these stories soon.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Hamdy, on a great effort. Your collaborative work is quite strong and I hope to see more of it.

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

The Last Days of John Lennon, by James Patterson, Casey Sherman, and Dave Wedge

Nine stars

While I have struggled with James Patterson’s writing for a number of years, there are times that he comes up with a gem, this book being one example of that. While it strays from his usual fare, Patterson has collaborated with Casey Sherman and Dave Wedge to pen a non-fiction piece about John Lennon and the Beatles. The authors pull together a succinct, yet comprehensive, history of the group, with a primary focus on Lennon, documenting his rise to fame and tragic murder in December 1980. Easy to digest and packed full of exciting details, this is a great book for those who love all things Beatles or those, such as myself, who know little but have always been curious.

The book takes readers as far back as the early days when found Liverpudlian youths were jamming around and trying to make music. It was the 1950s and society had yet to catch-up to the new craze of rock n’ roll, with many clubs and the older generation passing it off as scandalous and even devilish. The authors explore how these four boys came together to make music and solidified the new sound to appeal to the younger generation.

As the book progresses, the rise of Beatlemania takes over and many of their key moments are explored, both within the music scene and through their personal lives. The authors present a wonderful summary, getting into just enough detail to leave the reader wanting more. It is understandable how these four young men swept the world with their own style of music and how it captivated their fans in a variety of ways.

There is no shortage of post-Beatle exploration, particularly how the overpowering Yoko Ono arrived on the scene and all but led to the end of the group. However, it is not that simple, as the authors argue within the pages of this piece. The attentive reader will see the breadcrumbs and follow everything that happened to bring this about, culminating in four solo careers.

An eerie moment throughout the book are the short chapters focussed on December 1980, where Mark Chapman is plotting what he will do to John Lennon. While not entirely clear most of the time, Chapman has his reasons and impetus to target Lennon, as well as a piece of literature to fuel his fantasies. This is a great mix within the larger narrative and provides the reader a wonderful balance between what is going on and how it will all come to an end. I enjoyed the mix and its foreboding made the book even better.

While I am no music aficionado, I have often wondered about the history of the Beatles. Trying to comb through documents to see how they came to be, rose to power, and came crashing down all appealed to me, as well as some of the underlying commentary related to Mark Chapman. The narrative flow was perfect, offering just enough information to pique my interest, though not drowning the reader with dates, details, and name dropping as well. Short chapters offer that Patterson tease that fans of his work are used to seeing, pushing the larger story along. Well-rounded and full of interesting moments about which I had no idea helped keep me connected to the piece and wanting to learn more, at my own pace. I’m happy that I took the time to explore this book and everything I took away from the experience.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson, Sherman, and Wedge. Your investigative work with this piece really caught my attention. This is a great collaborative team for non-fiction, investigative writing.

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

The Red Book (Black Book #2), by James Patterson and David Ellis

Eight stars

I admit that I have have struggled with James Patterson’s writing for a number of years, as books appear for sale faster than anything I have ever seen. Quality suffers, but money surely flows into the Patterson bank accounts, causing those who respect a good book to feel a slight offence. Whenever Patterson works alongside David Ellis, the quality appears high and there stories rise above many of the other novels that adorn the Patterson name. This was another stunner, keeping the reader gripped until things come to an abrupt halt in the closing chapters, resonating long after putting the book aside. Ellis surely makes it clear that some Patterson collaborations are worth a second look!

Detective Billy Harney has been through a great deal over the last while and all he wants is a strong distraction. He’s pulled into the Chicago PD’s Special Operations Section (SOS), an elite group that looks to bring hope to a city that has been ravaged by crime and corruption. It’s a start, and after many of the things that Harvey has seen, it’s just what the doctor’s ordered.

After a drive-by shooting on a known drug corner leaves a woman dead, Harney is keen to use his position on the SOS to help find answers, some of which are deeply seeded in politics, something on which Chicago thrives. Harney and his family have a strong presence on the CPD and use finely-tuned instincts to work cases that do not appear as straightforward.

Harney learns that there are numerous victims lying in the morgue, all with a common tattoo. What looked like a drug-deal gone wrong now has a deeper and perhaps more sinister criminal element. All three were women, working the streets. While a pimp angle is possible, these women are foreign, leaving Harney to wonder if human trafficking might me more the crime of the day.

As Harney is keen to ask the tough questions, he turns over a few rocks that reveal more than answers. By working this case and confronting those who may be behind the killings, Harney has to face a dark secret of his own, one that could cripple him forever.

The Patterson-Ellis connection has never let me down in the past and this novel proves the chemistry between them remains strong. Well-paced writing and a sensational plot prove to me that there’s a great deal of potential when the reader invests time in this sort of novel. While I am not convinced that Patterson has changed his ways (alas, the book titles keep flooding the market), I know how to hone my searches to find golden nuggets.

Billy Harney impresses in this book and connects with the reader from the opening lines of the novel. His grit and determination emerge, assisted by a strong cast of characters begging to be noticed. While police procedurals are a dime a dozen, the authors craft a protagonist the reader wants to know better. Great backstory is balanced with some development throughout, even as Harney’s darkest secrets come out.

With so many novels on the market, set in the ‘big city’, it’s tough to make a mark on readers who seek something unique. The authors may not have something that will leave an indelible mark, but their style is sure to impress the reader who loves the genre. A strong narrative flows throughout and keeps the reader on their toes, with momentum increasing with every page turn. There’s something dark, yet hopeful, as the story progresses and I could not get enough, devouring the book as swiftly as time permitted. I’ll keep my eye on these two authors, as I have in the past for their collaborative efforts, and hope the series continues in the coming years!

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Ellis, for high quality and easy reading!

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

Ali Cross: Like Father, Like Son (Ali Cross #2), by James Patterson

Eight stars

While I have struggled with some of James Patterson’s writing over the last number of years, I always enjoyed the Alex Cross series. Patterson has come to spread himself too thin and uses his name to sell books, rather than inserting quality into his writing. However, he finds a back on occasion to surprise me. When I discovered that he was expanding the Cross series with a YA collection by young Ali Cross, I took note. I enjoyed the series debut and thought that I ought to give this second novel some of my attention as well. I must say, Patterson did well and kept me hooked throughout.

After solving his first case, Ali Cross is riding a slight high, much to the chagrin of his father, Metro PD Detective Alex Cross. The younger Cross is also getting a tad mischievous as he ages and tells a white lie to get himself out with friends at a music festival. Everything was going smoothly until Ali and his friends witness a stunning crime.

After shots are fired, Ali’s friend, Zoe is struck. Her injuries are not the only concern, as Zoe is being quite sneaky and covering for someone. Ali cannot accept this at face value and begins poking around, which only uncovers more and makes it seem as though Zoe is keeping secrets.

While Ali refuses to back off the case, he is more concerned with his friend than anything else. Accepting some counsel from his father, Ali does his best to connect the dots and tries to help Zoe at the same time. A shorter is out there, a secret Zoe wants kept may come out, and someone will be held accountable.

I found myself quite impressed with this Patterson solo effort, a style of where he strives. The story, while somewhat simplistic, worked well and is perfect for the target audience. It’s just as gritty as many of the other Cross novels, adding humour and some family tenacity to keep the reader engaged.

Patterson creates some great characters that keep things moving along well. While the piece is short, there are some wonderful personalities that fill the narrative, including the Cross family who are definitely a handful of their own. The reader is re-introduced to some of Ali’s friends, who are sure to continue playing a key role as the series progresses.

Patterson pens a nice little story, sure to impress his Cross fans, as well as YA readers who need a little mystery. It was well-paced and flowed well, keeping the reader wondering without unnecessary twists. With great characters and a decent plot, Patterson impresses readers in this budding series, which I can only hope will continue for years to come.

Kudos, Mr. Patterson, for a nice little story to appease readers of all ages. Now, let’s hope the elder Cross series can return to its former glory.

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

The Noise, by James Patterson and J.D. Barker

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley; James Patterson; J.D. Barker; and Little, Brown and Company for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

I have enjoyed the few collaborative efforts by James Patterson and J.D. Barker, which offer a scintillating look into psychological thrillers with a unique twist. Mixing their two styles, the authors have come up with a sure page-turner here, keeping the reader on their toes throughout this piece. A rural community in Oregon soon turns to panic, leaving two young girls to flee for the family’s underground bunker as a piercing noise permeates their surroundings. The elder child appears unharmed, but her little sister begins spouting gibberish and acting in a highly troublesome manner. Soon, a handful of scientists are herded aboard a military chopper and sent to the area, in hopes of better understanding what’s taken place. However, it is baffling to everyone and there seems neither rhyme nor reason for any of it. Many have died and appear to be piled in large crevasses, while those who are alive have fevers like no other. What’s happened and who or what is responsible for all this. One doctor vows to get answers, even if the government seeks to cover it up from the public.

Things are quiet in a rural mountain Oregon for Tennant and Sophie Riggin, who have lived off the grid for their entire lives. However, all this soon changes when an odd vibration emanates from the forest and their father rushes the girls into a bunker. The piercing noise escalates, leaving Tennant worried and Sophie acting strangely. The younger sister, all of eight, begins spouting odd phrases and complaining of severe pain in her ears. Tennant can only hope to protect her sister until all of this passes.

Soon after the baffling incident in around Mount Hood, military officials begin gathering top-ranked scientists and medical professionals to help assess the damage and fallout. This includes, Dr. Martha Chan, a medical doctor, who is as confused as ever about why she was chosen for this mission. What Chan and the others witness is baffling and highly unusual: massive crevasses in the ground, many bodies piled up, as well as destruction of the earth like nothing seen or predicted. What’s even more troubling is the top secret nature of the event, where military officials will not even allow those viewing the fallout to converse with one another.

After Chan and the others are permitted on the ground, it’s discovered that many of those who are alive have fevers that are off the charts, climbing into the 104 degree Fahrenheit range. This includes young Sophie Riggin, who continues to spout odd phrases, one of which can be traced back to a dead language used in the Bible. Might this be some sort of End of Times event? If not, could an enemy nation be testing a new weapon? Military officials scramble for answers and try to brief the president with what they know.

As Tennant remains unharmed, Dr. Chan is unsure what’s kept her safe and how Sophie could be so affected. Chan will do all she can to get answers, even if that means defying the orders of military personnel. Something is behind this noise and Chan will not rest until she gets answers, sure that someone is not telling the truth. The larger question remains, when the truth is discovered, how will the US Administration handle it and what message will there broadcast to the world? A chilling story that will sober many readers into wondering what could happen right under their noses.

Many will know that I have a love/hate relationship with the works of James Patterson, depending on the series collaborators. Those who don’t can find my comments elsewhere, as I wish to focus on the collaborative efforts that Patterson has with J.D. Barker. This is a duo that has worked from the outset, combining their individual skills to create something really enticing and easy to read. While the novels may be longer than many Patterson fans have come to expect, they are always filled with twists and narrative nuggets that push them to the top of the genre. Psychological thrillers are hard to perfect, as the reader must commit fully, but Patterson and Barker make that easy with the caliber of their work.

The numerous narratives make it difficult to choose a single protagonist, though the authors have highlighted a few characters to assume the role, namely Tennant and Martha Chan. While they come from completely different backgrounds, both seek the same thing, to get answers and to help Sophie. The collaborative efforts both make throughout the story make them targets for the military and political actors, but this only adds to their development. Many readers will likely affix themselves to at least one of these leading ladies, if only to get to the core of the plot.

The authors have done well to craft a collection of supporting characters who use individual agendas to clash with the aforementioned protagonists. Many serve within the US Administration, trying to uncover and then whitewash what’s happened in Oregon. This tension works well throughout the novel, pushing the reader to see how good and evil (or at least curiosity and pragmatic secret keeping) butt heads throughout. The description of some other supporting characters helps to show the dire straights in which this segment of the population has found itself, something that resonates throughout for the attentive reader.

The goal I suspect authors strive for in standalone novels is to allow each to succeed on their own merits. While James Patterson’s books have often been given a ‘cookie cutter plot’ label, his work alongside J.D. Barker makes these novels stand out as being some of the best, with no prediction where things will go. The narrative, told through the eyes of many, is strong and builds constantly, while the characters are varied enough to be of interest to the reader. The plot is anything but linear and gains momentum in all the right spots. Short chapters push things along and keep the reader from getting too bogged down in minutiae. I am always pleased to see collaborative efforts between these two international bestselling authors, as I see it brings out the best in them both. One can only hope there are more novels, series or standalone, to come.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Barker, for another winning recipe when it comes to thrill writing. I hope many of your respective fans will rush to get this book, as it checks all the boxes.

Be sure to check for my review, first posted on Mystery and Suspense, as well as a number of other insightful comments by other reviewers.

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

21st Birthday (Women’s Murder Club #21), by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

Seven stars

The latest in this long series by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro offers readers something intriguing and somewhat unique, though twenty-one instalments can sometimes breed repetition. Full of minor character development and some fast-pace criminal work, the Women’s Murder Club has a new case that will pull all four of them in, using their specific skillsets, to catch a serial murderer. When a young woman and her daughter are reported missing, the husband is the prime suspect. While he has an alibi, others in his circle also turn up dead, leading the DA to move ahead with charges. The suspect decries his innocence and points the finger at another man, who apparently has a long history of murderous behaviour. It’s up to Sergeant Lindsay Boxer to turn over every rock to see if the lead comes to fruition. A decent addition to the series, which has surely shown its ebb and flow, though fans of the Club may want to check it out.

Cindy Thomas noticed the post on her news blog and knew it would be trouble. Even after taking it down, Cindy thought about the disappearance of Tara and Lorrie Burke, a 20 year-old and her infant daughter. When Tara’s mother arrives at the San Francisco Chronicle to follow-up, Cindy cannot shake the distraught woman’s pleas for help. Tara’s husband, Lucas, is the prime suspect and appears to have quite the hold on his young bride. Trying to appease the woman, Cindy calls in a favour with SFPD Sergeant Lindsay Boxer, who agrees to poke around a little.

With little to go on and no sightings of either Tara or Lorrie, Boxer must bide her time. Her background into Lucas Burke shows a reputable English teacher with no criminal history, though there were a number of calls to the police, which Tara dismissed as soon as anyone arrived. Still, Boxer has an itch that there is more to the story. She learns that Burke may have been stepping out on his wife with a teenage student, which does raise a few flags, but nothing criminal, yet.

When the body of Lorrie Burke is found along the shore, the case gains some momentum, especially when it appears the infant was smothered. However, Tara remains missing, which only adds to the mystery. A few more bodies emerge, all tied to Lucas Burke in some way, and the case begins to build. It is only when Tara is found murdered in her car, which had been dumped in the ocean, that Lucas Burke’s guilt appears all but certain. Even with an alibi, this is not something that can be dismissed as coincidence.

While Lucas Burke is brought it for questioning and arrested, he makes an explosive accusation, that his father is likely behind the murders. Evan Burke is a former Green Beret and may have been behind the disappearance (and murder?) of his own wife and daughter, as well as a string of others over the years. Lucas is certain he has resumed hunting for victims, but with little to substantiate it, the DA moves ahead with murder charges.

When the case goes to trial, ADA Yuki Castellano is set to take first chair. She has her own theory, one that she has shared with fellow Women’s Murder Club members, Boxer and Thomas. Still, Yuki will do things by the books and try to get a conviction on the evidence she has before her. Boxer works the Evan Burke angle, which has her racing to Vegas to track down the man and investigate the accusations. While there, things get dangerous for Boxer and her temporary partner, as they corner the elder Burke as he works his magic on a young woman.

With Yuki forging ahead in court and Boxer gathering evidence, it will only be a matter of time before Lucas Burke’s fate is determined. It will take all members of the Women’s Murder Club working together to solidify the truth, however murky and convoluted it might be. Then again, the Club has never sought to do things the easy way. An interesting addition to the series that reads well and shows that the collaborative effort of Patterson and Paetro appears to work well.

I have been a fan of the series from the start. This is one of the few Patterson collections that has been able to stand the test of time. While I am coming to see that some of these series may have lost their earlier momentum, there are moments of brilliance here, even as things wane. I have always wondered about rejuvenating things with a crossover between Alex Cross-Michael Bennett-Lindsay Boxer, still feeling it might do something for all three protagonists. Still, this book works well and could be read as a standalone, though I never counsel that in a series, as the reader misses so much peering only at a snapshot.

Lindsay Boxer’s character development ended long ago, even though motherhood always adds a new layer to her backstory. She is gritty and shows that she is able to work in any environment, something that is changed throughout this piece. Adapting as best she can, Boxer never loses sight of what matters, justice for the victim, and makes her mark repeatedly throughout the book. While the series may be getting a little old, Boxer’s abilities remain on point throughout.

The other members of the Women’s Murder Club also have their own moments of glory, though Boxer does rise to the protagonist role with ease. Each has a backstory and some development to offer, complementing the SFPD sergeant throughout. The handful of other key characters emerge throughout the story and offer the reader something intriguing to enjoy. There is no lack of action and suspense woven into the characters or their actions, though few standout as being remarkable.

The story was decent, as many have been in this series, though there was no shock factor. It’s a race to find the truth, muddled with accusations and false leads. Boxer and the rest of the Club try to work their respective angles, sometimes stepping on one another’s toes, but always able to find something worth discussing at their regular meetings. The story flowed well and the narrative kept its momentum throughout. Patterson’s trademark short chapters keep the reader pushing through, as I did yet again. Decent characters, believable scenarios, and the trademark connection to a specific number from the title, this is a series that has lasted over the years. I just wonder if the zenith has been surpassed and it’s time to sail into the sunset, making way for something fresh… or at least the aforementioned crossover.

Kudos, Mr. Patterson and Madam Paetro, for another decent addition to the series. While I know you are likely a novel or two ahead in the series, I would suggest heeding my idea. I know other series fans have echoed what I said… and it could really inject something into all three series.

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

The Russian (Michael Bennett #13), by James Patterson and James O. Born

Seven stars

Michael Bennett is back for his next case, lucky book number thirteen. In the capable hands of James Patterson and James O. Born, Bennett is ready to face off against another wily killer who stalks New York City. However, this one has a different motive and a larger kill area than many others who have crossed Bennett’s path. With his massive brood at home and a wedding on the horizon, Bennett will have to push the distractions aside and focus on catching a ruthless killer. A nice addition for those who enjoy the Michael Bennett series, though not as sharp as some police procedurals I have read lately.

The faint sound of wedding bells seems to pervade Michael Bennett’s every thought, as the big day approaches. With ten children, one grandfather, and a fiancée at home, he has a great deal to juggle. Add to that, a new partner learning the ropes of Homicide, and Bennett has little time to collect his thoughts.

Bennett is soon called to the scene of a brutal murder, one in which the victim’s body is not only slain, but her eye eviscerated. Bennett has not seen something like this in a long while, which can only mean that this killer has something to prove. The murder is similar not only to others in surrounding boroughs, but also other cities crisscrossing America.

All the while, Daniel Ott watches as New York panics. He knows what he’s doing and chooses to push people to the brink. Anyone who disrespects him has a chance of being his next victim; he’s that easily swayed. Between his kills, which he is sure will baffle the NYPD, he makes regular calls back to his family. A wife and two young girls have no idea what he’s doing and hope to see him soon.

Bennett makes little progress on the case until he finds something that ties all three cities together, a computer system update ordered by numerous companies. While everyone remembers a single tech, Ott was so forgettable that no one can recall a physical description. However, Ott knows Bennett and is preparing to derail the detective and the investigation long enough to flee the city and find new victims.

As with most series that extend past a handful of books, things can get a little stale without new plot lines and story arcs. Patterson (with Born in the later novels) has continued to push Michael Bennett to find killer that lurk across the five boroughs, rarely leaving the confines of NYC. Still, there are moments when readers will likely enjoy Bennett’s work, but things appear to be dragging, in my humble opinion.

Bennett returns as the series protagonist, still juggling the usual mix of personal issues and professional responsibilities. While he is well past backstory, Bennett is always evolving, if incrementally. His upcoming marriage has him a tad nervous, though he knows that he’s madly in love. Working with a new partner forces Bennett to be more open with his views and help teach the next generation of Homicide detectives. Gritty and ready to break down any barriers, Michael Bennett shines as best he can with a killer out for blood.

Patterson and Born develop a decent supporting case to push the story along. While it can be hard to find unique approaches to killers, the collaborators do a decent job of spinning the Daniel Ott backstory to offer a fresh approach. With some decent recurring characters and new faces, the story stays somewhat fresh and intriguing, though the sharp edge is gone from both the plot and the characters.

It could be the format of Patterson’s work that breeds a less than chilling approach to the series as it sticks around, something that Born does not see when he collaborates on standalone novels. There’s just something lacking in these latter books that was there in the early stories, though I cannot put my finger on it. Patterson is apt for selling books because of his name, rather than content, as I have bemoaned before, though the issue cannot be placed solely on Born’s shoulders. With short chapters, the story does move forward and keeps the reader guessing, even if it is not a piece that forces late night page flipping to determine how things will end. I wonder if Michael Bennett, like his DC counterpart Alex Cross, might want to look for new adventures. That said, I am still hoping that Patterson can create a Bennett-Cross-Boxer collaborative effort that would pull all three of his successful detectives into a single case crossing multiple novels and keeping readers scrambling to read them all in succession. Then again, that might be too much to ask… or is it?

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Born, for keeping things going. You work well together, though I wish there was something a tad grittier in your collaborative efforts.

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

NYPD Red 6, by James Patterson and Marshall Karp

Seven stars

James Patterson and Marshall Karp are back to look at how the elite of New York live and have their crimes investigated. In NYPD Red 6, the story looks at how a bride’s kidnapping at the reception turns into a hunt for a deranged man with an agenda all his own. The detectives on this elite squad do all they can and cut corners wherever possible to bring justice to those whose notoriety can be seen across the daily headlines. A story that gains momentum throughout, fans of Patterson can rest assured that this is not another of his flops, likely due to Karp’s collaboration. An intriguing piece in a supersaturated genre.

There’s nothing like a socialite wedding in New York to bring out the cameras. Erin Easton is well-known in the celebrity world and her marriage to a man with deep financial pockets has many wondering about her motives. However, when she is kidnapped while changing at the reception, all Erin leaves behind is a bloodied wedding dress on the floor.

NYPD Detective Kylie MacDonald is pulled into work mode immediately, having been invited to attend. When she brings her partner, Detective Zach Jordan, in to join her, they begin an intense hunt for Erin and whoever might be behind her abduction. With few leads to follow, it’s a waiting game, at least until videos begin emerging, with demands that they be broadcast live.

Meanwhile, Erin and her abductor are hidden away, safe from the prying eyes of any authorities. Things appear to be wrapped in some form of fantasy, where Erin would run away with her abductor and raise children together. This outlandish narrative may be the one things that helps Erin stay alive, as long as she can bide her time and not refuse any of his demands. Still, it will take an act of great courage for Erin to toss off her restraints and return to the man she claims to truly love.

As Detectives MacDonald and Jordan fight to make headway in the case, they are distracted by a second matter, involving EMTs entering the apartments of well-off New Yorkers, only to ransack them and leave bodies in their wake. As bad as this is, nothing can distract from the case at hand, which is broken wide open by a frantic call fro mother victim herself.

Rushing to locate her and make sense of what’s next, NYPD Red will have to act swiftly to instil calm in a city whose lifeblood is gossip and flashy headlines. All the while, the bodies are piling up and the truth remains elusive. That’s never stopped MacDonald and Jordan before. With a twist awaiting them, these NYPD detectives will have to stay vigilant.

It’s always nice to find a book that not only fills time between two larger reads, but is entertaining in its delivery. I have long bemoaned the ‘James Patterson Syndrome’, where books sell not for their content, but because of the name that fills the cover. Collaborators are left with their share of profits, but the quality goes down the tube. This book should not suffer this fate and Marshall Karp can rest assured that he has a winner on his hands. One of the decent series that James Patterson continues to help write, NYPD Red remains on point and a decent read for those whose interest has not yet waned with Patterson.

Detectives Kylie MacDonald and Zach Jordan remain the central characters in this book, delving a little more into their development, with a peppering of backstory. Their gritty determination is on point and they strive to solve the cases put before them, without letting their own lives muddy the waters. There is a sliver of personal story sandwiched into this piece, enough to show that they are real people and not solely dedicated to the job. Working effectively, both MacDonald and Jordan are able to find justice wherever it may be hiding and protect those they are tasked with serving.

There are a number of strong secondary characters throughout the piece, including the central victim, Erin Easton. Each plays their role well to keep the story on point and moving forward. The reader is able to see, albeit superficially, how the rich live and what their lifestyles mean to them. There is also an interesting perspective from the abductor’s point of view, as his flights of fancy and long-standing obsession spill into a form of reality that is only truly understood in the latter part of the novel.

It is usually quite difficult to gauge a Patterson novel’s impact until the very end. The stories are good, but the delivery is sometimes a little hokey or lighter when it comes to narrative style. This book did hold my attention throughout, though I did not receive the impactful piece I had hoped to find, after a significant hiatus from the series. That being said, things flowed well and the narrative pushed things along fairly effectively. Patterson’s short chapter signature is on display here, pushing the reader to move forward just to see what awaits them. Marshall Karp surely helped shape this into a decent read, as he has done in the past with this series. Where things are headed next, I have no idea, but I am still interested to see what MacDonald and Jordan have to discover.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Karp, for a decent police procedural. While I used this as a bridge between two larger reads, I am pleased to have taken the time.

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

Deadly Cross (Alex Cross #28), by James Patterson

Seven stars

Alex Cross is back for yet another adventure along the streets of D.C., which means James Patterson has been at it again. When the former wife of a high-ranking politician turns up dead, Cross is on the case. He’s also working with his partner to discover who’s been kidnapping and murdering a number of young women. This is sure to be one summer that will keep Cross busy. A decent addition for series fans, but there’s something lacking in this latest novel.

Alex Cross loves nothing more than spending time with his family, but when work calls, he knows where he’s needed. The former wife of the current vice-president has been found murdered and Cross is willing to step up to help. It would seem that their past acquaintance is not going to help as much as Cross had hoped, as tabloid journalists try to use it to smear her and leave Cross in an awkward position.

While working that case and taking direction from the Chief of Detectives—Cross’ own wife, Bree Stone—Cross and his partner, John Sampson, begin working on a series of kidnappings of young women. What’s worse, some of the women have turned up murdered, leaving little doubt that there’s a serial killer on the loose. Cross and Sampson begin a thorough analysis of the case, but a personal tragedy strikes, sidelining the affable Sampson.

As Cross splits his time between cases, he’s not getting the traction he had hoped, which is causing a significant amount of pressure up the chain of command. Bree is feeling the heat from her own superiors and loses it at one point, wondering if police work is really for her. It’s no easy decision, but, like Cross, family comes before the badge.

After Cross finds himself in rural Alabama working some leads, he learns something that could solve the case that has those on Capitol Hill buzzing. It could be a red herring, but there’s no time to leave anything to chance. What Cross learns blows the case wide open, forcing everyone to question what they know and who they can trust.

Back in D.C., it’s anyone’s guess who could be killing young women, but Sampson bounces back, using work as a salve, and discovers a few breadcrumbs of his own. With so much set to chance in the Cross sphere, solving these cases might help with what’s on the horizon.

I have long enjoyed the work of James Patterson on this series, one of the few that he has kept for himself. While Cross does not seem to lose his finesse, there’s something about this book that left me less than fully enthralled. I have mentioned it before and will do so again, might it be time for Dr. Alex Cross to hang up the cuffs and let others handle things?

Alex Cross returns to reprise his role as protagonist, though there is little backstory or actual development to be had. Cross lives for the moment, watching his family continue to grow and the cases pile up. He’s still likeable, works hard, and loves his family. I guess I expected something new to rejuvenate him as a character all his own. I did not dislike him whatsoever, but there’s something lacking that left me almost indifferent throughout the novel.

With a core of close knit supporting characters, Patterson does well to keep the large story arc going. There are the requisite new faces who appear to keep the cases flowing well and leave the reader with others to explore. A little backstory appears here and there, but the reader gets much of their narrative development with the police work that is being done throughout the book.

I always find it hard to stay loyal to a series when things seem to taper off. Not that this collection has fallen into horrible disarray, but it lacks what it once had, hardcore crime work and cliffhangers that leaver the reader wondering. Patterson is able to keep his protagonist moving and guessing, though there is a lack of spark that I remember from earlier novels. Surely, Cross is aging and his family is getting more independent, but if that means it’s time to fade into the sunset, let’s take that route and move along. Other series that have lasted this long have their protagonist moving into retirement. I wonder if this is an option that Patterson’s considered. Not that he’s not busy enough overseeing others writing books with his name on it.

The writing itself is still fairly strong and the story he’d my attention throughout. I was eager to see how Cross would handle things and was happy to see the narrative’s momentum did not lag. Short chapters kept me pushing ahead, wondering what was to come next, though I was not as riveted as I would have liked. Those who have dedicated themselves to the series may also see the writing on the wall. I’ll keep reading, but I can only hope that Patterson ties things off with dignity for this long-serving detective, and we don’t have him perishing in an alley, blood pooling around him.

Kudos, Mr. Patterson, for keeping Alex Cross going. Perhaps it’s time for a mega crossover (with Women’s Murder Club and Michael Bennett) before calling it a career for the Metro detective.

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

Private Moscow (Private #15), by James Patterson and Adam Hamdy

Eight stars

Turning to one of James Patterson’s central series, I encountered a new collaborator for the experience. Adam Hamdy brings some of his own perspective in a series that takes the reader all over the world. Jack Morgan, head of Private, has been invited to New York to discuss an issue with a friend. When Karl Parker is gunned down as soon as the bell goes at the New York Stock Exchange, Morgan goes into work mode and tries to capture the killer, but the wily individual gets away. Morgan works with his New York counterpart to begin investigating, learning that there is a target list, one which includes a newspaper mogul next. Morgan tries to stay one step ahead, but a second body emerges and a local protest group claims responsibility. When Morgan pieces together an international angle to the crimes, he decides to fly to Moscow, where the answers may await him. At Private Moscow, Dinara Orlova has been trying to keep things afloat, though business is quite slow. The surprise arrival of Jack Morgan has her rushing to make sure things are at least in some semblance of order. As she takes Morgan around Moscow, Orlova is targeted by some Russian operatives of her own, adding a little danger to an interesting life. When Morgan and Orlova discover that the crimes are not as they seem, tied to something called Bright Star, they realise that their safety is no longer guaranteed. Morgan is accused of being a Russian spy, sought by the State Department, but must get back stateside to warn others of what is going on. His only hope lies across the Atlantic, but it will take more than some Private maneuvering and help from Orlova to upend this plot. A well-paced addition to the series that showcases another locale and adds a decent case for readers. Recommended to those who have enjoyed the Private series to date, as well as the reader who needs a little espionage in their lighter fare.

I have a love/hate relationship with James Patterson’s writing, though the last few have been quite well done, impressing me with three different collaborators. Adam Hamdy brings some interesting flavouring to the story and helps push the piece into something that I feel will impress those who have followed the long and convoluted route that is Private. Dinara Orlova receives some of the spotlight here, as a dedicated worker in the Private company. Her backstory is presented, though it is her character development that proves to be the most alluring part of her. Gritty, but still pliable, Dinara loves her country, while also seeing that there are some significant issues. She works well with Jack Morgan, but can lead when the time comes. She is strong-willed and does not keep her thoughts to herself, which appears to be a Russian trait. The handful of secondary characters keep the story moving and somewhat interesting. While many authors have used Russia as the new backdrop for novels, Patterson and Hamdy are able to provide enough uniqueness through their characters to keep the reader sated. The story was well constructed and held my attention. While there is always an international flavour to the novels, the authors did not go overboard, inundating the reader with an overload of place names and general references. If I could have asked for something, perhaps some actual Russian phrasing to add another layer of ‘authenticity’ to the story. I find that some authors are able to paint a better picture of the goings-on with phrases, which are then translated for the reader’s sake. Overall, a good read and I am happy to have found a positive Patterson novel worth the sales it will garner.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Hamdy, for a great addition to the series. I hope to see your collaborate work again soon!

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

The Midwife Murders, by James Patterson and Richard DiLallo

Seven stars

With another collaborative effort, James Patterson and Richard DiLallo present a thriller that will touch on some of the most panicked possibilities that many parents could imagine. This book will help pass the time, though should not be considered one of their stronger efforts. Working in the heart of New York City, Lucy Ryuan is a senior midwife. She helps women all throughout their pregnancy journey, culminating in live births and the joy of parenthood. When two babies are kidnapped from the hospital while she is on shift, Lucy is highly concerned and can only imagine the horror that follows for two mothers. When a woman is found cut open, clinging to life as her newborn is nowhere to be found, Lucy knows that she will have to help the authorities take action. She learns of a case where someone has been trying to purchase babies from mothers, wondering if there may be a connection. While Lucy is eager to follow a few leads, the detective on the case wants her out of his hair and sends her on a temporary vacation. Lucy and her son make their way to West Virginia, where Lucy’s family resides. While her mind is off the kidnapped babies, Lucy is forced to face some skeletons in her familial closet and come to terms with a past she hoped to put on the back burner. When the authorities learn of a potential new baby sale, Lucy’s called back to New York, where she can help with a sting operation. However, this is no regular couple looking for a baby and Lucy may find herself in a great deal of trouble. A decent book to add to the massive Patterson collection. Recommended to those who like the quick Patterson style, as well as readers who like a unique-style mystery.

While I know that this book has received mixed reviews, I tried to go into the experience with an open mind. I did not feel the book was as horrid as some panned it in their reviews, but I was also not left in a state of awe at the superior writing style. Patterson and DiLallo offer up an interesting mystery, told from a unique angle. Lucy Ryuan proves to be a decent protagonist, bringing a unique profession into the spotlight. Serving as a midwife, she educates the reader throughout the novel about her profession, while showing a great deal of compassion for the mothers and babies with whom she deals on a regular basis. The authors paint a well-rounded picture of Lucy’s life as a single mother, though some of the more rom-com moments proved to be a little over the top. She is gritty and shows where her priorities lie as she fights for the newly-born in a world where the lives of babies are sold for a price. Others who grace the pages of the book offer their own perspectives, flavouring things and keeping the story going. I cannot say that there were any that stuck out tremendously, but most could stand on their own. The story was decent enough, trying to find out who was kidnapping babies and then selling them, though there were some overly stereotypical discussions and antagonist labelling throughout. I was pleased to see Patterson and DiLallo tacking the ongoing issue with opioid overdose in a tangential plot line while Lucy was in West Virginia. This is an issue that has received much attention in the news, though it was also handled with grace here, neither diluting it nor making it into some sensational revelation. Overall, it was an enjoyable reading experience, though I am not sure it will resonate for months to come with it. Still, Patterson books tend to be good fillers between larger reading experiences.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and DiLallo, for this interesting piece of writing. Your parental sides are surely shining here, though I suspect you needed help with some of the more technical birthing terms.

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

The Coast-to-Coast Murders, by James Patterson and J.D. Barker

Nine stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley; James Patterson; J.D Barker; and Little Brown and Company for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

This first-time collaborative effort shows that some authors have amazing chemistry with James Patterson, adding depth and intrigue to a novel that keeps the reader enthralled until the very end. With great psychological build-up and stunning development throughout, James Patterson and J.D. Barker take the reader on the most intense journey as a serial killer is revealed. When Michael Kepler (Fitzgerald) is called back to his apartment by a nosy neighbour, he suspects it’s a burst water pipe that has flooded his place. When he discovers the body of a woman in his tub, he is not only disturbed, but highly agitated. After calling the authorities, it is soon discovered that this cross-country truck driver may not be telling the truth, as the victim seems to know him quite well. Her apartment is full of photos of Michael and they seem to have shared quite the intense relationship. However, Michael is sure he has never met her, even if a great deal of evidence says otherwise. When he is taken into custody and questioned, the attorney provided for him violently helps Michael flee LAPD custody and off they go. Michael’s sister, Megan, receives many calls from her brother and is trying to piece this all together. Both are unsure what’s going on, but they fear telling their mother, a renowned psychologist, who is sure to judge them both harshly. When FBI Special Agent Jessica Gimble is alerted to the crimes, she reaches out to let the LAPD know that Michael Fitzgerald is a wanted serial killer for many murders across the country, the manhunt is on to find him. As the story progresses, Michael tries to assert his innocence, though there is something about his past that leads him to second guess himself. Adopted at four by a wily psychiatrist, Michael becomes a test subject in a number of highly intense studies based on his horrible early childhood. As the chase continues, Megan tries her best to help a brother she thought she knew well, but has come to believe that he might be the monster everyone seems certain he has become. It will take a great deal of effort to keep Michael out of the hands of authorities, though the bodies are piling up and there does not seem to be any way to explain it all away…. or is there? A chilling story that will take the reader on one of the most far-flung rides of their reading career, as the pieces slowly fall into place. Stunning in its delivery, this is sure to show that James Patterson does still have some magic left in him, depending on who is collaborating with him. Recommended to those who love the work of J.D. Barker, as well the reader whose enjoyment of intense psychological thrillers is second to none.

I always enjoy a great psychological thriller, particularly when it is penned by one of the greats in the genre. This unique collaboration has proven to be one of the great surprises of my reading adventure this year and it works so very well, as the story flows smoothly without being too quick to end. Michael Kepler/Fitzgerald is quite a complex character, though all becomes a little more understandable as the story progresses. Taken from a horrific situation, Michael was placed in an institution and then adopted by a family who saw him more as a lab rat than anything else. He is intensely scarred by the experience, which is revealed throughout the piece, especially as he remembers bits of his past. There is some obvious development to his character throughout, though it remains somewhat questionable as more is revealed about his life and the murders he is said to have committed. The banter between Michael and Megan is also key to this story, as she takes on a secondary protagonist role in this piece, helping to fill in many of the gaps the reader might not understand otherwise. This pair help lead the story in many curious directions, though the full cast of characters do a wonderful job of keeping the reader entertained throughout this long and meandering piece. There are so many angles and such flavouring of the narrative that the characters all play an integral role in the story’s overall success. This is definitely one of the most thrilling rides I have taken in a novel in a long time, as the story gains momentum, so did my interest. While the size of the book may seem daunting, the action and constant story development help to propel things forward. Using the usual Patterson quick chapter recipe, the reader can tackle large chunks without feeling the onerous task of wading through this piece, finding a rhythm and working with it until all is revealed. There are also numerous perspectives told in the story, offering the reader an even more intense look at the overall development of the piece as it progresses. Patterson and Barker have so many interesting ideas and some strong subplots in this piece, there is no doubt that this is sure to be one of those novels people talk about for months to come, while many hope to see another piece by these two heavyweights before too long. I am still trying to wrap my head around what I read and hope others feel as strongly as I do about this novel.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Barker, for this sensational piece. While there is always a gamble when collaborating, you two have hit the nail on the head and I cannot wait to see what’s next!

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

Cajun Justice, by James Patterson and Tucker Axum III

Eight stars

Looking forward to some new collaborative efforts, I picked up this piece by James Patterson and Tucker Axum III. The story held my attention throughout and broke some of the traditional Patterson stylistic choices, which only added to the intrigue and entertainment. Secret Service Agent Cain Lemaire has a great position on the US President’s advance security team, which is how he finds himself in South America. When Lemaire tries to cover for one of his fellow agents, he ends up paying off a prostitute and lands the entire team in some hot water. Summoned back to DC, Lemaire is placed in quite the predicament and his Secret Service career is all but done, pending a review. Lemaire has little else to do, other than to return to Louisiana, where his family awaits. After some coaxing by his twin sister, Bonnie, and with an interest to turn the heat down in America, Lemaire agrees to a job in Japan. He’ll be heading up a security detail for an automobile executive who has been in some hot water of his own. When Lemaire arrives, he is not only greeted by the cultural differences, but also a sister who is very excited to see him. Lemaire and Bonnie enjoy catching up before it’s time to get down to brass tacks. Lemaire assesses the team he will lead and discovers some weaknesses that need reorganising. This is even more important when an assassination attempt rocks Lemaire and his team. While he remains ever vigilant, Lemaire agrees to some downtime, where he discovers another side of Bonnie, one that never seemed to have made it into their numerous conversations. This leads to a few fists being tossed and Lemaire soon learns that he has attacked one of the yakuza, the Asian Mafia. When Bonnie goes missing, the message is clear, forcing Lemaire to realise that this is no group worth ignoring. While he balances a massive search for his sister, Lemaire also finds solace in a colleague and reveals much about his past. Bonnie’s life is surely hanging by a thread, as the yakuza have no issue with sending their captives into the depths of despair to prove a point. Cain Lemaire will have to rely on his skills and some key assets in Japan to find his sister and clear his name in media outlets. A great book that pulls intensity out of all corners to leave the reader wanting more. Recommended to those who enjoy culture shock novels, as well as those who find pleasure in some of Patterson’s better collaborations.

I may have a love/hate relationship for books that bear James Patterson’s name on the cover, but this was a wonderful surprise and I hope others in my position take note. Working with Tucker Axum III, Patterson is able to pull on his collaborator’s experiences to craft a wonderful book that keeps the reader hooked throughout. One will presume that Cain Lemaire has some parallels to Axum, which helps add depth and intrigue to the protagonist. Forced out of the job he loves, Lemaire must reinvent himself and find solace halfway around the world. This move to Japan not only opens Lemaire’s eyes to a new culture, but helps him heal from a personal tragedy he’s kept hidden. There is both strong backstory and character development in this piece, permitting the reader to see the full gamut of Cain Lemaire and his abilities to rise above it all. Others within the book offer the reader some interesting insight into life within many circles: the Secret Service, Cajun traditionalists, as well as the Japanese. All these groups highlight different portions of the book and shine their experiences on Cain Lemaire, who traverses through them with some degree of ease. The story was quite entertaining from the outset, leaving the reader to wonder if this might be a political thriller, with POTUS in the middle of a scandal, but soon develops into a wonderful story that takes the reader through a significant culture shock. The authors present the Japanese lifestyle quite effectively here, contrasting and comparing while also developing a great story that never loses momentum. There is something for everyone with his book and is sure to keep many talking about the superior nature of the piece, while others posit about the likelihood that Cain Lemaire will be back again. I’d read more from this collaboration if they ended up being as strong, while I also applaud James Patterson for finding someone who has upped what can sometimes be mediocre publishing efforts.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Axum, for a great piece. I am eager to see what comes of your work and how others react to it.

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

1st Case, by James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts

Seven stars

In another of their collaborative efforts, James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts bring their ideas together to craft an interesting story that will keep the reader flipping pages until the final chapter. Angela Hoots may not have had the end to the MIT experience she hoped, but her computer skills are off the charts, much like her intelligence. When she is offered an internship with the FBI, Angela jumps at the opportunity and is soon placed in the middle of an intense investigation. A high school girl is found murdered in her home and the key might be embedded somewhere on her cellphone. Angela begins exploring what might be loaded on the device, where she soon discovers a secret app that promotes a discreet chatting platform. Inside these messages are piles of suggestive conversations that turn graphic and present a rendezvous that could have led to murder. Angela learns not only what she can about the app, but that malware is also involved, which helps the killer track their prey before striking. Working a number of angles, Angela finds herself on the dark web—that elusive location where nothing is tracked and anything goes—honing in on a cyberterrorist group that could be leading the charge in their own twisted little game. When Angela presents her progress to superiors, they praise her, but continue an hands-off approach that leads this rookie down quite the path. Targeted for what she knows and how close she may be getting to opening a can of worms, Angela’s life, as well as that of her family, could be in danger. This first case has surely turned out to be something Angela will never forget, though at this rate, death could erase it all. A decent story that taps into many of the current buzz topics making their way through media outlets. Recommended to those who enjoy some of Patterson’s faster stories as well as readers who need an easier read for travel or beach time.

While this seems to be a long and productive collaborative partnership, I have never read any of the Patterson/Tebbetts work before this piece. The story held together well and touched on a number of interesting areas within the cyber world, though I would not say it explored anything new for more. Angela Hoots comes across as a decent character whose grit and determination was not dampened after being expelled from her grad work. She landed on her feet and has accepted this internship with ease. While Angela knows her stuff, her age and lack of social maturity shines through in this book, as she takes risks and dabbles in what she thinks is romance, only to be sobered up with a few pointed remarks by those around her. The attentive reader will see where Angela uses some personal idols to help create the strong woman she wishes to be, without getting too bogged down with trying to fit into preconceived idea of how to be successful. The authors do well with how they have created her, leaving the reader to judge whether she passes off the early 20 something well. Other characters serve their purpose in the book and help to add to the intensity, as needed. The story, while not entirely unique, did prove to be engaging and left me wondering if there could be a return for some of these characters within the FBI framework, though I am always reticent to encourage too many Patterson series, as quality always suffers with the more books that affix his name to them in any given year. With trademark Patterson short chapters that push the story along, the book read easily and kept me wanting to turn a few more pages. I was impressed with what must have been some of the Tebbetts influences and will have to look into some of his other work, though I will likely want to focus on those penned for adults, if possible.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Tebbetts, for entertaining me throughout and leaving me to wonder what you two might have in the works.

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

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 Houe of Kennedy, by James Patterson and Cynthia Fagen

Eight stars

There has been so much written about the Kennedys in the last half century that when I noticed James Patterson and Cynthia Fagen had collaborated on a piece about the family, I was not sure what they could bring to the table. After trying to keep an open mind, I was pleasantly surprised by the contents of this book, which acts as a basic primer, offering some biographical backgrounds with a peppering of the scandals that have plagued the family for close to a century. Patterson and Fagen look to the roots of the Kennedy family, where Joseph Sr. and Rose were both highly active in their respective households. Catholic to the core, the Kennedys began having children and watching them grow. There are brief snippets about Joseph Jr. and Rosemary, before the book delves into the meatier aspects of John, Robert, and Edward ‘Teddy’ Kennedy. These three men, the core political wing of the family, all suffered through their own scandals and tragedies, but also are shown to have brought about change in their own ways. From there, the book looks at some of the offshoot cousins, who were not removed from scandalous behaviours, such as murder and rape, before setting the path for the final Kennedy, John F. Kennedy, Jr. In a book full of vignettes, the authors do well to provide the reader with some superficial information to whet their appetites. Recommended to Kennedy fans who may want to know a little more (such as myself), as well as the reader who enjoys some biographical non-fiction about one of America’s well-known dynasties.

I label myself as a Kennedy fan of high order, though I have often looked within the political realm, rather than many of the scalacious and dramatic histories that many writers have uncovered. When I saw this collaborative effort, I could not help but wonder if this would be a slapped-together piece, full of basic information an elementary history tome could offer. However, I was pleasantly surprised to see the detail and attention to flow that occurs within the book. While the authors do gloss over a great deal, the amount that is covered—not to mention some of the little known facts about which I had no idea—is staggering and offered a well-rounded picture of America’s best known dynasty. The authors seem not to push their opinions too strongly, choosing instead to present the reader with something full of information and cited to boot. While I am still stymied as to why James Patterson’s name would appear on the book, as he is surely a thriller writer above all else, its presence will certainly help Cynthia Fagen gain needed recognition. I suspect this is a case of ‘JP on the cover, the book automatically sells’. Fagen’s work here does much to buoy my impression of the contents and the style of writing was so easily synthesised that I may have to see what else she’s penned on the subject. With short chapters (perhaps the Patterson influence) and a story that pushes forward throughout, this is not a book to dismiss at first sight. I may just have to find some of the areas about which I want to know more and proceed from there.

Kudos, Mr. Patterson and Madam Fagen, for a refreshing look at a family who has spent decades under the microscope. You breathe new life into this stuff and I am happy to have taken the time to read it.

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

Texas Outlaw (Rory Yates #2), by James Patterson and Aaron Bourelle

Eight stars

As James Patterson and Aaron Bourelle collaborate on another novel, the rural streets of Texas become their central focus. Texas Ranger Rory Yates has another adventure to face head-on, though he might have wished he just stayed at home. While in a bank over the lunch hour, Rory Yates comes upon a robbery. Quick to act, Yates fires to quell the storm, only to find himself in a great deal of trouble from his superiors. While the entire event was captured on film and is now making its way through social media, the Texas Rangers want to cool things off and send Yates to a small Texas town to help with a mysterious death. A local woman has died of an apparent anaphylactic attack, but the fact that she told a friend she had to speak with the police has begun to raise some flags. Tasked with working alongside one of the local detectives, Yates begins poking around, though he soon discovers that he is not welcome. Butting heads with one of the local oil barons, Yates must try to solve this case before things get out of hand. Once one of the local oil workers is shot, Yates realises that this is no longer just fun and games. Evidence of the shooting takes a turn that Yates could not have expected, leaving him to bend the rules in order to help someone escape the clutches of the law. This is frowned upon and Yates becomes an outlaw himself, as his superior makes his way to this small town to tie off the loose ends. Refusing the stand down and remaining one step ahead of those looking for him, Yates stumbles upon something that might blow the case wide open. Patterson and Bourelle work well together in this piece, taking twang out of the story and providing a palatable piece worth reading. Recommended to those who like their thrillers with a southern twist, as well as the reader who enjoys most of what James Patterson pens these days.

While I find that some Patterson writing is hit and miss, this one ended up being a decent read for me. Paired with Aaron Bourelle, Patterson returns to offer another instalment of the Texas Ranger series in which young Rory Yates is at the helm. Juggling some stardom while on the job with a girlfriend whose Nashville ambitions are more than her interest in sharing a life with someone, Yates must work through his latest assignment in rural Texas. He uses his crime fighting gumption to dig below the surface, while also having to handle the magnetism he has for those around him. This mix could prove deadly, if not handled properly. Other characters create a wonderful mix of personalities in this piece, allowing the story to push forward in many ways. The authors use a wonderful mix to create a multi-pronged story that is worth the reader’s time and effort. The story remains on point throughout and seems to be the perfect read for those who need a filler between deeper and more challenging reads. I enjoyed the piece, even if it was not one of Patterson’s strongest collaborative efforts. The short chapters helped propel things along and kept me wanting more, which I am sure is in the works.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Bourelle, for a decent piece. I am pleased to see how well you work together.

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

20th Victim (Women’s Murder Club #20), by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

Eight stars

James Patterson and Maxine Paetro are back with another instalment of the Women’s Murder Club, keeping fans entertained throughout with their insightful plots and character development. San Francisco is buzzing with an odd series of sniper murders, which forces Sergeant Lindsay Boxer to take notice. What’s worse is that these sniper killings seem to be happening all over the country, timed to occur simultaneously. While Boxer and the SFPD work to track down a killer or at least a motive, Chronicle reporter Cindy Thomas is contacted anonymously by someone with information about the crimes and predicts some of the future attacks. While she runs down her own story, Boxer seeks to better understand the victims, soon learning that they are all small-time (and somewhat secretive) drug dealers in their own right. Boxer’s husband, Joe, has his own plate overfilling when a best friend has some information about a local doctor that could have large implications. While all this is taking place, one of the cornerstone members of the Club receives horrible news that could derail her and cause the four central members to fall apart. With a killer communicating through an interesting fashion and calling soldiers to arms, Boxer and her team will have to work quickly to shut it down before the blood keeps flowing. A well-crafted piece that will have readers eager to race through to the end, where truth is apparent. Recommended to series fans, as well as those who need a lighter crime thriller.

I have often struggled with Patterson’s work, as many will know. I find that too often he sees to churn things out too quickly, leaving his collaborators to suffer my wrath as well. After a less than stellar 19th novel (many felt the same), these two have been able to redeem themselves and put on a wonderful instalment of the Women’s Murder Club. The stories were well developed and kept the reader’s attention, which makes the book flow all the better. Countless sub-plots keep the reader entertained, even when there was little movement on the main murder theme. Patterson and Paetro use some of the backstories of these core characters to their advantage, allowing for a little growth or at least some advancement in ongoing plots, without bogging things down too much. I would love to see something truly earth shattering that would force the group to rethink their place and how the Club works, though I am not sure if the authors are ready to pull out such a major event quiet yet. With short chapters and a story that has no time to catch its breath, this book serves as a treat for those who are dedicated to the series, as well as potentially making new fans want to go back and piece this complex web together for themselves. I cannot wait to see what else is on the horizon for this series, and yet would love to see Patterson meld his three great series (Boxer-Cross-Bennett) into a well-timed crossover. That may be too Herculean an effort, but I am hoping.

Kudos, Mr. Patterson and Madam Paetro, for a great piece that adds to this series that has been part of my reading experience for many years.

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

Blindside (Michael Bennett #12), by James Patterson and James O. Born

Seven stars

A fan of the Michael Bennett series, I was pleased to get my hands on the latest novel, which exemplifies the collaborative efforts of James Patterson and James O. Born. In a story that does little for Bennett’s character development, but showcases his abilities, the authors provide the reader with a decent crime thriller set on both sides of the Atlantic. While working a double murder, Michael Bennett stops in at a local store, where things take a turn for the worse and he shoots two men attempting to mug him. While Bennett is sure it was a justified shooting, the public are not so sure. Bennett takes some time off, which allows him to enjoy a little family time, but that is cut short with Internal Affairs wants him to meet with the mayor. At this meeting the mayor asks for some help on a case that must remain off the books. The mayor’s daughter has been missing for weeks and Bennett is asked to find her, but tell no one of the job. As Natalie Lunden is deep into the world of computer hackers, Bennett starts there, finding himself following a few leads. When others with ties to Lunden turn up dead, Bennett is sure he is onto something and ends up in a firefight while trying to protect a close friend of Natalie’s. All this leads to an infamous hacker in Estonia, which will be an adventure in and of itself. With no financial support, Bennett will have to make the trip and work with some of the resources the NYPD and FBI can provide there, though the latter wants him out of the country as soon as he arrives. While Bennett looks for Natalie in and around the capital, he encounters the ruthless killers from NYC, who will stop at nothing from keeping Bennett from making his way back to America with the mayor’s daughter. Stretching himself as thin as he has ever been, Michael Bennett must remember who awaits him at home and how his safety is of paramount importance. A decent thriller in a series that may be showing signs of closure. Recommended to series fans who want to check in on Bennett, as well as those who enjoy crime thrillers that span the globe.

Some of James Patterson’s work tends to grate on my nerves because it lacks that hook that I like in my thrillers. However, he is usually able to work effectively with James O. Born to find a happy medium to his work. Michael Bennett has done much in his career, while supporting a massive family. He works well within the NYPD structure, though is always looking to challenge some of the authority and red tape that he finds useless. In this piece, Bennett is challenged at every turn and stays level-headed throughout, while juggling a personal life that has a fiancée looking to set a date. His resourcefulness is front and centre as he enters Estonia, seeking to find someone and leave, but things never end up being that easy. Others keep the story flowing well and the reader can enjoy a variety of personalities as they clash on the page. The story worked well, though I found it lacked the intensity I needed. Bennett’s mission was a locate and return, with little mystery involved. The early search on US soil seemed to lack something as Bennett bounced around from one person to the next, all before landing the big lead. Perhaps I am cynical or used to something a little more action-packed, but I will return to see if Michael Bennett and his brood have more to offer.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Born, for a decent addition to the series. Eager to see what’s to come for Bennett and your collaborative efforts.

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

Lost, by James Patterson and James O. Born

Seven stars

In their latest collaborative effort, James Patterson and James O. Born tackle the world of human trafficking with an American twist. Tom Moon is a Miami PD detective who heads up a multi-agency task force with a focus on international crime. After being able to foil a child trafficking ring at the Miami Airport, Tom takes it upon himself to ensure the children are safely returned. He takes the flight to Amsterdam, where he crosses paths with a Dutch National Police detective who shares his passion for keeping people safe. Whispers on the street is that the Russian Mob is seeking to ship a large group back through Miami, mostly children to be sold into the sex trade. Tom must not only hone in on the traffickers, but also determine when and how these people will slip into the United States. Even when the plot is revealed, it will take more to destroy this Hydra before it grows another and more sinister head. The race to save young children is on, but it will take an open-minded hierarchy and nerves of steel, particularly when a ruthless Russian will do whatever it takes to pad his pocket. A decent crime thriller that shows the authors are not out of fresh and catchy ideas. While there are some wrinkles, it was an enjoyable read, leaving me wanting more by this duo.

I have often struggled when a book sells based on the Patterson name, rather than the quality of the work. I have read a number of Patterson-Born novels, most of which kept me entertained throughout the experience. Tom Moon proves to be an interesting protagonist, whose backstory and character development are revealed throughout. Juggling the high-impact world of international crime with the struggles of a mother and sister in need of his help, Tom seems capable of doing what is needed to ensure that all the boxes are checked. He has a sense of humour and yet knows when to be serious on the job. Having shown his passion for children, the reader can connect with him and he will likely keep evolving, if the rumours of a series come to fruition. The supporting characters are equally interesting and help keep the story moving forward. I can only hope that some will return to develop themselves a little more. The plot was decent and the story clipped along well, perhaps because of Patterson’s trademark short chapters and constant cliffhangers, but there were times I sought more momentum from the plot and the building narrative. I can only hope that the collaboration continues and sharper presentation is part of future releases.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Born, for writing effectively, even if you have yet to ‘eclipse’ others in the genre.

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

The River Murders (Three Mitchum BookShots), by James Patterson and James O. Born

Eight stars

As I open this collection of three BookShots by James Patterson and James O. Born, I turned immediately to the third and most recent story. Having read the other two beforehand, I post my reviews of them below, as well as the new review for the final story. Enjoy the flashback and some new thoughts, if you please!


James O. Born works alongside James Patterson in the first of this BookShot series that will have readers hooked and quite curious as they travel to upstate New York. Mitchum enjoys the quiet life in Marlboro, away from the fast-paced living of NYC, but still surrounded by a community that thrives on the daily bustle. When he learns that his niece, Bailey Mae, has gone missing, this unofficial P.I. takes matters into his own hands. Working with the local sheriff’s detachment and those around town, Mitchum learns that three shady individuals have been seen around town. Bailey Mae’s famous coffee cakes prove a useful trail, though when two elderly residents are found murdered in their home and a fresh cake sits on the counter, Mitchum becomes more concerned. His past training as a Navy SEAL allows him to forge headlong into the search, still trying to determine who these strangers might be and if they are involved in the kidnapping, or if Bailey Mae is somehow involved. Forced to turn to his drug-dealing brother, Mitchum uses whispers on the street to help him track down any evidence that might lead to Bailey Mae’s safe return. Time is running out, but family ties seem to be unbreakable for Mitchum, fuelling his determination to bring a happy ending to this small town. A quick and captivating story for BookShot fans and those who need a little thrill with their coffee. Patterson and Born have a recipe for success here!

I am on a roll with my current BookShots binge, having found some real winners out there. There is usually little time for character development, but the authors have been able to weave the story of Robert ‘call me Mitchum’ Mitchum into the fabric of this thriller. The small town feel to the story is not lost on the reader, as Mitchum combs through the residents to garner enough clues to help solve the case. Additionally, the vast array of characters on offer may prove useful if the series continues past the next-known published piece. The story itself is interesting and the short chapters keep the story propelling forward without the reader feeling too stuck in any single environ. Patterson and Born work well together and bring the story to life, just as I would expect with a BookShot, which leaves little time to catch one’s breath. I need to get my hands on the next story in the series, as I am still highly impressed with what I’ve read.


James O. Born returns to work alongside James Patterson again in the follow-up BookShot of the Mitchum series. Readers will likely remain impressed with this piece, as it has all the impact of a great short story without losing any of the needed character and story development. Mitchum enjoys his quiet life in upstate New York, where he can deliver his daily newspapers and run an unofficial P.I. business on the side. When his brother, Natty, calls with a problem, Mitchum seems skeptical. However, when a homicide is involved, the brothers reunite, post haste. Mitchum learns that a high school friend has been slain, potentially by a fellow drug dealer. As one who ‘enhances recreational activities’ himself, Natty can attest to the fact that there are some out there who want nothing more than to bury Peter Stahl, but not before discovering the secret he has about a new and ‘hot’ commodity for the street. As Mitchum works to iron out all the details, he learns that Natty is deeply in love with the deceased’s wife, which could prove to be a problem. Before Mitchum can learn much more, Natty been hauled away to jail, the primary suspect in the murder. It is now a race to find the true killer and clear Natty’s name, forcing Mitchum to look under every rock, where corrupt figures wait for their slice of the pie. A wonderful follow-up piece that pushes the reader into the middle of the action as Mitchum forges ahead at top speed. BookShot fans will surely enjoy this piece, both for its excitement and quick pace.

This weekend of BookShot reading has proven to be highly useful and I have come across a number of wonderful pieces. James O. Born surely has a handle on this series, which continues to build, and avid readers can only hope that Patterson will turn to him many more times in the future. While short, the story allows more character development as it relates to Robert ‘call me Mitchum’ Mitchum, both from a familial perspective and with his own personal sentiments. The reader can enjoy a dash of sarcasm and some heartfelt emotion without missing out on what ends up being something worth the hour of reading time. The story is by no means unique, but it holds the attention of the read throughout, paced with short chapters and quick development. Anyone who needs a decent filler between major reading assignments can turn to this piece and not be disappointed. I can only hope that Mitchum will be back soon, rising to the top amidst the supersaturation of BookShots in the e-book domain. Readers ought to keep an eye out for these and will surely find something to appeal to their thriller side.


James Patterson and James O. Born return for a third short novel (BookShot) in this interesting series. Mitchum continues to work as an unofficial P.I., but the work is less than invigorating in the small community near Marlboro, in upstate New York. When his mother is hit by a vehicle, witness statements make it seem to have been intentional. Working with his reformed brother, Natty, Mitchum tries to determine who would be doing such a thing. Soon, a man from his past emerges to threaten Mitchum and tells him to stand down. During the confrontation, Natty’s shot and the man flees, protected by the feds for reasons unknown. Mitchum takes up a friend’s offer to work security in Afghanistan, which will allow him to keep tabs on this mystery man. However, things take a turn and Mitchum finds himself in trouble in a faraway land with no one aware of his situation. Will Mitchum be able to find the answers he needs and keep his family safe from any further fallout from all his impetuous actions? Another great addition to the Mitchum series, which has worked very well in all three pieces. Recommended for fans of Patterson’s BookShots, as well as those readers who enjoy a quick story to pass the time.

While I have never shied away from sharing my issues with James Patterson’s writing over the years, I have always enjoyed reading his BookShots, which give a full adventure in only half the time. I remember reading the other two books in this series back when I was on a BookShots binge and enjoyed them. This third piece was a wonderful return to what I remembered enjoying. Mitchum is still trying to mix tranquility of small town living with staying mentally sharp. He remains a strong family man, as protective as he can be, but still seeks to find his niche. This story provides him a new opportunity to find his way, which will hopefully work out for the best. Others in the story help propel things forward effectively, complementing Mitchum on occasion, or pushing him to his limits at other times. The story was well-crafted, showing the effectiveness of the Patterson-Born collaboration. I have found they work well together and keep the stories fresh, intense, and poignant as the reader follows the narrative path with ease. Patterson’s short chapter recipe is one display here and it keeps the story moving effectively forward. I hope there are more ideas, Mitchum and otherwise, from these two and will keep my eyes open.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Born, for another wonderful collection of stories that entertain as well as educate the reader in short order.

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

Ali Cross, by James Patterson

Eight stars

James Patterson has a new treat for his young adult (read: teen) fans with this long-awaited debut featuring Ali Cross. Many longtime Patterson fans will know of Alex Cross and his youngest—yet also precocious—son, Ali, who sees things outside of the box. While the entire Cross clan is gathered for Christmas, Ali has other things on his mind. His friend, Gabe, is missing and no one seems to be doing much about it. Ali wants nothing more than to help find his close friend, but the case seems to be gathering little but a peppering of snow over the holiday season. If that were not enough, his father, Dr. Alex Cross, is facing assault charges for a recent arrest that left a suspect in a coma after a fall. While the Cross family remains strong, Ali cannot help but wonder if he needs to do more to help the situation. He enlists the help of his father, as well as his step-mother, Bree Stone, to get some answers and to help fill in some of the blanks around Gabe’s location. Then, it’s time to enter the world of the tween, where social media and gaming takes over, allowing Ali to discover some new and disturbing clues that could help him with his search. As Alex is distracted with his own worries, young Ali takes a gamble or two to save his friend. Problem is, like his father, Ali sometimes forgets to put his safety first, which could have dire consequences. When Ali is able to reach Gabe through a video game they enjoy, this only leads to more complications and places both boys in a heap of trouble. A stellar piece by Patterson that will surely loop in a new generation of Cross fans, with a story that is equally appealing to those who have long enjoyed anything with CROSS in the title. Recommended for young and not so youthful readers looking for a great mystery, as well as Alex Cross fans who want a dose of something a little less intense.

I recently finished James Patterson’s latest Alex Cross novel, which saw an increase in Ali’s presence. It felt fitting to turn to this shorter piece to give Ali his time in the spotlight and to see if younger readers were getting the same intensity in their novels related to this DC family. Patterson does well to pull a new set of Cross fans in, setting a mystery with Ali in the middle. Ali Cross is a middle-schooler who has all the tools to live a 21st century life, including an online presence that keeps him in touch with his friends. However, he has Cross blood in his veins and if he is not going to excel in athletics like his siblings, he might as well take up sleuthing. The reader can see this throughout this piece, as Ali Cross comes into his own. He loves a good mystery and has the empathy to make his work mean something. Other characters help pave the way to a successful story, including Alex Cross, which enriches the entire reading experience. While it is hard to place this on the Alex Cross timeline of books, there is surely a little character development for Alex and Ali, though it might be in a vacuum and not entirely in line with the chronology of the larger Cross series (if that makes sense as I pen it now). The story was strong and helped introduce the reader to Ali Cross in such a way that readers will want to know more. With some eerie goings-on in the Alex Cross series and a few hints that Ali Cross has not tripped on his only mystery, Patterson keeps readers of all ages wondering what will come next in the Cross saga and how long until Ali takes over the spotlight, letting Alex relax and fade into the role of advisor, rather than ‘feet on the ground’ detective.

Kudos, Mr. Patterson, for another great piece in the Cross series. This one has remained solid and I do wish you would focus on those pieces that are stellar, rather than mass producing every idea brought to your feet, for money and acclaim.

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

Criss Cross (Alex Cross #27), by James Patterson

Eight stars

James Patterson returns with one of his foundations series, exploring the further adventures of Alex Cross in this intense crime thriller. As the novel opens, Dr. Alex Cross is on his way to the execution of a man he helped put away for some gruesome murders. While the man’s family professes this is a frame-up, Cross is sure the evidence tells a different story. After watching the electrocution, Cross and his partner are called to the scene of a crime, one that makes he wonder if he might have made a major mistake. A crime scene awaits him, similar to those the aforementioned killer appeared to have left, along with a mocking note signed “M”. Cross scrambles to understand what’s going on and how this will reflect on him. As Cross thinks back to the case from years ago, he is forced to wonder if he got wrapped up in a quick solve, rather than weighing all the evidence. As he tries to crack open the ‘M’ case, Cross is faced with a few more copycat killings from other notorious killers he’s put away. Nothing is more disturbing than a few sightings of his greatest nemesis, Kyle Craig, who apparently died right before Cross’ eyes a few years before. As Cross seeks to uncover the great ‘M’, he is taunted repeatedly and is surely being watched from afar. When terror strikes within the Cross household, ‘M’ claims responsibility, but will stop at nothing until Alex Cross is permanently neutralized. An interesting addition to the series, which has gone on for quite a while. One must wonder if Cross might want to hang up his cuffs and enjoy a quieter life. Recommended to those who enjoy Alex Cross and his various adventures, as well as those who find solace in James Patterson’s work.

I admit that I have long been a critic of Patterson’s work, as I find it is usually rushed and slapped together in haste, selling so well because of a name and not the quality of the story. The Alex Cross series has usually been quite well written and the stories remain believable throughout the many novels that are pieces of this collection. There is little room for backstory with Alex Cross, but Patterson os keen to show how he is always on the ball to catch a killer in new and interesting ways. Cross is a family man to the core, balancing work, marriage, and his children as best he can. Patterson offers up some added information about the youngest Cross, Ali, which likely parallels his decision to create a young adult collection featuring Ali going forward. The reader gets a little more about the middle child, daughter Jannie, who is set to make some major academic decisions, fully supported by her father. Other characters find their spots in the narrative and keep the reader on their toes, while never distracting from the larger plot. The use of ‘M’ as a copycat-cum-new villain will have interesting impacts, should the series continue for the foreseeable future. The story was well written and in line with much of the past novels in the series, with Patterson using his quick chapters to lure the reader to “read a little more”. While not the best of the collection, it will keep me reading this series. On that note, one must wonder if Cross is ending his run soon, as he has reached a large number of adventures. If so, perhaps he, Michael Bennett, and Lindsay Boxer could work together, even once? It has been my long-time plea.

Kudos, Mr. Patterson, for another good read. I hope series fans are satisfied and that you will focus your attention on these stronger series and keep the vapid writing for others to pen.

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

19th Christmas (Women’s Murder Club #19), by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

Eight stars

The Women’s Murder Club is back with another thrilling tale set in the days around the holiday season, headed by the great collaboration of James Patterson and Maxine Paetro. While out shopping with her family, Detective Lindsay Boxer encounters a man who is disrupting holiday shoppers as he flees in a panic. Once in an interrogation room, the man spills that he has news of an upcoming ‘big event’ that is set to happen on Christmas Day. Not wanting to take any chances, Lindsay takes up the case, looking for a mysterious ‘Loman’ who might hold all the answers. While following leads, Boxer and her SFPD Homicide team are pushed in many directions, some red herrings, while others seem to point to a major heist only a few days away. Meanwhile, while working on a Christmas story, Cindy uncovers an undocumented man who has been sitting in prison for two years, charged with a murder he says he did not commit. Working her angle, Cindy soon pulls Yuki in from the D.A.’s office and tries to bring a little holiday cheer to a family that has been frazzled for the past few years. When Boxer and her crew feel they may be close to an answer, all things go haywire at the airport, on Christmas Day no less, forcing everyone to take drastic actions in order to save the general public. Well into this series, Patterson and Paetro still have a great handle on the series that does not show signs of letting up. Recommended for series fans looking to augment their holiday season, as well as those readers who enjoy the quick pace of a well-written Patterson novel.

This book is a true gift and will likely be one that series fans have been hoping to receive. While there seems to have been some confusion with readers who were baffled throughout the eighteenth instalment, Patterson and Paetro were forced—silly, as it is—to explain the flashback they used in the past novel and promised that this instalment was entirely present-tense. The returning characters proved highly entertaining, not least of which Lindsay Boxer. She has left her character development and backstory behind, but is ready to tackle anything set before her as she hunts down a man keen on causing trouble at Christmas. Others characters will be familiar to many who are well-versed in the series, as well as adding a few new faces. The story ran well and sped along with quick chapters that push the reader to ‘try a few more pages’. At a time when no one can be sure what Patterson will do with the books bearing his name, this was a refreshing return to his strong skills, alongside the equally capable Maxine Paetro. A great stocking stuffer, if the reader can wait that long. If not, pull out the apple cider or eggnog and offer up a cup as the reader devours this treat!

Kudos, Mr. Patterson and Madam Paetro, for another great book in the series. I hope you two have the collaborative stamina to keep going.

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

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:

The Inn, by James Patterson and Candice Fox

Eight stars

Powerhouse duo James Patterson and Candice Fox return with a standalone novel that offers some insight into how the world works away from a formal police setting. With some great narrative development and a cast of unique characters, Patterson and Fox show that they are a team far above others. After being summarily fired from the Boston PD, Bill Robinson works with his wife to create a new life in the rural community of Gloucester. Opening up a bed and breakfast, the Robinsons think they have it made. However, after the passing of Siobain, Bill is left to run things at The Inn all on his own. While the cop is out of Boston, Robinson is the curious type and stumbles upon a string of deaths that are all attributed to a tiny yellow pill, later revealed to be potent fentanyl. Robinson follows the path of distribution to a sly dealer by the name of Mitchell Cline, who is happy to pepper the bucolic community with addiction and line his pockets. When Robinson makes a play to stop all of this, he engages the services of the local sheriff, who also happens to be one of his residents. As the pressure mounts, more locals find themselves working with Robinson on a way to remove Cline, plotting their response from inside The Inn. Cline will not go down easily and has a large crew ready to follow his every command. Barricaded inside The Inn, Robinson must work with his makeshift team to decide how to handle the situation, knowing full well that it may end tragically before the night is out. Patterson and Fox show their strength in this story that pulls on issues from today in this dazzling one off novel. Recommended for those who like a police procedural with a different flavouring, as well as the reader who has long enjoyed the Patterson-Fox writing style.

While I enjoy both authors on their own, as well as their series work with Harry Blue, I was not sure if I could take a standalone as seriously. While things took a little while to warm up for me, I did become invested before too long and found myself readily turning pages to see what would happen next. Bill Robinson is as jaded as they come, having been forced on his turf early for actions his partner started. Saddled with this and the loss of his wife soon thereafter, there is no doubt that Robinson is seeking something to set himself straight. While the story reads like a police procedural, there are elements of a vigilante leader seeking revenge and wanting to protect his town. The banter and planning work well, but there are certainly some aspects that are quite cliché for me, yet the story still works. Others who grace the pages of this book work their own magic and the story comes to life with ease, flavoured by the backstories and unique approaches the authors inject into those who work with (and against) Robinson. The story had some predicable elements, but I could see this working well on the big screen. Drama increases throughout and there is no let down as the pages turn with ease. The traditional short chapters force the reader to commit to large portions in a sitting and begs for more action with ease new chapter heading. While not their best collaborative work, I cannot fault this duo, who have never failed to impress me.

Kudos, Mr. Patterson and Madam Fox, for another interesting collaborative effort. I am eager to see if you will return to some Harry Blue soon, or if you have more you want the world to reader before then.

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

Hush Hush (Detective Harriet Blue #4), by James Patterson and Candice Fox

Eight stars

Returning for another collaborative novel, James Patterson and Candice Fox add to their highly popular Harriet ‘Harry’ Blue series. With Blue incarcerated, her world has been turned upside down. Forced to watch over her shoulder at every turn, Blue does not hesitate to defend herself, even if it means a trip to the infirmary. During her frequent trips, Blue befriends the doctor, who has an affinity for the copper. When the doctor’s body turns up in a pool of blood on the infirmary floor, many eyes turn to Blue. While she does have a temper, Blue is also in possession of a strong alibi. However, another prisoner seems to be the prime suspect, leaving Blue to investigate, sure of her friend’s innocence. Wanting to pursue the case on the inside, Blue begins poking around as best she can. On the outside, the daughter of one of the city’s police commissioners has gone missing. With a sordid history involving drugs, one can only wonder if she’s out on a binge. However, she has her young daughter with her, something that defies much of her past behaviour, which also puts everyone on high alert. Wanting this case to take high priority, an agreement to see Blue released is negotiated, though Harry will have to swallow her pride, as she was never a friend of the police brass. As Blue is reunited with her partner, Ed Whittaker, they work together to trace the whereabouts of their missing person, but the clues are few and far between. Might this have been a drug deal gone bad, with the toddler used as leverage? When not in middle of the investigation, Blue returns to the prison to find evidence of who might have killed the hard working doctor. What Blue discovers is more than she might have expected, with little time to waste. Patterson and Fox exemplify how well they work together with yet another addition in the Harry Blue series. Recommended to fans of Harry Blue novels, as well as readers who like Patterson’s style while paired with a capable collaborator.

It’s never a sure thing that the reader will find a great book when James Patterson’s name appears on the cover—though his name alone seems to sell books, quality be damned—but when paired with Candice Fox, one can almost be assured of success. Working to create wonderful police procedurals set in Australia, the reader is able to experience something a little different (for those who do not live Down Under) without sacrificing quality. Harry Blue has always been an entertaining character, even if she is not known for her verbal filter. Her actions to track down some of the worst criminals in sex crimes, she has finally allowed her emotions to get the better of her. Locked away for killing an Australian pedophile, she must answer for her actions, while also being labelled ‘cop’. This does nothing to ensure her safety, as she come face to face with all forms of female inmates. Forced to sacrifice her standards to help someone else, Blue agrees to run two investigations that appear greatly different on the surface. The reader will notice her unique approach to policing and her inability to stomach the ignorant. There is surely some development here, though much of the focus is on her ability to locate criminals in short order. There are others, both returning a new characters, who add depth to the story and whose presence will surely entertain the reader. Working to extract key facets of the Harry Blue personality, Patterson and Fox paint these secondary characters in such a way that they complement the protagonist effectively. The story is strong, pushing the reader out of their comfort zone as a prison is one of the primary settings for the story. In order to stay on the ‘outside’, Blue will have to do all that is asked of her, though success is far from guaranteed. Patterson and Fox do well to push the story forward with this spin and keep the reader wanting more until the very last pages.

Kudos, Mr. Patterson and Madam Fox, on another masterful story. I have enjoyed Harry Blue to date and hope your collaborative efforts continue well into the future.

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

Unsolved (Invisible #2), by James Patterson and David Ellis

Nine stars

James Patterson collaborates with David Ellis—one of the authors who is able to keep his pieces on track—for this sequel that will chill the reader almost as much as the original piece. Emmy Dockery is back, still licking the wounds after having blown the lid off a serial killer who masked his crimes under the radar, but she refuses to rest. Seeing links in apparent accidental deaths, Emmy is connecting dots and trying to make a case that a new serial killer is on the loose. However, her superiors at the FBI refuse to listen and want her to keep the investigation where it belongs, on the back burner and during her downtime. For now, Emmy is tasked with helping to crack a case that has the country talking, the nighttime bombings by Citizen David, an anonymous activist trying to representing the ‘little guy’. With news leaking to the public through a keen reporter, all eyes turn to Emmy as the one fuelling that fire. Emmy’s fiancé, Harrison ‘Books’ Bookman, has taken a step away from his past with the Feds and is working in a bookstore, trying to keep her from getting too far off the beaten path, though failing miserably. As the Citizen David investigation heats up, a killer lurks in the shadows, one who has been committing crimes that Emmy is discovering, though no one is yet ready to admit it. ‘Darwin’ is hiding in plain sight, masking his appearance and developing a backstory that will cover any tracks that might be visible. While Emmy is breathing down his neck, he seeks to throw everyone off the scent while also monitoring Emmy from afar. As the investigation heats up and Emmy is finally able to convince someone that there might be something to her off-duty sleuthing, the hunt for the mole intensifies, straining resources and the relationship Emmy needs so badly. But, will this serial killer get the best of everyone and create a pile of unsolved cases, while killing at random? Patterson and Ellis show why they are a masterful duo in this novel that will have the reader wanting to read on until the very end, stopping only when necessary. Recommended to those who loved the early Patterson novels, before he sold out, as well as the reader who loves a decent thriller.

I will be the first to admit that I have only a vague recollection of reading the debut in this series. This is not indicative of a poorly penned novel, but only that I read and review so much. However, after looking back at the review, I can remember a little more and knew I enjoyed it. The same can be said here, as I devoured this piece in short order, loving the twists and turns the authors presented. Emmy Dockery is a protagonist that the reader will easily enjoy, even if she becomes annoying at times. Her ability to get to the root of the issue and dedication is not lost on the attentive reader, even if she is socially stunted and unable to walk away from scouring for Darwin. The connection she has with Books is an on/off switch, but it is apparent that they need one another throughout this book, again. There are a handful of strong supporting characters, all of whom serve to intensify an already strong story with their own character development. One can only wonder if Patterson and Ellis will be back for another novel in the series and use some of these folks to help propel things even further. The story is strong and works well with this cast of characters, keeping the reader wondering throughout. The authors have used a few subplots to keep the overall storyline moving forward and it keeps the reader wondering, as they use their omnipotent view to amass all the information and are able to see the thriller from all angles. I’d gladly return to see if Emmy Dockery and her group have another case in them, though it would seem that anytime Patterson and Ellis work together, the magic follows.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Ellis, for another stellar novel. I am happy to see this collaboration working effectively and can only hope it continues.

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

13-Minute Murder: A BookShot, by James Patterson and Shan Serafin

Seven stars

Note: This is a review solely of this short story, not the collection of three BookShots found in the published work bearing the same name. Please search each of the other two stories individually, as they were read and reviewed previously, also independently.

It is always nice to curl up with a BookShot to pass an hour or so, watching James Patterson and his collaborator try to sell the reader on their latest short story, with limited space for character and plot development. In this piece, Patterson invites Shan Serafin to join him on a journey into he world of hit men. When Mike Ryan and his associate are given a hit, it could net a payout that allows them to hang up their guns and live an honourable life. They find themselves on the campus of Harvard University, plotting the takedown of the son of a Croatian mob boss. Weighing all the factors, Ryan gives the green light, but things go horrible backwards, forcing him to scramble and try to make sense of what’s going wrong. This spirals into a manhunt for the person who ordered the hit, something that will cause much bloodshed as the body count mounts. When things get personal, Ryan finds himself willing to risk it all to find answers he never thought important before. Racing around Boston, Mike Ryan will cross paths with some of the more ruthless men to get answers, risking life and limb with little regard for anyone. An interesting story that develops in short order, but is not as gripping as I would have liked. BookShot fans may like this one, though the collaboration is far from Patterson’s best work.

I find myself drawn to BookShots, more because they are quick to digest than their stellar writing or plot development. James Patterson can be hit or miss with them, as he tends to be with all his writing, leaving the reader unsure what to expect when they start. This was a strong mediocre piece, with some interesting character presentation and a somewhat plausible plot, but I had hoped for something more gripping, with the premise laid out before me. Mike Ryan has been in the business of killing people for over a decade and has it down to an art. He sketches out the kill, the escape, and the blow-back fairly well, developing a great plan while also promising his wife that he will make an honest man out of himself before long. When faced with this last kill, things go wrong and the reader can see how he handles the unknown, while rubbing elbows with mob men who have no heart when it comes to killing those who cross them. Other characters are peppered throughout the piece and they move the story in somewhat of a forward direction, though some of the grittiest characters lack the sharp edges one would expect. It could be the limited space or the need to limit the plot, but I was left wanting much more from many of these characters. The plot had possibilities, especially when dealing with the criminal underbelly, but there was an noticeable lack of grit and action, as Mike Ryan sought retribution and tried to make this final kill one that would mean something. Shan Serafin does well to complement the Patterson juggernaut, though I was not entirely sold on their collaborative effort.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Serafin, for a decent output. I can see a lot of potential between you two, though I was not sold on the end product here.

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:

18th Abduction (Women’s Murder Club #18), by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

Eight stars

I always look forward to my annual exploration of the Women’s Murder Club, one of James Patterson’s strongest series alongside Maxine Paetro, who is a stellar collaborator. While many series lose their energy after so long, the eighteenth novel in this collection remains fresh and poignant, perfect for the series fan. After a preface in the present day, the story goes back five years, where Detective Lindsay Boxer finds herself in the middle of a baffling query. Three teachers from a prestigious preparatory school have gone missing while out together. There are few clues as to their whereabouts, which makes it all the most confusion. While Boxer is out handling this, her husband, Joe Molinari, comes across a woman on his way home. She tells a story of having seen a war criminal from her native Bosnia, a man who tortured her and her family years ago. Thought rumoured to have drowned, Slobodan Petrović May still be alive and has the glint in his eye made infamous when he held the moniker as the Butcher of Djoba. It perfectly describes the brutality to which he subjected his victims. Molinari is eager to help this woman, but must cut through her determination to take action on her own, while also working with his FBI contacts to bring Petrović to justice. Living under a pseudonym, Molinari will have to approach Petrović closely and ensure that this was not a case of mistaken identity. Meanwhile, Boxer begins to piece together some early clues and one of the victims turns up brutally murdered. Could there be a deeper connection to these three women, outside their teaching together? The rush is on to find the other two women before they are too long, though they are being mocked by the purported killer, Bloodsucker. In a case with more brutality than any Boxer has seen since she joined SFPD, this may be one killer whose determination to eviscerate their victims has deeply psychological ties. A wonderfully dark thriller that takes series readers on a journey with which they are familiar. This deep into the series, I would strongly suggest readers start at the beginning, allowing them to discover some of the character developments and nuances.

James Patterson can be hit and miss for many readers, churning out books faster than many can list them and leaving his name to sell copies. This inconsistency with the quality of writing has soured many and thereby left books like this shunned, forcing new fans not to see that there are still great JP books. Teaming up with Maxine Paetro, Patterson develops this wonderful story that builds on many of the past novels in the series, while adding some new and international flavour. Lindsay Boxer has become a strong character within San Francisco’s Homicide community, working diligently to solve any crime tossed her way. While there is little backstory left to reveal, the reader is always able to see small bouts of development within her work and personal relationships. Her marriage to Joe Molinari has long been a hot/cold situation worthy of exportation, though this book, which flashes back, dodges some of the bumpier parts of their relationship. While the other three ‘Club’ members receive their due mention, there is little the Club does to solve crimes as a unit, as has been the nature of the latter novels in the series. With Patterson’s great use of short and teaser chapters, the reader is pulled into the middle of this thriller in short order and left to explore all aspects of this multi-pronged story. Series fans will likely enjoy this book, as will those who are always looking for strong writing by Patterson and his collaborators. Definitely a series worth exploring for those who have time and are not being drowned by a TO BE READ pile.

Kudos, Mr. Patterson and Madame Paetro, as you continue this well-established series.

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

The Chef (Caleb Rooney #1), by James Patterson and Max DiLallo

Eight stars

Expanding on their successful BookShot in the same series, James Patterson and Max DiLallo return to New Orleans and the delicious antics of Caleb Rooney. When he is not operating his high-end food truck alongside his ex-wife, Caleb Rooney is working hard for the NOPD. At least he was until he was stripped of his badge after an excessive force complaint. Focussing all his time on the food business, Caleb is still forced to keep a lookout for those who may hold a grudge. When he learns that the FBI’s in town, following up on chatter about a potential terrorist attack, Caleb is sought out by his former chief to work off the radar to help protect the city. The plan appears to be tied to an attack at Mardi Gras, when the city comes to life and the casualty count can be highest. As he begins to investigate, Caleb finds some interesting threads the Feds have overlooked. He’s also been targeted a few times by attacks, in hopes of tossing him off the trail. Undeterred, Caleb works to help foil the plan, but finds that every suspect leads to a dead end. During the investigation, Caleb’s attention is caught by a local competitor’s wife. He knows the dangers, but Caleb find himself unable to resist, which only adds a larger target to his own back. It is only when the Feds discover what has been going on that the trouble really begins, forcing Caleb to choose between his civilian limits and protecting the city he loves. In a powerhouse novel that is just as good as its prequel BookShot, Patterson and DiLallo prove that they are a wonderful team. Recommended to those who enjoy thrillers with a delectable twist—and not of lemon—this is a story not to be dismissed.

I took a gamble on this latest Patterson novel, hoping that it would follow in the footsteps of its prequel. Not only was the writing of a high caliber, but I could not get enough of all the delicious dishes whose mention pepper the narrative. Caleb Rooney is as sharp as the knives used to make his various creations. Able to think on his feet and concoct dishes and plans of attack on his feet, the reader will soon discover that he is a complex and relatable character in equal measure. Like many civilian protagonists in this genre, it is curiosity and gumption that fuels his personal fire and keeps him from letting go, even in the face of adversity. Surrounded by interesting supporting characters, the story develops at a quick pace but never loses its momentum. With great discussion of the setting (New Orleans at Mardi Gras) and great sounding dishes, the story has many points of interest to keep the reader interested. With a mix of short and longer chapters, the story pulls the reader in and offers much throughout its development. I can only hope that Patterson and DiLallo take note of the wonderful writing they have done and help create a series out of this, which may help the former author churn out better novels, rather than the sausage factory of unknown quality that sells simply because of the JP emblazoned across the cover.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and DiLallo, for this great piece of work. I can only hope you see a winner, which is sure to garner the literary equivalent to mass publication Michelin stars.

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

The House Next Door: A BookShot Collection, by James Patterson, Susan DiLallo, Max DiLallo, and Tom Arnold

Eight stars

I have long enjoyed the venture James Patterson undertook, writing short stories with collaborators and calling them BookShots. While some are released as individual publications, Patterson will, at times, combine a few together, as he has done here. Working with Susan DiLallo, Max DiLallo, and Tom Arnold, Patterson has created three pieces that will force the reader to think as they discover the wonders of short pieces and how they can be just as effective as full-length novels. From a mysterious next-door neighbour to the distraught wife of a serial killer, and even communication with life outside of Earth’s atmosphere, Patterson and his collaborators provide much needed entertainment in this busy world of reading.

The House Next Door (with Susan DiLallo)

Laura Sherman lives a less than exciting life, though she has agreed to at least some of the sacrifices it takes to run a household. Her mundane housewife life is interrupted when a man and his son move into the house next door. Vince reaches out by asking that Laura help by driving young Vinny to his soccer practices on a weekly basis. From there, the connection between Laura and Vince grows at an alarming rate. Laura cannot believe that Vince is the man she has long wished her husband, Ned, could be. However, there is something off about Vince and Laura cannot seem to put a finger on it. When things begin going horribly wrong, Laura begins to wonder if she could be the root of all the problems.

The Killer’s Wife (with Max DiLallo)

Detective Andrew McGrath works in the small community of San Luis Obispo, normally quite the bucolic town. However, the disappearance of four teenage girls has rocked the community and left everyone feeling panicked. There is a suspect, local high school vice-principal Michael Pierson, though McGrath cannot act without some concrete evidence. When McGrath and his partner find Pierson luring another teenage girl into his car and catch him as the girl’s drugged body is being dumped, they are sure this is the break they need. Working some background, McGrath connects with Pierson’s wife, Ellen. She is adamant that her husband must be innocent, though McGrath is working the angle, hoping to uncover irrefutable evidence that will ensure this serial killer is put away. McGrath and Ellen soon develop a protective relationship, as she shields her from the press. It is only then that things take a turn and McGrath is able to understand a little more about what is going on, and how they will solve this case.

We. Are. Not. Alone. (with Tom Arnold)

Dr. Robert Barnett may be a washed-up astrophysicist, but he thinks that he’s stumbled onto something. Using some of his own personal technology, Barnett feels that he has recorded communications from out in space, thus proving not only that there is life amongst the stars, but that these beings wish to communicate with Earth. Little does he know, but Barnett may have stumbled upon something with National Security ramifications and he’s now being sought for questioning. Dodging officials at every turn, Barnett must ensure these recorded communications are made public, while government officials seek to detain him and obtain the recordings for themselves, citing a larger security situation. Meanwhile, someone is on a mission of their own, which could drastically change the dynamics of things in the blink of an eye.

As with many of Patterson’s short stories, they can be strong in their delivery or fall miserably flat. The collaborators in this case have helped buoy the stories and created strong pieces that will pull the readers in from the beginning. Both DiLallo pieces pose prologues that offer ‘flash forward’ reveals, though it is how the story arrives there that makes all the differences. Arnold’s piece fell flat for me, which can happen sometimes, even when riding a reading high. Call it a disinterest in space stories or the general lack of thrills, but I was left speeding my way through it, promising myself that I would read and review the collection. With characters who develop across the quick-paced narratives, these stories leave little time for character development, though there is a strong theme of connection between those who grace the pages. Patterson’s overarching theme in this collection would have to be deception, something that finds its way through each of the pieces and leaves the reader wondering what waits around each corner. Wonderfully crafted and delivered, James Patterson has chosen well with this stellar collection of three BookShots. One can hope there are more to come of this caliber.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson, DiLallo, and Arnold, as well as Madam DiLallo. What a great collection of stories to keep the reader occupied for a short time.

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:

Target: Alex Cross (Alex Cross #26), by James Patterson

Seven stars

In the craziness that is James Patterson’s massive collection of collaborative efforts, it is hard to find something that truly has the ‘Patterson flavour’ any longer. While he has shuffled many of his series and one-off novels to others, the Alex Cross novels remain solely his, allowing fans to see where he has taken his longest-serving protagonist over two decades. In this novel, Alex Cross and the rest of the country are stunned by the death of the President of the United States, an event that resonates, no matter one’s political leanings. As the country seeks to brush itself off, Washington is stunned by a new set of murders, including one of a sitting US senator. Alex is pulled in to work the case by the FBI, which forces him to keep his wife, Chief of Detectives Bree Stone, away from the action. As they work, the case seems somewhat open and shut, with a suspect all but pointing to where they committed the crime. Then, things take a definite turn. Multiple murders of several high-ranking officials lead Cross and the FBI to feel that there might be an international threat to the United States. It’s no longer a criminal they seek, but a country ready to do whatever it takes to weaken America. With nuclear weapons on hand, this could quickly escalate into a war from which no one will walk away unscathed. Patterson does well to amp up the action as Alex Cross continues to entertain, in his twenty-sixth novel. Recommended to series fans and those who want to ride the wave of international meddling in American affairs.

It is becoming harder for me to find myself hooked on James Patterson series of late. While I have come to really enjoy some of his long-running collections, they begin to get a little stale or outlive their run. Alex Cross has always been a stalwart for me, something on which I can rely. While the characters age, Alex never lets that dilute his work on crimes or his passion for family. Still, one must begin to wonder if there is a time and place to let him hang up the cuffs and enjoy those around him. I began to feel that way about this book, as things have become somewhat stagnant. The crime is surely out of this world—well, country—but I was left wondering if things simply have run out for Alex Cross and if he needs to let someone else take over. Cross is a remarkable man and his character is second to none, though I think it is not him that is so bothersome, but some of the corny interactions he has with patients and his own family that has me soured. Great kids, lovely wife, and a funny grandmother, but it’s just a little too hokey in the dialogue. I’d never want Patterson to wipe them out, for that his the Cross foundation and all that keeps him sane. Still, they tend to grate on my nerves, which spills over to creating an animosity for me as I read. The premise of the story is great and could really have worked well. I think it needed some more grit, something deeper and more intense. There are some wonderful political and criminal elements in the story that I would love to see in a series (or one-off) that can dedicate time to this sort of political thriller, but Patterson’s use of short chapters and hokey family sub-plots were not for me. An easy read and I will always keep Patterson around for that, but could it be that Alex Cross novels are falling victim to James Patterson Syndrome? Might they be selling for the name on the cover and not the quality of the writing? We can at least applaud him for a wonderful cliffhanger ending!

Kudos, Mr. Patterson, for keeping Alex Cross going. I know I can be tough, but I think it’s fair game when you are so established and basking in fortune

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:

Juror #3, By James Patterson and Nancy Allen

Eight stars

James Patterson collaborates with Nancy Allen to bring readers an exciting legal piece that will keep the questions coming until the final pages. Ruby Bozarth is a recent grad of Ole Miss Law School and has a desire to save the world. Hanging her shingle in a small town, she is used to defending misdemeanours and the like, most of which are simple cases. However, when a judge earmarks her to become the attorney of a local murder suspect, Ruby discovers that the law can be quite the beast. Darrien Summers is a waiter at the local country club and is summoned to a back room by text. When he arrives, he discovers the dead body of the woman he has secretly been seeing. What makes this scandalous in Mississippi is not that she is married, but that Summers is black and the victim is white. Cutting her teeth on all that is a murder defence, Ruby ends up working alongside the aunt of her former fiancé, a man she still cannot stomach having loved. While picking a jury, Ruby comes across a potential juror who seems to be acting very oddly. However, he makes it onto the panel and soon is captivated by the evidence in the Darrien Summers trial. Working her magic, Ruby inserts some doubt and hopes that she can win. However, something odd happens in the middle of the trial, involving that same Juror #3, which turns the case on its head. While Ruby tries to come to terms with the outcome, her aforementioned former flame finds himself in his own legal hot water and Ruby is thrust into her second major case in a year. Will she find a passion for the work of a criminal defence attorney or is this just one hell of a ride? Recommended for those who enjoy some of Patterson’s better collaborations and need a quick read to pass the time.

I quite enjoyed this one-off by Patterson and Allen, which worked well and seemed to get better with each passing chapter. Ruby Bozarth is that young lawyer who is as wet behind the ears as they come. However, her gumption and determination to do what is right seems to open a path towards a successful legal strategy. She trips and stumbles, but is always looking to better herself, rather than be the pompous woman that feels she can do no wrong. With a little backstory and much development throughout, the reader will likely grow to admire this Mississippi girl and all her quirks. The secondary characters work well, no matter their role in the piece, to pave the way towards an entertaining legal thriller that has a few twists few would expect. While not entirely traditional Patterson—super short chapters with a cliffhanger at each page turn—the story works well and the reader can remain engaged. Allen is to be applauded for keeping the story from turning into anything tepid, as I have found Patterson collaborations usually hinge on the second author to make or break the piece. What I did find interesting, though I debated keeping it out and allowing others to decide for themselves, is that this book almost acts as two BookShots in one—that clever Patterson project of short story writing—as the first case is completely divorced from the second, with that mystery juror firmly rooted in the early case. I waited and pondered why these two stories were pressed together, though I suppose others can chime in and offer their insights, after they have read the piece.

Kudos, Mr. Patterson and Madam Allen, for an entertaining read. I hope you will work together again soon.

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

Revenge, by James Patterson and Andrew Holmes

Eight stars

In a standalone thriller, James Patterson collaborates with Andrew Holmes to create a high-impact story that does not rest until the final sentence. David Shelley is ex-SAS with a penchant for always finishing what he starts. Years ago, he was working as personal security for a rich family when they were set upon by kidnappers. While the attempt was foiled, Shelley could not fathom how close they came and left the position in a cloud of shame. Fourteen years on, he fields a call that his former child protectee, Emma Drake, has committed suicide. Worse still, her life took a turn and she found heroin and starred in online pornography. While high and preparing for a ‘peep show’, she pulled out a gun and offed herself live. Now, her father, Guy Drake, wants to hunt down those who led his daughter down such a path and has asked Shelley to assist. While it looks to be a simple retribution strike, Shelley soon learns that there is more than meets the eye. The group behind Emma’s demise is not your typical rag-tag set of men trying to make a quid on vulnerable women, though there is no stopping Guy from getting his pound of flesh. In a story that goes from sorrow to cutthroat revenge, Shelley finds himself in the middle and must protect himself to stay one step ahead, as the bodies pile up! Patterson and Holmes have crafted a wonderful piece that will keep the reader wanting more and staying up to finish the piece in a single sitting. Recommended for those who like a well-plotted thriller that has all the elements of bloody revenge.

It’s always a hit and miss where Patterson’s name appears on the cover. Many will know my ‘Patterson Syndrome’ rant, and if you don’t, ask me personally. This book seems to break that tradition, as it utilises a one-off situation to craft a wonderful collection of characters, all of whom do well to fit themselves into place and develop a strong thriller. David Shelley proves to be a wonderful protagonist, with a rich backstory and connection to the victim, without being bogged down in excessive amounts of sympathy. He knows what has to be done and completes the task, injecting some conscience into the matter at hand to protect the larger group. His rough and tumble nature connects him to the reader, as does his sensible ways and ability to see the larger picture. The handful of other important characters serve as cogs in the wheel to push the story to new heights, keeping the action high and the twists coming. The banter, both in dialogue and flying bullets, allows the reader to find something they can take away from the piece, keeping them entertained throughout. The story is well developed and does not lose its momentum. A tale of revenge and the blinders a rich man puts on, not seeing the results of his actions, while dropping into a den of vipers. Patterson and Holmes keep the story moving, aided with the traditional shorter chapters that propel the narrative forward. While I cannot see this being anything but a single piece, there are crumbs left for the reader to wonder if David Shelley is set to make his return. Perhaps a BookShot would do well, as we have already seen Shelley in that capacity.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Holmes, for a great story. I enjoy your collaborative efforts and hope they will continue.

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

Liar, Liar (Harriet Blue #3), by James Patterson and Candice Fox

Eight stars

The collaborative efforts of James Patterson and Candice Fox have brought about another winner in this third instalment of the Harriet Blue series. Picking up the action when the previous novel ended, the reader is thrust into a fast-paced crime thriller that has as many twists as it does lingering questions. With the revelation that Regan Banks is the actual Georges River Killer, it is time to capture Australia’s most elusive serial killer in short order. While Harriet ‘Harry’ Blue has always professed that her brother, Sam, is innocent, it was only after he was murdered behind bars and the evidence came to light that anyone believed her. With Banks on the lam, Blue has taken it upon herself to find him alone and put a bullet in his head in an act of vigilante justice, while lurking in the shadows and away from her colleagues. With the Task Force turning its attention to finding Banks, they must also worry about Blue, hoping she will resurface and let the authorities bring the killer in to answer for his crimes. With Banks in hiding, he is able to ascertain Blue’s personnel file, which includes much of her backstory from a life in foster care. Reaching out to Blue, Banks takes her around southern Australia to different locations of people important to her, leaving bodies as a calling card. Meanwhile, Blue’s friend and fellow cop, Edward Whittacker, has been given a new partner as they hunt down the likes of Banks. Vada Reskit is a rookie detective with a great deal of gumption, perfect to help with the investigation, though there is something about her that leaves Whittacker a little concerned. As the case pushes forward and the Sydney Police turn Blue into a criminal on the run, there is little hope for a peaceful resolution to all of this. While Banks and Blue continue their game of cat and mouse, all that remains sure is that there will only be one survivor and a lot of blood. Patterson and Fox continue this successful partnership, crafting a series that has all the elements of a good crime thriller. Perfect for series fans and those who love a crime novel they will be able to devour in short order, as they revel in an ending that no one could have expected.

In my long reading career, I have spent much time with the books of James Patterson. Some will know that I have a love/hate relationship with the author, who would appear to use his name to sell books, rather than focussing on quality (the James Patterson Syndrome). While that may be the case, Patterson does collaborate with a number of authors who seem to have a strong ability to create quality work, thereby showing that not all pieces that bear the Patterson name need be duds. Candice Fox is one such author, who is a well-established author in her own right that I have come to read and enjoy. As Patterson continues to churn out novels faster than I do reviews, those involving Fox should not be lumped with many sub-par pieces of writing. Those familiar with this series will know all about Harriet Blue and her dedication to clear her brother’s name, as well as bring the actual killer to justice. Her backstory is riddled with emotional land mines from a life in foster care, which is handled effectively so as to draw the reader closer to her, always wondering if there are new pieces that might better explain the protagonist’s life. This novel turns the focus of Blue’s character development to finding Banks and ensuring he receives the punishment he has coming to him. The reader will likely enjoy the rollercoaster of emotions Blue exhibits as she tries to stay off the radar of authorities while turning this search into a vendetta fuelled by personal injustice. Banks is another character who has taken some of the spotlight, showing off what may have driven him to kill so freely and without a second thought. The reader can, should they choose, find crumbs of compassion for the man, though he is crafted as a wonderful antagonist and one that can be hated with ease. A handful of others shape the story as it turns from a manhunt into a desperate search for a cop who has lost her ability to think rationally. This gripping storyline will keep the reader flipping the pages of each short chapter and likely polishing off the novel in short order. Patterson has kept the cliffhanger formula to drive the reader to push onwards while Fox’s Australian influence can be seen throughout the plot. Well worth the time invested, though it should not take a reader with a gap of time in their schedule long to complete this intense thriller.

Kudos, Mr. Patterson and Madam Fox, for keeping this series moving. How a BookShot (short story) could have morphed into such a series, I could not have predicted from the outset. I hope your collaborative work continues.

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:

The Doctor’s Plot: A BookShot, by James Patterson and Connor Hyde

Eight stars

Stumbling across this new BookShot within the recently released Murder in Paradise collection, James Patterson is collaborating with Connor Hyde to come up with this spine-tingling story. Abi Brenner is excited to have been hired as a new medical examiner in the Napa Valley. A Wisconsin farm girl, Abi and her husband, Jeremy, are trying to settle in to the California lifestyle and the pile of cases left by the previous M.E. who died in a freak accident. As soon as she begins working, Abi discovers some oddities in a handful of the bodies awaiting her analysis, all of whom died in a similar manner. Meanwhile, working at a local free clinic, Jeremy also finds himself surrounded by inexplicable happenings that he cannot simply consider coincidental. When Abi begins to poke around, she soon runs up against a wall, but will not turn away until she has answers. There’s something not right going on and she needs to raise a warning flag to those in a position of authority. Abi also has something she needs to tell Jeremy, but is not sure if she’ll have the time before someone tries to silence her for good. Patterson and Hyde have crafted a wonderful short story that will keep the reader guessing until the final sentence. Perfect for those who love Patterson BookShots, particularly of the medical and criminal variety.

This is the first collaborative effort to my knowledge between James Patterson and Connor Hyde, but I hope it will not be their last. The authors seem to have a great literary chemistry, whatever their contractual obligation might be related to this piece. Abi Brenner is a great character and she has some real pizzazz, mixing medical practitioner with all-around sleuth. She may be young, but she holds her own in this piece, keeping it light and yet poignant throughout. Because of his role in the piece, I will also call Jeremy an essential piece of the puzzle and give him protagonist accolades, developing his own narrative to propel the story in a few interesting directions. The handful of secondary characters offer an interesting glimpse into the sinister side to whatever is going on (read to find out) and keeps the reader wondering how large this web of deceit might go. The story itself is strong enough to keep my attention while also entertain me in the short space on offer to do so. It’s a BookShot, but not simply slapped together to fill space. Patterson and Hyde have invested some research and used the short-chapter trademark style that keeps BookShots crisp and interesting for the dedicated reader. I’ll gladly read another collaborative effort, should these two work together in the coming months or years.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Hyde, for an interesting piece. Glad I took the time to check out this BookShot collection, as this story was sandwiched between two I had read before.

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

Texas Ranger, by James Patterson and Aaron Bourelle

Six stars

In another of his endless collaborations, James Patterson has called on Aaron Bourelle to work alongside him on this standalone novel. Part murder mystery, part protagonist self-discovery, this piece takes the reader down to the heart of Texas. Rory Yates is part of the elite Texas Rangers, one of only two hundred in the entire state. Best known for his quick draw capabilities, Yates has found himself in a few situations of shooting first and asking questions later. After one such event, he takes a call from his ex-wife, Anne, who’s been getting creepy messages and items left on her property. Yates makes his way across the state to check on her, only to find her dead body. Yates is soon cleared as a suspect, but has an idea who might be responsible and pushes the local police to investigate. While he may be a Ranger, this is one case that Rory Yates will not be welcome to join, officially. Back in his hometown and trying to chase down leads, Yates reconnects with his family and some of his former sweethearts, all of whom help stir up scores of emotions and memories from his time as a child and being married to Anne. With a killer on the loose, Yates cannot let his past cloud the present, even if it means turning down new love, or rekindling a past flame. When another person close to Yates turn up dead, stalked in the same manner, Yates is sure the killer has him in the crosshairs and will do whatever it takes, legal or not, to end this. Patterson and Bourelle have an interesting one-off novel here that seeks to pull the reader in from the outset. Perfect for those who have travel plans or need some beach reading. Patterson collaborations always fill a gap between substantive reads and this one is decent enough to recommend without hesitation.

I have come to realise that while many see the name James Patterson and flock to the book, I tend to give it a second thought, having been on the rollercoaster ride that is the Patterson Express. One can never know what to expect, particularly with one-off novels. That said, Bourelle has made a name for himself with some stronger collaborative efforts—Patterson’s BookShots—and so I trust something of a higher caliber when I see their joint efforts. This story worked well and kept me reading, which says a lot when it comes to the massive pile of books I have to read. Rory Yates is an interesting protagonist, by no means unique, but the spin put on this rough exterior cop is one that kept me intrigued throughout. I was not sure how Patterson and Bourelle might have approached him, but they did well to offer a hard-nosed man who demands respect with a soft side when it comes to those he loves. Yates has that ‘nothing will stop me’ mentality, perfect for a stubborn cop, though does not reek of ‘redneck traditionalism’, should such a stereotype deserve a formal label. The handful of other characters who influence Yates’ progress in the novel serve to eke out interesting tidbits about the protagonist and his backstory without taking the reader down too many rabbit holes and losing momentum throughout the narrative. The story is surely interesting, as it gives the reader a glimpse into how a cop might handle a murder investigation of someone close to them, though keeps a unique angle as the narrative progresses by tossing sub-plots related to self-discovery throughout. With little time to waste, the authors push forward and force the reader to juggle both types of storyline simultaneously. Using Patterson’s trademark short chapters full of cliffhangers, the story never has a chance to slow and the resolution comes crashing through the gates in the closing pages, with that lingering wonder throughout who might be responsible. My rating has nothing to do with the quality of the book, but more that I want to be blown out of the water, as Patterson has been known to do on the rare occasion. A decent story, but I would not offer up a ‘stellar’ label at this point.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Bourelle, for your ongoing collaborative work. I can see wonderful things within these pages and hope you’ll find more time to write in the coming months and years.

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

The President is Missing, by Bill Clinton and James Patterson

Eight stars

James Patterson has entered into his most interesting collaboration yet, taking second chair to former American president Bill Clinton in a story that is highly political and action packed from the opening paragraph through to the epilogue’s lingering final sentence. President Jonathan Duncan finds himself in the middle of a congressional witch hunt. The former military hero has stories about outlasting Iraqi torturers, but when it comes to an opposition Congress, he’s forced to accept an attack on all sides. The issue working to protect the Sons of Jihad, a known terrorist organisation, and its leader, Suliman Cindoruk. Duncan denies the allegations and has tried using Executive Privilege in regards to what happened, but the committee will hear none of it. Rumours begin that impeachment may be the only answer, though Duncan refuses to discuss what he knows with anyone, particularly with the television cameras glaring in his direction. Back in the Oval Office, Duncan receives a call from his daughter about a highly confusing encounter she had in France when she was approached by a mysterious woman. The First Daughter was asked to pass along the urgency that this woman meet with POTUS, uttering a highly classified code word to cement her seriousness. This word is one known only to the top echelon of the National Security Team, leaving POTUS to wonder who’s been leaking classified information. Duncan meets with this woman, who outlines a story about a potential cyber attack on America. Whisked away from the public eye, Duncan learns more about the attack how deadly it could be to the nation as a whole. Remaining off the radar, POTUS is presumed missing while the rest of the world tries to make sense of what is going on. With only a handful of people aware of the imminent attack, the clueless vice-president must wait to see what steps she might need to take and the country seeks answers. With a country unaware of this cyber-attack and their president nowhere to be found, it is only a matter of time before someone will have to take the reins of power. That play could have dire consequences without the full picture. How long will POTUS remain missing and what’s being done to address this terror event? And what of this sly assassin, code named Bach, who seems to have a mission all her own? Clinton and Patterson deliver a sensational thriller full of twists and political insider knowledge. It’s sure to impress many and might leave some wondering if they ought to try some of Patterson’s newer work. Recommended for thriller buffs, particularly those who enjoy something with a political and terror twist.

This is surely not your typical James Patterson novel, leading me to wonder just how much influence the former president had in its writing. In a book full of insider knowledge of the American political system, Clinton and Patterson weave a story that has all the essential ingredients to be a top-notch thriller that will keep the reader engaged for hours as they push through to the climactic ending. The story is full of wonderful character development, particularly Jonathan Duncan, whose victories and foibles are documented in equal measure. Clinton and Patterson have also created a number of highly-intriguing characters that serve to entertain the reader, some more likeable than others. Told in a four narrator style, the authors weave a story that is told from various perspectives, which only enriches the overall delivery. There are many aspects of the book that will intrigue a large cross-section of the reading population, which can only help to ensure its success. I found myself enthralled by the political narrative, but also the well-paced action and terrorism as it progresses. The book is a mix of Patterson’s short cliffhanger chapters and longer (mainstream?) chapters that pull the reader in and develop a theme quite effectively. One can only presume that this is Clinton’s doing, wanting to flesh-out some of the political perspectives that cannot be packaged into three pages. There are even digs at the current administration with long-winded speeches about re-inventing America, a country lost over the last number of years. A strong effort with some apparent ghost writing by David Ellis, another of Patterson’s collaborators, this is not a book to miss and could be one of the better travel reads of the next few months. One can hope that Patterson and Clinton will collaborate again, for this surely ups the ante when it comes to novels bearing the former’s name on the cover.

Kudos, President Clinton and Mr. Patterson, for a great novel. I was hooked from the start and can see how well you two appear to work together. Please say that there is more to come.

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

Private Princess (Private #14), by James Patterson and Rees Jones

Seven stars

James Patterson has returned for another collaborative effort with Rees Jones to add to the ever-expanding Private series. This novel, like many of the others, takes readers around the world and into a high-stakes game of sleuthing and action, with an international twist. Jack Morgan, head of Private, the international investigation service, is back in London. This trip is anything but a chance to sightsee or make one of his random check-ins with the local offices, for he has been summoned by Princess Caroline, third in line for the British Throne. After being hurriedly whisked off to her residence, Morgan meets with the royal, who explains that a dear friend of hers has gone missing, a woman with a wild streak and great tabloid fodder. Never one to turn down a challenge, Morgan begins his investigation, sure there is more to the story than the princess is willing to tell. While doing so, Morgan engages with the head of Private: London, Peter Knight. It would seem Knight is on a case to explore an apparent suicide of a well-to-do gentleman whose daughter wants to keep scandal from the tabloids. When Knight and Morgan compare notes, they realise that there is more to each of their cases than meets the eye. Joining efforts, some semblance of closure can be found, but there remains an overarching mystery whose narrative remains a leaden weight for both men and their cases. Morgan’s trip across the Pond has also allowed him to attempt a revisiting of an old flame, though time has all but extinguished those possibilities. When an old foe from a past U.K. case resurfaces with deadly intentions, Morgan cannot simply leave. He is invested and soon has malice pulsing through his veins. Jack Morgan and the entire Private: London enterprise are on this new mission, refusing to back off until all is right again. Trouble is, Jack Morgan’s luck may have finally run its course. An interesting addition to the series, returning to a British locale. Jones and Patterson spin a decent tale, sure to be of interest to those seeking a beach or travel read, but also worthy of those who have followed Private through its long series run.

Having long been a fan of Patterson and followed this Private series over the years, I can say with some confidence, that this was a decent addition to the series. Patterson and Jones have returned to a familiar spot, using characters seen before, and extrapolating on some of the plots left to dangle during a previous novel and short story. Jack Morgan, the ever-present character that finds himself in all Private-based stories surely plays more of a central role here, offering the reader a further glimpse into his past and some of the grit that makes him a worthy addition to each series piece. More focus on the likes of Peter Knight and some of the other local Private folks is also refreshing for the series fan, as some will be able to pull on past skirmishes and character development. The story is by no means phenomenal, but it follows a decent Private layout, playing out with at least two cases running parallel and eventually merging. Morgan’s personal story here proves to be a third plot, though it, too, seems to have some ties to the early cases, something the attentive reader will notice. While I cannot say Private is one of Patterson’s premier series, it is one that can be enjoyed if read independently or as an entire collection. Rees Jones should be applauded for helping keep the story on task and relevant, as well as stronger than some of the past pieces in this series. I’ll surely keep my eyes peeled for more when they are released.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Jones, for a great effort. While I cannot admit to being mesmerised, I enjoy this lighter reading material.

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

Red Alert (NYPD Red #5), by James Patterson and Marshall Karp

Eight stars

Working to continue their successful series, James Patterson and Marshall Karp return with a fifth novel in the NYPD Red series. The premise of NYPD Red is to protect or investigate the city’s most elite, offering a protective barrier from the masses. Detectives Zach Jordan and Kylie MacDonald are well versed with the job and have seen almost everything the city has to offer. While serving as part of the mayor’s security detail, Jordan and MacDonald witness a bomb explode at a fundraiser, killing one man and sending shrapnel all over. Working with few leads and at a significant disadvantage, Jordan and MacDonald try to find answers where none exist. As they are headed home, awaiting some of the evidence to be processed, the detectives are called to the scene of another potential crime. A high-profile New Yorker known for her kinky sexual interests may have died during auto-erotic asphyxiation, though there are a few indications that the safety measures were not in place and she was murdered. Dog-tired and unable to piece anything together, Jordan and MacDonald agree to meet after a few hours’ rest, when they can think straight. Upon returning somewhat rejuvenated, they learn that wiring at the scene is the trademark of a well-known Aussie bomber who has been locked away in a Thai prison for over a decade. Soon another bomb explodes and all hell breaks loose. While Jordan and MacDonald try to make sense of it all, their ‘sensual’ case gains legs when a video surfaces involving the victim and a respected judge with a request for blackmail money. The judge seems not to care, proud that he’s been caught on tape but NYPD Red cannot let this go without some action. A bumbling attempt to pay the random and trap the killer goes wrong, but there is little time to waste, as a new lead sends Jordan and MacDonald to the other side of the world for some interviews they never thought possible. With two key crimes on their plate and the mayor screaming for closure on both cases, NYPD Red will so whatever it takes to up their solve rate, even if it costs them their jobs. Patterson and Karp are brilliant in their delivery and series fans will surely love this story that does not let up until the final page.

I have long been a fan of the series and feel this is one that Patterson has done well over the last few years. The delivery is both succinct and detailed at the same time, keeping the reader engaged and guessing as the cases unfold. As always our protagonist detectives offer up their witty repartee while also finding themselves in the middle of some personal development. The platonic and sexual tension builds throughout and keeps the reader wondering if something will happen and both sides will finally acknowledge what has been brewing for so long (and was in place for a while). The secondary characters keep the crimes charged and permit the reader to see the cases develop in unique ways, allowing the story to ebb and flow as needed. Newer crimes and unique presentations keep the story from going stale. Patterson’s trademark short chapters allows the reader to push through this piece in short order, keeping them entertained without being too fanciful. Karp does well in the collaboration and the reader can surely hope for more in the coming years by these two, who have a wonderful series that continues to gain momentum.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Karp, for another great addition to the series. I hope to see more in the series soon, which seemed to take a hiatus for a while.

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

All-American Murder: The Rise and Fall of Aaron Hernandez, the Superstar Whose Life Ended on Murders’ Row, by James Patterson, Alex Abramovich, and Mike Harvkey

Eight stars

Capitalising on some ‘pulled from the headlines’ impetus, James Patterson collaborates with Alex Abramovich and Mike Harvkey to bring readers into the troubled life of former NFL star Aaron Hernandez, exploring his rise to fame before he stumbled and crashed into a legal quagmire that would eventually lead to his suicide in 2017. While football may not have been the first thing people considered when mentioning Connecticut, anyone who had heard of Aaron Hernandez might feel differently. A powerhouse in high school, Hernandez excelled both on the field and along the basketball court. His phenomenal rise to fame saw college scouts attending many of his games, hoping to secure his talents with lucrative financial offers. However, Hernandez was not all about football in his small community. Both he and members of his family had ties to gangs and drug dealers, something that Hernandez used to his advantage throughout his high school career. After graduating at seventeen, Hernandez made the leap to college ball, choosing the University of Florida over local UConn, where he obtained an early taste of stardom. He could walk around town and be noticed, receiving freebies at every turn. Additionally, he could waltz into clubs and be the centre of attention, though this might sometimes lead to a flair in that Puerto Rican temper for which he was so well known back home. After numerous dust-ups and shady ties to local dealers, Hernandez began to subsist in a life away from football, where guns, weed, and other illicit items crossed his path on a daily basis. Still, as a star player, some of his failed drug tests were swept under the rug so that Hernandez could remain on the field. When it was time for the NFL Draft, Hernandez went in a later round, much to his dismay, but was chosen by the illustrious New England Patriots, a team on the verge of creating a dynastic powerhouse. His playing days were filled with receptions and his star continued to rise, still being protected by the team. However, Hernandez began to run in some very troubling circles, dodging being fingered at brawls and shootings by mere minutes. When a disagreement with an acquaintance went too far and the man lay dead from gunshot wounds, Henandez ended up with literal blood all over his hands and tried to play it cool, only to lead police to his doorstep. In a shocking revelation, the sports world was abuzz when Aaron Hernandez was arrested for murder, forcing the NFL and Patriots to rush in the other direction, their attempt to disassociate with him at soon as possible. Hernandez left evidence at the scene and created a tepid alibi soon dispelled by the prosecutor. Stunned, football fans watched as Hernandez went to trial for over two months before a verdict came in. From there, the spiral down seemed never-ending, with an abyss awaiting him, his future forever tarnished. While the NFL had dealt with many errant active players, the Aaron Hernandez situation might have been its largest stain to date. The authors run with this story and have created a wonderful read, easy for anyone with a passing interest to digest. Less the traditional Patterson fare, but still highly entertaining and a great filler read.

I have noticed that Patterson has been busy as he branches out in many directions of late, tapping into the world of non-fictional crime to broaden his horizons. Working alongside Alex Abramovich—a collaborator on some of his BookShot short pieces—and Mike Harvkey, Patterson brings to life this second famous individual who found a life of crime too tempting to leave on the shelf. Aaron Hernandez is the central character, obviously, and his rise to fame is shown effectively in the early parts of the book, as this young phenom gets an early taste of the limelight. His play on the field could not be discounted, even if individuals knew all about his extra-curricular activities. However, this quick intoxication and seeming ‘untouchable’ status is shown as the book progresses, allowing the reader to revel in the continues foibles. The authors illustrate this on numerous occasions as the reader can see red flags popping up throughout. The narrative builds effectively, offering the reader more detail with each chapter—short, in the Patterson style—and culminates in Hernandez’s personal realisation that he had lost it all, though the epilogue does open a new set of questions. The writing style is effective in a non-fiction sense and keeps the reader wanting more, without getting too outlandish. There are a significant number of facts layered throughout, though the pile is not overwhelming and permits the reader to digest it all. The impact of this helps push the story through to the end, attempting to secure the reader’s belief that Hernandez was guilty and deserved his incarceration. Unfortunately, in a way, there are many superstars whose lives could be detailed in such a book, leaving me to hope that Patterson will find more to publish in the years to come.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson, Abramovich, and Harvkey. This was an wonderfully entertaining piece and I hope more collaborations will permit readers to see other cases like this receiving their time in the spotlight.

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

The 17th Suspect (Women’s Murder Club #17) by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

Eight stars

A longtime fan of the Women’s Murder Club series, I was pleased to get my hands on its seventeenth instalment. James Patterson and Maxine Paetro have been able to keep the momentum up throughout the years and keep the reader highly entertained. When ADA Yuki Castellano learns that a man is seeking to press charges of rape against his female superior, she’s intrigued and ready to take it to the Grand Jury. Believing that she can make the case, Yuki puts all her efforts into selling it, hoping to dispel the stigma that surrounds sexual assaults with male victims, while bringing justice to someone who feels violated. Meanwhile, on her way to the office, Sergeant Lindsay Boxer encounters a homeless woman who shares a disturbing tale; other transient people have been gunned down over the past month and the police are doing nothing. Boxer begins to look into this, only to discover that two homicide detectives appear to be dragging their feet due to the less than upstanding nature of the victims. Boxer is prepared to go to war and will stop at nothing, even when it dredges up old family politics. When Yuki heads to trial with the rape charge, she is left wondering if she made the right choice, as the evidence begins to muddy the original narrative, though she is not ready to give up just yet. Boxer seeks justice for the homeless, even as the killer lurks in the shadows and has developed a personal vendetta against her. With Lindsay and Yuki both facing personal issues of their own, they cannot let their home lives cloud the cases before them, for these are women who refuse to be victims. Patterson and Paetro deliver a wonderful addition to the series and keep fans quite impressed with the annual gift of another thriller. Recommended to those who enjoy the Women’s Murder Club, as well as readers looking for something light and entertaining.

While this series has been developing for years, it has not lost its lustre. Fans will enjoy having seen the foursome who dub themselves the ‘Murder Club’ grow and develop on their own. Patterson and Paetro not only keep their characters fresh, but also the crimes that fill the pages of each book, taking an interesting spin on events in San Francisco. Lindsay Boxer is, as always, the central character in the series and her dedication to the badge is never in question. She shoots from the hip and gets to the core of the matter, while always having something going on in her personal life to show the reader that she’s human as well. More personal development and a few spikes to keep her character interesting occur throughout, though the reader may be seeking a real shake-up before too long. Yuki Castellano moves to the forefront here, showing her legal skills and trying to impress not only her boss but the others in the Club. While usually a hardworking wallflower, Yuki has made a name for herself and keeps the reader hoping that she will succeed, even when things do not appear to be going her way. Some personal life struggles keep her from being the confident woman her friends know is within her, but it is surely within her grasp, given time. The story was decent and just what one might expect in a Women’s Murder Club piece. Two narratives running parallel that keep the reader entertained and the characters busy, helps pass the time, without taxing the brain too much. Incremental personal epiphanies help shape the central characters and have allowed the authors to keep stacking on new angles with each passing novel. Those familiar with the series (and Patterson) will be pleased to see those short, cliffhanger chapters that propel the story forward and keep the reader wanting to indulge in just a little more. Pleasantly, this is one series that Patterson has not allowed to go stale, with fresh ideas and a great collaborator working alongside him. One can only hope that as the novel count mounts, the stories will remain just as exciting.

Kudos, Mr. Patterson and Madame Paetro, as you dazzle with yet another collaborative success. I am eager to see what else you have in store for us, Club or BookShot related.

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

The Store, by James Patterson and Richard DiLallo

Seven stars

James Patterson and Richard DiLallo have collaborated on another piece that shines a light on the potential monopoly that could become the world with a turn towards mega-stores in the coming years. Jacob Brandeis and his family live in the ever-moving world of New York City. He’s a struggling writer, seeking to bring home the bacon with whatever small job he can score, but Jacob wants more. He has seen much of his life changed by The Store, a mega-facility that sells anything from fertiliser to chocolate, books to motor oil, and everything in between. With brick and mortar shops unable to compete, they struggle to stay afloat, as America has taken to turning to the mega-store and away from personal shopping. As The Store makes its presence stronger, Jacob and his wife decide to take the plunge and get inside the machine, if only to better understand what it’s all about. Accepting work with The Store in New Burg, Nebraska, Jacob takes his family and is soon witness to just how far-reaching his new employer can be. New Burg is a mix of Orwell’s 1984–complete with surveillance cameras and listening devices—and some Stepford community, where neighbours are devoid of emotion and want to help with everything. Jacob has come to see that The Store seeks to control all aspects and become the solution for the entire population. Not buying into the hype, Jacob begins to pen his own book about the truth behind the curtain, but is fully aware that getting the message out will be difficult, since The Store handles all book publishing too. Sacrificing his personal safety and that of his family, Jacob tries to make his way back to NYC, where an editor friend of his might be able to get the message out. Trouble is, even with a manuscript, how receptive with the public be to something Anti-Store? Patterson and DiLallo keep the reader thinking in this mid-length novel that keeps the questions piling up and forces a degree of self-reflection. Those who enjoy Patterson’s work may like this one, though it does not have the thrill or mystery aspect that I find suits him so well.

Having recently completed a piece about the importance of physical books, I entered this reading experience ready to see some similar themes. Patterson and DiLallo have worked together before and do some amazing work at not only entertaining the reader, but selling their ideas. While not an attempt to push readers (and the public) away from mega-store shopping, it does poke fun at what might be the over-Amazoning that has begun in the world. What was once a place for books can now provide the best condoms at a cheap price (and with drone shipping *flashing sign*). It keeps the reader thinking, if only for a moment, about how this all came about. Jacob Brandeis is an interesting enough character, though he does seem to have a generic sense to him; that man who is always fighting The Man in order to shed light on some evil. Still, the interactions and dialogue he has with both his family and friends helps pave the way to better understand those who are not entirely sold by point and click shopping. Some of the Stepford characters are just that, mindless drone-like beings who serve their jobs and likely go home for their meal pill before turning in for bed. But I think the authors were not looking for strong character connection, but rather a keen interest in the theme of this story. The book sells the idea of emasculating the shopping and owning experience, almost a communist collective where everything is in one store (and all clothes are beige), without pounding too hard into the psyche of the reader. Subtle approaches prove effective here and the authors do well to make their point, without dragging the reader to the trough. I enjoy this quick read and think it would make for an interesting morning filler, though is by no means one to be placed atop any pedestal.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and DiLallo, as you have made a wonderful point here and sold me on the concept. Now then, to do some real-life shopping.

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

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:

Home Sweet Murder (True-Crime Thrillers, Volume #2), by James Patterson, Aaron Bourelle, and Scott Slaven

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 is again expanding his horizons. Now that he has secured television rights to a murder-based true-crime show, Patterson has also spun some of the tales into shorter stories, much like his BookShots. While I have been on an intense BookShot binge, I thought that I would include at least the first two volume in my binge read, as they are short enough to be defined as BookShots, though they are best called ‘fictionalised pieces of true crime’. These stories will capture the reader’s attention, more so because they actually happened, with anonymity peppered into the narrative to protect the victims. 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.

Home Sweet Murder (with Andrew Bourelle)

Leo Fisher and his wife, Sue, are enjoying a quiet Sunday evening when someone rings the doorbell. Unsure who it might be, Leo makes his way to the door and discovers a man who claims to be an SEC agent, seeking urgent information about Leo’s law firm. Baffled, Leo tries to deflect the man’s inquiries, but is soon assaulted. The as-yet unknown man holds Leo and Sue hostage, seeking information about the firm and any improprieties that might be associated with their business. Leo remains baffled, but this only fuels the intruder, who soon learns that he will have to take significant action to remedy the perceived lack of information sharing. In minor flashbacks, the reader learns that Leo may know something he’s not yet shared, even with Sue, but could this be enough to justify the attack? Events take a significant turn for the worse, leaving Leo and Sue to wonder if they will make it through the night. Patterson and Bourelle create this wonderful story that is paced so effectively as to lure the reader into the middle of this dastardly crime.

Murder on the Run (with Scott Slaven )

When a housekeeper and young boy are found slain, the owner of the house, a respectable Omaha doctor, is beside himself. Who could have wanted to break into his home and commit these two murders, particularly of his eleven year-old son? Homicide Detective Derek Mois agrees to do everything in his power to find the killer, no matter what it takes. There is no apparent motive and limited leads. Fast forward five years and the killer seems to have struck again, targeting a doctor and his wife. Now, Mois is armed with some parallels and acts on them. Could the medical angle be something that draws these two cases together? Following his gut and evidence surrounding the two families, Mois finds himself heading to Indiana to pull the pieces together. What he discovers is an interesting story that fuels a deep-seeded need for revenge. Patterson and Slaven are wonderful at pulling together this high-octane thriller that will keep the reader guessing until the final pages.

Both of these stories fit perfectly into this second volume, providing as much suspense and action as the initial collection. Murder is a varied crime, but glaring errors by perpetrators can sometimes unite them, as well entertain those who are away from events and reading, as in this collection. The central 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 extremely well and all characters serve a great purpose, accentuating the numerous perspectives 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 happy to have devoured the first two volumes in this series (and will read more when they come out), though I will not hunt down the television program, as I like Patterson in small doses.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson, Bourelle, and Slaven. Your stories kept me hooked on this new series and have me wanting more. Perfectly crafted for a short spell of reading, much like many of the short stories collaborations Patterson has undertaken.

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

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:

The Moores are Missing (A BookShot Collection), by James Patterson, Loren D. Estleman, Sam Hawken, and Ed Chatterton

Nine stars

BookShots remain a wonderful way to spend a few hours, especially when bundling a number of them together to spend a day and 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 an amateur detective thriller to a quasi-police procedural, and ending with a longer manhunt story, James Patterson and his collaborators show the distinct advantage of BookShot reading.

The Moores are Missing, with Loren D. Estleman

After paying an impromptu visit to his neighbours, Ray Gillet discovers that they are nowhere to be found. Additional snooping leaves Gillet with the distinct impression that this was not as innocent a departure by the Moores as some would believe. Cell phones left behind, scrubbed, and no contact with others in town. After approaching the Chief of Police, Gillet is visited by a Federal Marshal, who tells of an attempt to pull the Moores into Wit Sec as they report on corrupt business practices that Kevin Moore has noticed. Unsure if he can sit and wait, Gillet approaches a friend, whose cyber-sleuthing provides a few leads, which eventually point up to Saskatchewan, on the Canadian Prairies. Armed with his travel documents, Gillet begins a trip north of the border, where he hopes to find more than snow and a bunch of grizzlies. If he’s lucky, he can locate the Moores before someone else ensures they go missing permanently. A wonderful collaborative effort between Patterson and Estleman, this will keep the reader hooked (and smirking at the pokes to Canada) throughout.

The Housewife, with Sam Hawken

Maggie Denning has had quite the life change in the past two years. Once the Chief of Detectives, with her biological clock ticking, she left the force to have twins and is now a homemaker. Her husband, Karl, is a rising star in the Homicide Division, once her underling and now living the dream. While out with her girls, Maggie meets a woman who’s just returning from a night on the town. Trouble is, the next day she turns up dead, having been murdered. Maggie, ever the sleuth, cannot heed Karl’s request to stay away from the investigation and begins poking around. Soon, another woman, also a homemaker, ends up dead, but only after Maggie spies her in a compromising situation. Could there be a group of housewives who are servicing one another’s husbands and turning up dead? Maggie reveals what she knows and Karl jumps on this, sure that it might be the big break the investigation needs. However, Maggie soon learns that there is a deeper and more sinister side to things, one that may open a Pandora’s Box of lies. Can the community handle it and is she next on the list, to keep her quiet? Patterson and Hawken weave quite the story with this piece as the reader is pushed into the centre of a middle-class escort ring.

Absolute Zero, with Ed Chatterton

Cody Thurston is seeking a quieter life, working at a pub in London, where he also lives. When a dust-up with some thugs one night goes sour, Thurston tries to keep his temper in order. This former Australian Special Forces Member has a few tricks up his sleeve and is not afraid to use them. Seeking revenge, this group of thugs takes everything Thurston has and frames him for a significant crime. Fuelled to set the record straight, Thurston begins a series of events that serve to restore balance. However, these men do not play by the rules, nor are their business ventures above board. In a journey that sees him remaining under the radar across two continents, Cody Thurston will not stop until he’s finished his own personal mission, even if it kills him. Patterson and Chatterton offer up this highly explosive and most intense of the BookShot stories, which will surely entertain those who take the time to read it.

All three of these stories were the perfect fit for a collection, as they explore different aspects of criminal activity and keep the reader hooked from the opening paragraphs. The key characters found throughout offer up unique perspectives when faced with legal matters, sometimes creating their own rule book, while seeking to set the record straight. 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 crime and the various legal 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. Proof positive that there are some stunning BookShot collaborations to be had.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson, Estleman, Hawken and Chatterton, 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:

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:

Kill and Tell, by James Patterson and Scott Slaven

Eight stars

In a BookShot that has a ‘pulled from the headlines’ feel, James Patterson and Scott Slaven offer the reader something with twists throughout. While on his way back from Australia, first-rate movie director Wayne Tennet learns that his step-daughter has just gone public, accusing him of molesting her. Panic setting in, Tennet calls for his PR firm to begin the spin as they get to the bottom of this disaster. There’s no way that he could have done this and Tennet is suspects he knows who is orchestrating this, seeking to bring him down for some unknown reason. While Tennet tries to hide himself away, his PR agent handles the narrative from hereon in, which includes feeding the media just enough without admitting to anything. When a young reporter makes her break covering this story, things begin to heat-up, before Tennet appears to cave to the pressure of everything that’s been going on. With numerous players involved in this circus, everyone is providing their own version of events. Is Wayne Tennet a child molester or has he been used to help elongate the news cycle on this flamboyant story? It’s not until the final twist that the reader will learn the truth, though there’s no way anyone saw it coming. Patterson and Slaven redeem themselves after a somewhat less than stunning previous piece that I read. BookShot fans and those who enjoy something that speaks to the current Hollywood blame game situation will surely enjoy this piece.

Patterson and Slaven work well together and have some interesting ideas to keep their BookShot collaborations moving smoothly. While many men have had their careers crippled by recent allegations, it is interesting to get behind the scenes and see how these two writers depict the process. Wayne Tennet seems to be less than central character, but his actions cannot be removed from the limelight, making the careers of others at his own expense. It is the story that leaves an indelible mark, impossible to take back after its come out, that propels the secondary characters to race around and do their thing. The story explores all aspects to the allegation and how, honestly, new stars are born as soon as accusations hit the news cycle. Whether they are true seems secondary and retracting them, well, the stain cannot be removed. Patterson and Slaven provide an interesting story here, which is worth sticking with, even though it gets slow and somewhat dramatic. In the end, it’s the message that resonates with the reader, leaving them to judge innocence once and for all!

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Slaven, for a great story that plays with the mind and forces the reader to filter through what is being spoon-fed on a regular basis. I look forward to seeing what else you two have in store for readers in the coming months.

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

Steeplechase, by James Patterson and Scott Slaven

Seven stars

Returning for another collaboration, James Patterson and Scott Slaven have created this historical BookShot that will keep the reader guessing as time switches between two distinct periods. Steeplechase Park draws large crowds to Coney Island, even as far back as 1907. With the most exciting and innovative rides, crowds rush to enjoy their time and take in the atmosphere. Katie Silver has helped design much of the layout, unheard of at that time, though her reputation precedes her. Flashing forward to 2017, Silver wakes from what must be a very strange dream, as she can vividly remember herself on the grounds of Steeplechase one hundred and ten years before. As Head of Security, Silver has a lot of responsibility to keep the crowds under control and the patrons safe. However, a series of ‘accidents’ over the past few weeks has Silver wondering if she will soon have a job. As the story alternates between both times, Silver finds herself in the middle of a plot to take control of Steeplechase Park and wrestle it away from its current owners. Gangsters and low-lifes have plans that not even Silver can stop. Confused about these dreams and their meanings, Katie Silver must stop something from happening in the past so that it does not ruin things for her 2017 self. Patterson and Slaven have their work cut out for them in this piece, as they try to sell the reader on this piece of historical fiction. Some will surely enjoy it for its mysterious meandering, but I could not get a firm grasp of the story or characters depicting it.

Patterson and Slaven have taken things in an interesting direction with this piece. While I may not be the story’s largest fan, that is not to say that it was horrible by any sense of the word. I enjoy stories that transcend a single time period, but I felt I may have missed some nuances that could have helped strengthen this piece for me. Katie Silver was certain the glue that held this story together, though my missing something surely kept me from being able to enjoy either incarnation of her or the larger place she played in the story. Her dual roles surely provide both a beacon and foreshadowing for what is to come. Complemented throughout by two sets of secondary characters, Patterson and Slaven have helped to create a distinct narrative that tells of this amusement park and some of the tragic happenings that befall it over a century apart. The story seems decent and the delivery is strong, but I feel as though I missed something in receiving it, though it is entirely possible that I simply did not pay close enough attention. I have another BookShot with this duo to read and can only hope that we’re all on the same page with that one, before I pass judgement too harshly.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Slaven, for an interesting premise. I hope you find many fans who adore this, as it has potential.

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

Dead Man Running, by James Patterson and Christopher Farnsworth

Eight stars

In this political thriller, James Patterson and Christopher Farnsworth team up to create a high-impact BookShot story to entertain the reader for a few hours. Dr. Randall Beck enjoys his work as a psychiatrist, helping some of the most stressed out people who are keen to save the world. When a new client enters his office, Beck senses that there is something especially troubling going on. As the client departs, he is gunned down on the sidewalk, uttering a single word to Beck before he expires. Beck, uncertain what he ought to do, is soon approached by the Secret Service, though will not reveal anything passed along during patient-doctor exchanges. Beck finds himself placed under arrest for reasons that remain unclear to him, though he gets the feeling there is something he’s not being told. After he is able to escape, he tells his story to a friend and colleague, before trying to communicate with his client’s wife. Things become a massive game of cat and mouse, before Beck is accused of trying to kill the president at an upcoming debate. Now on the run for his life and unsure who he can trust, Beck must hope that the terminal tumour in his brain kills him before a bullet to the back of the head. Explosive in its delivery and quick-paced to keep the reader hooked from the early going, BookShot fans and thriller junkies alike will love this piece.

These are the types of stories I feel BookShots were made to depict. There is so much going on that only the rapid succession of short chapters and cliffhanger moments can truly give the story the justice it deserves. Patterson and Farnsworth pack so much into a short piece that the reader has no time to breathe or even blink. Randall Beck is an interesting character, plucked from his day job and placed in the centre of an assassination plot that has parts of the Secret Service turning on one another. The pace permits the reader to learn nothing of Beck’s backstory, but a little development as he faces death on a few occasions. The secondary characters keep the story moving and pave the way for the explosive finish that is to pass by the final few chapters. The story, by no means unique, is told in a wonderful way to keep things moving and leaving little to the imagination. The reader will love the quick turns, though the bodies pile up as the plot takes unexpected turns. Still, I can only hope there are more BookShots out there that tell of something equally as exciting.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Farsworth, for such a wonderful piece. It buoys my spirits and has me hoping you’ll come back soon to work on another project.

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

You’ve Been Warned—Again, by James Patterson and Derek Nikitas

Seven stars

Back to try another Patterson-Nikitas collaboration, which pushes the BookShot into the realm of the paranormal. That being said, this one was at least palatable. Joanie Whitmore is dreading this Thanksgiving gathering in rural Rhode Island. Her family is quite pretentious and judgemental, just what she wants for her new fiancé, Nate. As they arrive in a storm, Joanie’s fears are soon substantiated, with a cold-shoulder greeting by her father and an equally stiff mother. As the storm gets worse, Joanie and Nate are unsure if now is the time to make their announcement, but with the wedding only a month away, they have little other time, if at all. When a knock comes at the door, a stranger appears, wondering if he might be able to use the phone, as his car’s broken down. Reluctantly, the Whitmores invite him in, only to discover that the phone lines are down, which is soon followed by all the power in the house. As Joanie begins to scour the house, she discovers that its history is anything but uplifting, having been where an entire family met their fate in a murder-suicide. Soon, members of the house begin to follow that same path adding a creepier element. This will surely be one Thanksgiving Joanie Whitmore will never forget, though it may also be one she never survives. Patterson and Nikitas fare well with this piece, though some of the paranormal aspects seem more subdued than one would expect in a short story. A well-crafted piece for those who like the genre and open-minded fans of the BookShot collection.

I admit that my previous attempt with this collaborative team proved to be a disaster of epic proportions. Perhaps it was that the story rang truer as a psychological thriller than completely paranormal, but it might also have something to do with the fact that I was less on edge while reading. Joanie Whitmore’s character serves the story well, pushing it in many directions as her emotions seem to shape the way the narrative turns. There are times of high drama and others of absolute fear, which are usually seen effectively through the filters Joanie presents the reader. While a short piece, the secondary characters and the interactions they have with our protagonist prove key to pushing the narrative away from a simple A to B scenario. From loving fiancé to standoffish father to this mysterious stranger who appears at the door, all of these types of characters pepper the narrative in interesting fashion. The story was fairly strong and the reader can lose themselves in the slow development of the plot, but there comes a time when things take a turn away from the normal and into a realm of pure oddity. Still not my favourite genre of BookShot, but it’s growing on me.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Nikitas, for this better effort. I can see some stronger potential with this and hope you’ll keep working together to hone your skills as a team.

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

Avalanche, by James Patterson and David Inglish

Eight stars

Espionage is always something that BookShots help make even more intense, with the quick changes in the narrative and only a short time to develop the plot. James Patterson works with David Inglish (a relatively new face, to my knowledge, in the BookShot family) on this piece of espionage that occurs in the mountainous region of Switzerland. Dr. Robert Monroe and his wife are on their way to Gstaad to deliver a series of lectures on art. Monroe is well-known for his pre-war painting knowledge and has a reputation for being quite personable. After coming into contact with a mysterious American on his travels, Monroe arrives for the conference at a glamourous hotel, only to be surrounded with others who seem to have an unusual interest in him and his specialised skills. When Mrs. Monroe goes missing, Robert learns that the man they met the night before may have slipped him a USB filled with highly-controversial computer code, pushing him into the middle of an international incident, with his own wife a collateral. Now, many groups have placed a target on Monroe’s back, determined to retrieve the USB and use it for their own nefarious activities. With his focus on trying to find his wife, Monroe learns of a sadistic killer by the name of Pumpkin, who has his wife, but is willing to barter her life for the USB. Thus begins a series of events that pit Monroe against everyone, and all for a bit of code. How could a lowly art history professor become so entangled in this mess? Patterson and Inglish have a wonderfully entertaining story on their hands here, perfect for a snowy day or to pass the time over a few cups of tea. Recommended to all those who enjoy BookShots that delve into the darker world of spies and double-crossing.

Another successful story that kept me hooked until the very last page. Patterson and Inglish seem to have found their niche, developing this story in short order and not letting go. As they layered more within the narrative, the reader can only wonder what will happen and how the ever-increasing cast of characters will play off one another. Robert Monroe is, as the review above suggests, a mere art history professor, but finds himself pulled in the middle of a battle between numerous agencies. He loves his wife, but can surely sense that there is something going on between them. Some of the more sinister characters who grace the pages show a heartless desire to destroy all for their own betterment, no matter the means. While not entirely able to foster a strong connection with the reader, their antics do counterbalance Monroe’s goodness. The story is decent and keeps moving, which is essential in the BookShot formula, permitting the reader to remain in constant movement as they try to decipher what awaits in the coming chapters. A successful premise that is effectively executed against the backdrop of the Swiss Alps.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Inglish, as you have kept your readers entertained. I am eager to see what else you two have in store for readers in the coming months.

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

The Shut-In, by James Patterson and Duane Swierczynski

Eight stars

Just when I thought Patterson would run out of BookShot ideas, he returns for another collaboration with Duane Swierczynski to reveal this timely piece that meshes technology with something from the thriller genre. Tricia Celano is forced to live inside during daylight hours, as she suffers from a rare condition exacerbated by sunlight. Her night phobia has forced her to develop a isolating lifestyle, with her computer the only means of communicating with the outside world. Tricia’s one extravagance is her unmanned drone, which she enjoys flying over the skies of Philadelphia. She uses the camera function to peer down on locals as they go about their business. During one routine drone flight, Tricia witnesses a woman kill an unsuspecting man with an arrow, though no one seems to believe her. Already labelled ‘different’, Tricia faces an uphill battle as she tries to convince the authorities. After a second reconnaissance mission, Tricia runs snack dab into the killer, but the drone is damaged and Tricia’s anonymity is blown. The reader learns that the killer has a major plan and Tricia’s discovery may ruin everything. Tricia has little time and few people in whom she can trust to ensure the body count stops increasing. Being a shut-in, she is not sure where to turn, or who might take up her cause. Patterson and Swierczynski present a wonderful story here and keep the reader enthralled until the very last page. BookShot fans will revel in this, particularly those who like quirky thrillers will no time to slow things down.

My head is spinning with all the BookShot reading that I have been doing, but I have come to enjoy this process. I am learning so much about the writing styles of many authors, as well as the far-reaches of where short stories can take the reader. Tricia Celano is an interesting character and her unique characteristics offer the reader something interesting to explore. Isolated from the outside world, Tricia uses her internet connection and this drone to keep tabs on the ‘real world’, but once she learns of a dastardly plot, she cannot sit idly by. Some of the other characters who cross the pages of this story prove interesting, if only because they are either skeptical or trying to negate her progress. The premise of this piece is great, like the crime with no apparent witnesses caught on screen by an innocent bystander. From there, it’s time to erase any evidence, as well as the witness who could spoil everything. Told in such a way that the reader will never have a chance to rest, Patterson and Swierczynski provide all the elements for a successful story. Proof that you never know what a BookShot has to offer until you get to the core of the story.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Swierczynski, for this entertaining piece. I loved everything about this story and hope you’ll collaborate again soon.

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

Scott Free, by James Patterson and Rob Hart

Eight stars

Just when you think you’ve explored all the interesting angles that BookShots can take, a new collaboration pops up and something exciting coms of it. James Patterson and Rob Hart have developed something intriguing and entertaining here in this aptly-named short story. The story opens on the day Thomas Scott is released from prison after a judge rules his constitutional rights have been violated. After Scott became the prime suspect in the kidnapping and killing of three small children from a daycare at which he works part-time, an overzealous NYPD Detective is found to have illegally entered his apartment to plant evidence. With media broadcasting the news and continuing to lynch him, Scott wants out of the limelight at away from this city. The parents of the three victims are outraged and feel that the loophole has allowed a killer to go free. The detective, while on paid leave, is equally convinced that the constitutional violation was nothing more than a way to cover the truth; that Thomas Scott is a hardened murderer. Prepared for some vigilante justice, these parents want Scott dead once and for all, but they will have to catch him first. Sometimes the truth cannot set you free, if society has already drawn-up the verdict. Patterson and Hart have this masterful piece ready to impress the reader at every page flip. BookShot fans and those who like a little legal drama in their reading will surely appreciate this piece.

It is refreshing to find new pathways of enjoyment with these short stories. Patterson has a vast array of talent helping to create these stories and there’s nothing like a strong collection of writers to entertain dedicated readers. While Thomas Scott may be the central character here, the story switches constantly, allowing a handful of central characters to share the spotlight. The backstory is minimal and the development is mainly focussed on the chase for justice, but there is a better sense of these characters as the story progresses, from their angst to anger and all those points in between. There is certainly a lingering question around which character might know more than they are letting on, though it is up to the reader to forge ahead and piece the mystery together. The story is an interesting concept that grows with each passing chapter. I can say that I loved the varied points of view and the captivating slow reveal as vigilante justice takes hold and common sense melts away. This game of gangland justice shows the reader that truth can sometimes take a backseat, especially when media outlets help fan the flames and take no prisoners (alive!).

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Hart, for this piece. I will certainly revisit your work soon, given the chance. This may be one of the top five BookShots I have tackled in the last year or so!

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

Deadly Cargo, by James Patterson and Will Jordan

Eight stars

Adventure comes in many forms, which is one of the underlying premises of the BookShot collection. There is no ‘cookie cutter’ means of writing one of these short pieces, but it seems important that the action be quick and the adventure climb to warp-speed. When James Patterson teamed up with Will Jordan, they had these two ingredients in mind for a fast-paced tale on the high seas. When a distress call reaches the Casco Cove Coast Guard Station in Alaska, Lieutenant Rick O’Neill and his crew prepare to respond. As they locate the M.V. Ossora in the Bering Sea, O’Neill is slightly baffled. The Ossora, which has seen better days and was likely battling breakers during the Cold War, appears abandoned, her crew nowhere to be found. Still, the US Coast Guard is bound to answer all calls and try to help. It is only when O’Neill leads his crew aboard that things take a definite turn for the worse. This may be a trap, one that the original crew could not have known existed. Now, O’Neill is forced to turn heroic as he discovers the plan these hijackers are trying to enact, hoping that he’s not led the Casco Cove arm of the Coast Guard to their slaughter. With nothing left inside him, O’Neill must muster all his strength to bring his crew home, or die trying. Patterson and Jordan know how to keep the reader enthralled and leave nothing out in this 21st century Cold War showdown. Perfect for BookShot fans who need a little adventure to chill them to the core.

For those who have been following my BookShot month, you’ll know that these are never guaranteed successes. However, everyone once in a while I find myself in the middle of a story that has my attention and will not give up. I am happy to admit that this was one such piece. Rick O’Neill is that perfect struggling protagonist, washed-up and wanting out, only to find his skills needed one final time. Trouble is, with a man this stubborn, he does not know when ‘self’ should come before ‘country’, which leaves the crew in a precarious position. The banter between the Coast Guard and these select hijackers provides the reader with some interesting secondary characters, as well as some essential intensity in the narrative. The story is nothing unique or off the wall, but its delivery is nothing short of stellar, as it paces the release of information against a varied length of chapters. The reader will find themselves in the middle and not wanting to let go, or or relax until the final page has been turned. This is a refreshing read for me, after a few duds left me wondering how I would stomach thirty-one days of this. Thankfully, Will Jordan’s here to keep Patterson on a steady course and I look forward to another collaborative effort.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Jordan, for keeping a battle on the high seas from getting too melodramatic. I am eager to see what else I can find in the BookShot grove to whet my appetite.

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

Diary of a Succubus, by James Patterson and Derek Nikitas

Four stars

Not all BookShots are created equal. Surely, with a huge cast of collaborative authors, James Patterson’s name will be attributed to numerous genres, which will appeal to different reader bases. While I steer clear of certain genres when perusing BookShots (namely, the ‘flames’ series of romances), on this binge month, I am trying to keep my options open and reading a great deal of Patterson’s collaborative efforts. Derek Nikitas crossed my path in this piece, which seems to have more of a supernatural/fantasy flavour to it. As the story opens, the reader learns that the female protagonist is trying to lure a rich and powerful man back to his home and into bed. However, it soon becomes obvious that both are trying to kill the other. After Mark Norman Harper falls to his death, the hunt is on to find the group who are out to kill this collective of succubi, the undead who have had their souls bartered to the other side. For the rest of this painfully confusing piece, Patterson and Nikitas try to hold the reader’s attention with a cat and mouse game between the succubi and the hunters that seek to banish them once and for all. I admit that I was lost early on and could not find myself as I flailed through the piece. Fantasy and supernatural BookShot lovers, unite. The rest of us will have to see if this pair did any better when they plotted the death of Stephen King in another piece of fiction.

Reading should never be painful, nor should be it a chore that pushes the reader into areas of discomfort. Libraries, bookstores, Goodreads, and the internet are all places where the curious reader can take a plunge into most anything they find to their liking and run with it. Not everything will appeal to every reader. I have to remind myself of that sometimes, particularly when my reviewing can cut a little deep to those who have thin skin. However, Nikitas and Patterson surely have a following and for those people, this piece was surely just what they needed. Odd characters with backstories over three hundred years in the making, with both modern and antiquated perspectives to build solid characters. The story, while a dud for me, surely would have met the interest of those who enjoy supernatural phenomena and spirit haunting. I do, but this was just too odd for me and I could not find any literary handholds to keep me from sliding into an abyss of confusion. I cannot hold my nose and score it high for those who loved it, for it is the honest balance of YAH and NAY that makes a review stronger.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Nikitas, for doing your best with this. I’ll try another of your joint pieces (perhaps the aforementioned King murder) before passing final judgement. This was not my thing and I cannot sugarcoat it, but I am sure some will love it. To them, a hearty, ENJOY!

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

Stealing Gulfstreams, by James Patterson and Max DiLallo

Eight stars

Some BookShots leave the reader flying high, while others turn what might be an enjoyable experience into a free fall. Teaming up with Max DiLallo, James Patterson takes to the skies with this quick-paced piece about a man and his passion to uphold a family bond through the joys of flight. After witnessing their father perish in a fiery crash, Jack and Cole Flynn vow to keep his name alive. The elder Flynn was an air racer, perhaps one of the most dangerous activities with two wings. Racing through tracks and obstacles, the pilots put it all on the line every time they enter the cockpit. While Jack would like to say he has been able to make his father proud, that elusive first victory has continued to slip through his fingers. Additionally, the cost of fine-tuning a racing plane is nothing short of highway robbery. So, while he is still visited by memories of his father in the form of nightmares, Jack must turn to the other side of the law and steal private jets to make the money he needs to compete. Approached by a powerful gangster who has the act of fleecing the Flynns down to an art, Jack and Cole agree to steal these planes right out of their hangars. When the FBI starts to poke around, Jack must do all he can to divert their attention, at least until he secures enough to compete and leave the life. Staring down the largest heist yet, Jack and Cole must weight their options before things take a nosedive. Is a father’s legacy worth their incarceration? Patterson and DiLallo do well with this piece, which keeps the story moving and the characters believable. BookShot fans will likely push through this in short order, as it has some enjoyable storylines.

It is nice to see a successful collaboration return and find more success. Patterson and DiLallo have worked together before, producing strong results and keeping fans of the BookShot realm pleased with the end result.The story presents Jack Flynn as an ambitious man who wants to finish a task that his father could not, making him proud all these years later. The reader receives a little of Flynn’s backstory, a witness to his father’s fiery crash, as well as the burning desire to compete himself in one of the most death-defying competitions out there. Forced to sell his pride to the highest bidder, Flynn shows his determination, fuelled by an inner passion that will not let up. Adding a handful of strong secondary characters, the story unfolds and permits the reader to discover the support team that Jack has, as well as the one man who could make or break it for him at any moment. The story keeps the reader hooked for most of the arc, slowing down only in places to offer a change of pace. While not as riveting as some of the other pieces I have read, I am impressed that the story kept things moving so well and allowed the reader to remain in the driver’s seat (holding the yoke?) for the journey.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and DiLallo, for another wonderful collaboration. My BookShot binge is going well and you’ve helped to end the first week on a high note!

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

Nooners, by James Patterson and Tim Arnold

Seven stars

BookShots can be hit or miss, forcing the reader to have a stiff upper lip when they come across something that does not work for them. While James Patterson and Tim Arnold have a somewhat entertaining piece here, I failed to be pulled in or sense anything captivating about which I could laud their work. Tim MacGhee is a hardworking ad man in New York’s cutthroat industry. He’s seen his fair share of success over the last decade, but at times, there must be room for growth. MacGhee has been entertaining a move to a rival firm, one that has the one thing he desires, ultimate control. However, for the time being, this former Marine must bide his time and wait for everything to fall into place. On his way into work one morning, MacGhee learns that one of his colleagues has been murdered, shot in the back of the head. The worry that pervades the office is too much and Tim heads home to his patient wife. When two more people with ties to the ad firm turn up dead, MacGhee begins to worry, more before he also saw them within hours of their deaths. Might someone be trying to send a message with these murders? MacGhee is nothing, if not entirely helpful with the authorities, revealing some of the water cooler gossip that might point to a suspect. However, with all the stress that he has on his plate, should MacGhee not be worried that he could be in the killer’s crosshairs? Patterson and Arnold offer an interesting story here, which may appeal to some readers. However, I found it lacked the needed level of suspense.

My month of BookShot binge reading has truly been a gamble. Some stories pull me in from the opening pages, while others fail to assert their literary grip on me. In this piece, Patterson and Arnold try to take readers into the exciting life of ad executives, focussing attention on Tim MacGhee. This protagonist does have some backstory on offer, as well as a little character development, which gives the reader a little better understanding about where he situates himself in the larger narrative. However, I found him to be lukewarm at best, which surely took away from the story’s delivery The secondary characters support the story as well, though I found myself equally as divorced from their key characteristics. The story, interesting on paper, seemed to lack the necessary impetus to keep things engaging. A murder should not only have a central character exploring his own life, but provide strong pacing and intrigue, with the murderer on the loose. Patterson and Arnold have the kernel of a decent story here, though its delivery left me less than satisfied.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Arnold, for this unique piece. While it did little for me, one can hope that others will see something worth their time.

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

Stingrays, by James Patterson and Duane Swierczynski

Seven stars

James Patterson and Duane Swierczynski team up for this interesting BookShot that explores a crime during a party weekend in the Caribbean. When the Stingrays are hired to explore the murder of Paige Ryerson, they must use all their grit and determination to bring the killer to justice. Killed in the Turks and Caicos, Ryerson was partying with some friends and simply disappeared. When Matthew Quinn and his Stingrays arrive, many of the players involved in the party scene that Ryerson frequented have reason to want her dead. The various Stingrays sift through the evidence and point fingers, though some of these leads turn cold as soon as they’re explored. From a corrupt cop to a playboy with a yacht, and even the captain of the sea-faring vessel, many people recount their various tales of seeing Paige Ryerson, but all promise that she was alive and well. It’s a race to get the answers, and someone’s holding out. With time ticking away, Quinn and his team must make a move and trap the killer, before they get away with the ultimate crime. Patterson and Swierczynski create this interesting piece that is sure to keep the reader intrigued as they speed through the story. Not my favourite BookShot, but this one had potential.

As with any short stories, BookShots can be hit and miss, interesting some readers while others raise their eyebrows and move on. I was not disheartened by this piece, but did not feel the connection to it that many others may feel, which only goes to show that my unique interests differ from those of other BookShot lovers. The characters were not all that intriguing to me, though they surely did offer some interesting insight into a cross-section of the population. Presenting a handful of potential murderers, the authors let the reader see some of the interesting parts about their lives. Same goes for the Stingrays, all of whom bring something to the table that might interest the reader, given the proper inclination. The story was nothing special for me, which I feel might relate to the fact that I could not connect to the Stingrays. Had I felt more of a connection to the sleuths, I might have found something in their tracking down a killer and become more invested in the story. It was not horrible, though I am not sure I’d race out to read another BookShot of the same premise. Patterson and Swierczynski provide the reader with some interesting aspects in this story, though I did not find myself enamoured. Perhaps it has to do with my not feeling my greatest, but I could not connect with this piece on any level.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Swierczynski, for a decent piece of writing. While I am not hooked, that is not to say that others will not enjoy what you had to offer.

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:

The Exile, by James Patterson and Alison Joseph

Seven stars

One advantage to James Patterson’s use of collaborators is that he is able to present stories set all around the world, permitting the reader to experience new authors and locales to pique their interest. In this BookShot, Patterson brings Alison Joseph on board and shifts the focus to rural Ireland. While living in London, Finn O’Grady receives a panicked call from Bridie O’Connor, a friend from back in Galway. She explains that the old tale of the Green Man has merit, as her son saw him the night before. Out of her mind, Bridie will not accept no for an answer, pushing Finn to cross the Irish Sea to offer his assistance. While he wants to help, Finn is hesitant to return to Ireland, having been chased away when he served on the police force. The narrative explores the case that ended Finn’s police career, the rape and murder of Bridie’s teenage sister. Finn sought to crack the case wide open, disbelieving that the man who admitted to the crime was actually guilty. Trying to shake the stigma, Finn turns his attention to Bridie’s concerns around the Green Man. Well aware that the tale is simply folklore, crafted by Bridie’s grandfather many years ago, he seeks to show this to Bridie, who refuses to listen. When members of her family are found murdered, Bridie renews her feeling that the tale holds a degree of truth. Forced to cross paths with old enemies and the police chief who banished him, Finn tried to rectify that lingering case, while dispelling the Green Man tale. A killer is surely on the loose, though no one can quite be sure who it is or why to resurrect the myth. An interesting BookShot for those who enjoy the international experience, though it did not have the punch I sought to find it thoroughly enjoyable.

I am a fan of Ireland and was hoping to envelop myself in this wonderful story when I learned of its setting. There was something within the reading experience that left me less than drawn to the story or its characters, though I cannot put my finger on the specific issue. Patterson and Joseph create a strong character in Finn O’Grady, offering up significant backstory and present character development in this short piece. Finn struggles with trying to find truth in a community where lore and secrets prove a stronger reality. Having struggled with trying to find justice for Bridie and her family, Finn returns and wants to set the record straight. The story offers a number of secondary characters to help to prop-up this flashback-filled piece, though I was left slightly more confused and irritated than pleased with all the names that crossed the page. It was as though Patterson and Joseph wanted to bite off more than they could chew in this short story, forcing the reader to juggle names, places, and crimes in short order. The story was decent, filled with Gaelic phrases and hinting at some of the mystery that Ireland has always given me, though the true cultural sentiment was not as strong as I might have liked. I sought something with fewer threads to tie-off and more small-town feel to it. This story seemed to be all about past grievances and a character stain that Finn O’Grady wants to scrub away, with short chapters that created a jilted narrative. This may be one time that Patterson’s trademark writing style did not work for him. I applaud Patterson and Joseph for trying hard to tap into this fictional experiment and can see some strong foundations for a decent story, though I was just not feeling it. Call it my first let-down in this month of BookShot reading.

Kudos, Mr. Patterson and Madam Joseph, as you sought to push BookShots into the Irish countryside. Alas, I am not sure if a few pints of Guinness and a re-read would make the story any better for me.

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

The Dolls, by James Patterson and Kecia Bal

Eight stars

One of the interesting aspects to the BookShot collection is the vast array of topics that emerge from the various author combinations, serving up a little something for every reader to enjoy. Working alongside MasterClass Co-Author Competition Winner, Kecia Bal, James Patterson presents this story that is as eerie as it is futuristic. After working the crime desk in Chicago for a decade, journalist Lana Wallace arrives in Boston to work the business section and sharpen her mind in a new environ. However, as she arrives, a millionaire has been found murdered in his home, which turns the attention away from anything as mundane as the business pages. Still, Lana tries to use her crime beat past and mesh it alongside her her role to explore the business dealings of the recent victim, the second rich businessman to have been killed in recent days. What Lana finds out shocks her and leaves her gasping for air. CEO of PrydeTek, Eric Blake, was in the market to create life-like dolls that replicate humans in every way; from their physical appearance to the feel of their skin, and even their mannerisms. Labelled ‘robot companions’, these pieces of artificial intelligence can do whatever their owner desires and yet give the appearance of being entirely life-like. One of the darker sides to the PrydeTek discovery is the submissiveness of these robots, such that they are completely compliant in every way. As Lana tries to wrap her head around the sexual nature of these creations, she pokes around to find out just how realistic these robots seem to be for their owners. Discovering one such robot, Lana engages ‘Sandra’ in conversation and learns of her desire to leave the home, where she has been ordered to stay, but is programmed to remember a negative thought process from a past attempt to enter the outside world. After learning the extent of the horrible treatment of these robots, Lana discovers that a third body has turned up, yet another businessman. When a loose-lipped detective releases some poignant commentary on key pieces of evidence, Lana begins to see a larger and more disturbing picture, forced to act before it is too late. Patterson and Bal do a wonderful job presenting this 21st century piece of social commentary rolled into a thriller of sorts. BookShot fans with open minds will surely enjoy this piece, which differs from anything I have read to date.

As I have said before, it is refreshing to see new talent grace the pages of the BookShot collection. To learn that Kecia Bal earned this spot after a rigorous competition is even more exciting.Together, she and Patterson have crafted a piece that pushes the envelope, but also provides much needed insight into the world that is developing before us, even if things get a little personal and graphic at times. Lana Wallace proves to be an interesting protagonist, with her sleuthing capabilities and attempts to reinvent herself. The reader is not fully capable of engaging in a complete backstory with so little time to explore the story, but the authors do an effective job keeping the reader curious and always on their toes. Adding a number of strong (or, at least, quirky) secondary characters keeps the story moving forward and provides the reader some time to think, particularly when the dialogue and subject matter move away from traditional artificial intelligence discussions. The story itself is quite engaging, more for the eerie nature and twists embedded in the narrative, sure to keep readers talking for some time to come. I felt the story was the perfect length for a BookShot and one can hope these two will return to present more pieces of such high quality.

Kudos, Mr. Patterson and Madam Bal, for developing such interesting topics of discussion in this short story. Perhaps one of the better BookShots I have read, as it kept me thinking until the very last page.

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

Manhunt (Michael Bennett #10.5), by James Patterson and James O. Born

Eight stars

While BookShots can be a real gamble, it’s sure money when James Patterson and James O. Born team up and offer a new instalment to the Michael Bennett series. As is their annual tradition, the Bennetts are preparing for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Eager to secure a decent spot, they leave before dawn and take in all the festivities along the streets of New York. When, during the middle of the parade, Detective Bennett notices a vehicle crashing through the parade route, he arms himself for the worst. After crashing into one of the floats and pressing a detonator switch, the driver utters a baffling Arabic phrase and rushes off while mayhem ensues. Bennett leaps into action and chases down the driver, whose powerful fighting skills see him escape the clutches of the NYPD’s finest. For his heroics, Bennett is loaned to the FBI Taskforce to determine who the driver might be and what motive might explain this recent terrorist attack. Paired with Russian Embassy official, Darya Kuznetsova, Bennett is baffled as to why the Feds are utilising foreign countries to handle this investigation. After studying some of the tape from the event, its determined that the driver hails from Kazakhstan and has ties to Russia, though seems to have been turned by an Islamic terror cell for reasons yet unknown. Bennett and Kuznetsova seek to learn a little more about the man and how he might have masterminded this attack, as well as whether there is more to come. Bennett will not let up as long as the terrorist is on the loose, even if that means bending the rules set out for him. Bennett learns a little more about the driver and is baffled to learn some key information that might better explain what happened along the parade route. Might there be more to the story than meets the eye? With the Feds itching for answers and the Russian Mob on the hunt, Bennett must rush before everything disappears into a puff of smoke. Patterson and Born do a masterful job and show just how powerful a BookShot can be in the right hands. Lovers of these short stories and Michael Bennett fans alike will surely find much to enjoy in this.

Just as I have said that James Patterson ought to stick to a few key series (Michael Bennett being one of them), I also feel that there are a handful of collaborators who bring out the best in this super-rich author. James O. Born is one of those men, who has started to help steer the Michael Bennett series towards renewed success. Born is also wonderful in his BookShot submissions, dazzling the reader with high quality and succinct writing, which Patterson surely enjoys in whatever capacity he has. Tying in nicely to the previous full-length novel, the Bennetts are out in full force for Thanksgiving. Michael Bennett is, as always, a powerful character and receives a peppering of backstory here, though the number of past novels and the brevity of this piece do not leave much time for thorough expansion. The use of Darya Kuznetsova proves an interesting addition to the story, which works on many levels to add a new flavour to the over-utilised terrorist theme prevalent in the genre. Some of the twists these two discover only add to an already intense narrative, pushing the story along at breakneck speeds. The number of secondary characters also complement the story’s direction without weighing it down and forcing the reader to synthesise too much. The story is exciting and allows the reader to discover a new angle in the War on Terror, while also flirting with some of the new revelations about the former Cold War nemesis. Paced well with short chapters and just enough for an afternoon of reading, this Michael Bennett piece delivers in all the right ways!

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Born, for another superior collaboration. I can only hope that you have more lined up for BookShot fans in the coming months.

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

The Lifeguard Lawyer, by James Patterson and Doug Allyn

Seven stars

In an attempt to try something different, I’ve decided to open 2018 with a month of BookShots (or as many as I can handle until I go mad), those short stories thrillers that James Patterson began overseeing a few years ago. With piles of them at my disposal and more coming out each day, there is never a lack of them to pique my interest. Adding Doug Allyn to the mix will allow me to start the year with a new collaboration team and hopefully lead to many new and wonderful discoveries. Brian Lord has returned to his childhood community of Port Vale, where he is hiding from a recent traumatic event. It has only been a few days since his fiancée was blown up in a car bombing and Lord is one of the prime suspects. A former Assistant District Attorney, Lord is now working on the other side of the aisle, defending clients who surely have checkered pasts. After a heroic rescue at the beach, where Lord briefly returns to playing the role of his teenage job as a lifeguard, he is no longer able to hide from the spotlight and must answer questions surrounding the fatal explosion. Might one of Lord’s past clients have had a beef with his work, or seek to quiet a snitch from proceeding with their case? After being terminated for conduct deemed problematic with his current firm, Lord is out on his own, still with a handful of clients that no one else wants to touch.He’s happy to work with the authorities to find the person responsible for the bombing, but must also protect some of his own clients, both from self-incrimination and sleazy former spouses. In the meantime, Lord seeks to return to his job as a lifeguard, tired of the three-piece suits that muzzled him for so long. There, he meets an old friend and they take quite the walk down memory lane, revisiting unfinished business. Now, it is time for Lord to find the bomber before he, too, is killed, forever silencing this maverick legal mind. Patterson and Allyn craft a decent story that entertains for the duration of the piece. BookShot fans can praise this as one of the better stories in the ever-growing collection that seems to have no end. Hey, at least I will have fodder for the entire month!

I have a love/hate relationship with James Patterson and these Bookshots, though this does seem to be a decent piece of work, which allows Allyn to shine. The premise is good and the piece seems to flow effectively, based on the large number of characters who add their own flavour to the narrative. Brian Lord receives a decent backstory, as well as some redeeming characteristics as the story progresses, which allows the reader to build a bond with him throughout. He is not, however, the world’s more endearing lawyer, nor does he come across as one that I would want to read about for a full-length piece. Patterson and Allyn develop him just enough to forge a connection and pepper in some interesting secondary characters to keep the story interesting. Forcing Lord to process his feeling for his decently deceased fiancée alongside a teenage love interest allows the reader to see some of his more vulnerable aspects, though there is little time to truly tap into his sentiments for either woman. The array of other characters are interesting and serve their purpose, though I am not seeking anything too detailed or to have them grace the pages of another BookShot. The story in general has some strengths, as Lord wrestles with his life and work, while also trying to synthesise the recent bombing. Things move along effectively, and come to a head as Lord must make a decision about his life, with a lukewarm epiphany on which the reader can grasp. The story served its purpose and was entertaining, which is surely the premise of all BookShots, even those who test the waters ahead of new Patterson series.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Allyn, for presenting this well-developed piece I would read more of your collaborative work in BookShot form and will keep my eyes open for anything coming down the pipeline.

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

Private Gold (Private #13.5), by James Patterson and Jassy Mackenzie

Eight stars

I have always enjoyed the quick reading I can accomplish with the BookShot collection, developed a few years ago by James Patterson. What had me even more excited was to see that Patterson chose Jassy Mackenzie to help expand his series, tapping into another aspect of the Private collection with this accomplished South African author. With Private Johannesburg circling the drain, there is little for Joey Montague to do but close up shop after his partner’s untimely suicide. When Joey receives a call from Isobel Collins, seeking to hire Private to act as a bodyguard, he cannot decline, especially since this poor American has decided to situate herself in the roughest neighbourhood in the city. Joey rushes to meet her and they appear to hit it off immediately, though someone is lurking in the shadows, their eyes firmly focussed on Isobel. Joey soon learns that Isobel is in possession of a set of coordinates that have her truly baffled, though she is sure it ties into something having to do with her husband’s business. They trek out of town, heading in the direction of an abandoned gold mine, long since decommissioned by the government. What they discover there shocks them, both in its bone-chilling reality and potential monetary value. It also goes to substantiate something that Isobel has been wondering, based on other figures she and a friend have intercepted. Before they can alert the authorities, the shadowy figure strikes and nothing is guaranteed. Might Joey’s partner have a message from beyond the grave? Patterson and Mackenzie have shown that they are a force with whom to be reckoned as the Private series expands onto new continents. Fans of Bookshots and the Private collection may appreciate this a great deal, though anyone wanting a quick thrill ride may also find it well worth their time.

I have a love/hate relationship with James Patterson, though I can respect that he is also saddled with many writing projects, pairing up with countless co-authors. The BookShots are always hit and miss stories, for I find that it is a delicate writing chemistry that will either produce something I highly enjoy or a piece that falls flat. Jassy Mackenzie has never let me down and I am so happy to see that James Patterson took a gamble to work alongside her. The characters in this piece have little time to develop themselves, but what is offered up permits the reader to lay a solid foundation. The reader can attach themselves to Joey and Isobel with ease, as well as the less savoury person lurking in the shadows, whose mission is quite clear. The premise of the piece is also quite good and I hope to see more by this pair, as the narrative flowed well and utilised the short chapter formula that has worked so well for Patterson in the past. As this was a BookShot, developing the South African flavour was not possible and those who are not familiar with the geographic region will not be able to feel its richness in such a short time. I can only hope that readers will look into Jassy Mackenzie as a solo author and discover this wonderfully unique setting, or that Patterson will return and perhaps allow Mackenzie to utilise her skills in a full-length novel alongside his tight framework.

Kudos, Mr. Patterson and Madam Mackenzie, for such a wonderfully written short piece. I enjoyed it and would surely love to see you both team up together once again in the near future.

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

Filthy Rich, by James Patterson, John Connelly, and Tim Malloy

Eight stars

Needing a book to help fill a small gap before the end of the year, I turned to this James Patterson piece that has been collecting dust on my TBR shelf for a while. Patterson does not usually delve into non-fiction, but when he does, the reader can expect something of high quality (which surely begs the question, why does he torture his fiction fans with tepid writing at times?). He has teamed up here with two other authors, John Connelly and Tim Malloy, to add further depth and impact to the already troubling narrative. The brief dust cover commentary left me with some idea of what to expect as I looked into the life of Jeffrey Epstein, particularly his criminal behaviour, though nothing could have prepared me for the salacious nature of Epstein’s crimes or how money seems to have paved the way to his receiving a light slap on the wrist. Patterson et al. present the Epstein situation as one where a billionaire is able to use his financial holdings and penchant for young girls to fuel his own sexual gratification. Epstein employed an assistant and a few ‘scouts’ to bring other teenage girls (14-17) to his home in Florida, where they were told to offer him massages, clad sometimes in a pair of panties and, at other times, nothing at all. Epstein knew the girls’ ages, though he made it perfectly clear that he did not care. Sometimes a massage turned into sexual gratification for Epstein, as detailed on numerous occasions, with an outlandish recounting of events. While the police built a case and used some early girls to report on his actions, the lewd behaviour seemed to continue, where the girls were paid from $100-300, depending on what they were asked to do. Epstein seemed to be aware of the mounting case, but did not stop or seek to alter his approach. When the police acted and the Federal Government pressed charges, Epstein was able to call in favours and use his clout to defy all legal precedent, entering a plea and receiving minimal jail time (and the time he did spend was a joke). From there, the book explores the man, his far-reaching connections, and how being associated with him ruined some people. It is baffling to see this book progress, as the reader’s stomach will likely turn with each passing chapter. Wonderfully presented for such a horrid situation, it allows the reader to see that money can buy freedom and how the rich can be completely clueless about the laws the commoner must follow. I cannot think of a group of people who would ‘like’ this book, but it is a well-crafted piece that will surely blow the mind of many, without taking too long to devour its contents.

My interest in James Patterson is tepid at best, but this book has surely shown why I can sometimes applaud this author. Patterson use of Connelly and Malloy to craft this book, helping it flow and deliver a razor-sharp punch, complete with short chapters and a ‘to the point’ narrative for which Patterson is so famous. Patterson et al. push the reader into the middle of his horrific mess of sexual assault, child prostitution, and lewd pleasure-seeking, through a series of recreated interviews and conversations with victims of Epstein’s behaviour. What might be most stunning about the presentation of the book is that the victims tried to distance themselves from the acts, or even downplayed them. This emerges throughout the early part of the book, which pulls the reader in and forces them to want to know more, as if there is an addiction of sorts at play. The reader must know what happened (even if they remember the tabloid reporting) and how it all came crashing down. Interestingly enough, Patterson et al. make a point of showing that the normal course of justice seems to have been bastardised and Jeffrey Epstein was handled with kid gloves throughout. Even the required jail time left much to be desired. The evidence was there, the victims seemingly had lots to say about what happened to them, but high-priced lawyers and some glaring gaps in the legal system seem to have permitted Epstein to waltz through unscathed. This story is not one that even Patterson could dream up as he churns out pieces faster than most readers can type a review. Perfectly titled for its hideous abuse of the legal system, this book shows how money does talk and the laws are only for those who cannot circumvent them, even when children are being abused and the perpetrator does not deny it. Pardon me, as I need to vomit now that I have done my reviewing duty.

Kudos Messrs. Patterson, Connelly and Malloy. You’ve shed light on this horrendous collection of events and shown that even the likes of Donald Trump had enough sense to steer away from this man. If that doesn’t prove how awful Epstein is, nothing will!

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

The People vs. Alex Cross (Alex Cross #25), by James Patterson

Seven stars

After an apparent snafu with all the Alex Cross and BookShot releases to confuse many fans of the series, Patterson attempts to set things back on track with this much-anticipated novel. Alex Cross is on trial for two counts of first degree murder, stemming from an apparent unjustified shooting of a number of Gary Soneji lookalikes (see BookShot ‘Cross Kill’, eventually labelled properly as Alex Cross 24.4). However, he has been able to stay out of jail for the time being and is serving a suspension, allowing Cross to open a temporary private counselling practice. News hits the DC Police that blondes are being kidnapped, their photos eventually posted on the dark web, sometimes in apparent snuff films. Cross becomes personally involved when a patient comes to him, seeking help to locate his daughter, whom he feels may still be alive. Working under the radar, Cross learns more about the case and begins following up leads, much to the chagrin of his wife and Chief of Ds, Bree Stone. With the trial set to open, Cross is confident that he will be able to tell the truth and go free, but previously uncovered videos of the event prove highly damning, to the point that Cross begins to doubt himself. However, there are those within the Cross clan that will stop at nothing to prove Alex innocent and there has to be something within the footage and the forensic evidence to shed light on this travesty of justice. Meanwhile, a teenage girl hangs on by a thread, uncertain what awaits her and a killer with a strong dislike of certain hair colours continues a rampage that could dispel the myth that blondes have it better. A decent addition to the Alex Cross series, allowing fans to get some answers after a mess of poorly timed releases in Patterson’s attempt to pad his gold-lined pockets.

I have said it once and I will say it again, James Patterson can write well when it suits him, but he seems to use his name to sell books and not think of the readers who adore his series. I ranted previously about the muck that became the Alex Cross series with the novels and BookShots intermingling and keeping series fans leaping back and forth, worried that they had missed something. Timing is everything with this series, as the number of novels continues to climb, but it is only the patient and dedicated series fan who will not have tossed in the towel or f-bombed dear JP by now. When writing alone, Patterson can concoct some great characters, which he has done here, though Alex Cross may be looking to hang up those cuffs and turn to something more psychiatric or counselling-based to appease those of us who know he cannot be a spring chicken. Characters like Nanna Momma continue to inject much needed humour into the story, though there are times that I cannot help but dislike all the precocious and ‘gifted’ genes that Cross has somehow been able to find in his offspring. The dual (at least) premise of the story keeps the reader juggling both the trial and the search for the latest serial killer, which works well inside these short chapters. Patterson paces things well and in true fashion, one thread is tied off and leaves a single focus for the final 30 chapters. The trial premise worked decently, though the reader can always expect that Perry Mason moment when evidence that was previously missing someone comes together, but will it work in Cross’s favour this time around? I have stopped setting the bar so high for Alex Cross books, as I turn to them when I need a quick read and a rest from mental gymnastics. It served its purpose, but I am happy to say that I acquire these in such a way that I am not forced to pad the royalty cheque that dear James Patterson receives.

Kudos, Mr. Patterson, on another decent addition to the series. One can hope you and your publishers will pay attention to series fans who raged about the out of sync release dates on this series.

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

Fifty Fifty (Detective Harriet Blue #2), by James Patterson and Candice Fox

Nine stars

Candice Fox has teamed up with James Patterson again for the next instalment in the Harry Blue series, picking up soon after the cliffhanger of the series’ first full-length novel. Harriet ‘Harry’ Blue has a lot on her plate as a Detective Inspector within Sydney’s Sex Crimes Unit. However, nothing could prepare Harry for the arrest of her brother, Sam, as the Georges River Killer, perhaps one of Australia’s most sinister serial murderers. Sam professes his innocence and Harry cannot help but come to his aid. One morning, outside the courthouse, Harry loses her cool and pulls a stunt that places everything in jeopardy, including her career. Sent away to rural Australia again, Harry finds herself in the middle of nowhere, Last Chance Valley, to be specific. While driving his route, a trucker found a red backpack with an interesting personal journal inside. It lists a plan to wipe Last Chance off the map, alongside its seventy-five (yes, 75) residents. Harry works with the only cop in the town and receives a rude welcome when a bomb explodes and kills the former Chief of Police. Harry seeks to take charge, but its elbowed out of the way by Counter-Terrorism Task Force member, Elliot Kash. After some chest beating, Harry and Kash are able to come to some sort of agreement, albeit a fragile one. Back in Sydney, Harry’s partner, Detective Edward Whittacker, is trying to keep an eye on Sam’s trial, where some of the evidence is not making sense. On the day of Sam’s arrest, a new victim was taken, Caitlyn McBeal. While she does not meet the victimology of the others killed by the Georges River Killer, a university student got away and saw the killer grab her. McBeal is being held and may hold the key the entire case, though there are no solid leads. Whittacker is joined by a less than noble ‘Tox’ Barnes, who will stop at nothing to prove that Sam’s been framed for the crime. As Harry gets sporadic updates, she continues to seek answers about the journal and revels in the information it provides. Her interviews lead her towards a teenager with little to lose, who seems to be typecast as a terrorist because of his ancestry. While Harry is not entire sure which was is up, she’s come to realise that Last Chance Valley is a place where dreams die and differences spark retribution. As she seeks to obtain answers, someone is targeting her and starts putting the end plan into motion. Splitting her worry for Sam and the residents of Last Chance Valley down the middle, Harry will have to focus in order to bring justice for at least one of the cases. A wonderful follow-up story that keeps the reader hooked until the very end, Fox and Patterson prove to be an explosive team as they continue developing this new and exciting series. Fans of Fox’s work will see her flavour in the writing and likely enjoy it, though anyone who finds pleasure in a police procedural will likely applaud the effort.

From a kernel developed in the BookShots collection of short stories, Fox and Patterson come together for a wonderful early start to this series. Their writing styles have similarities, though I feel a strong thread of Fox’s writing in this story, set throughout Australia. Harry Blue is a tough character to crack, though she is revealed throughout the narrative, which offers both her empathetic side and a significant backstory offered in pieces throughout. Complemented by the likes of others, the story takes on a life of its own through the narrative, which seamlessly switches between the two locales and fleshes-out characters for the reader to love (or hate)! The story is well presented and while there may be some flights of fancy, it remains a firmly rooted piece of fiction that dedicates much of its time to the deserted areas of Australia, positing how this distance from ‘city life’ might create an odd persona for those living in Last Chance Valley. Fox and Patterson keep the intensity high as they allow the reader to see things through the eyes of the Georges River Killer, though are careful not to tip the narrative into revealing too much at once. The pace is great and the short chapters, for which Patterson is known, fuels an intense read that does not stop until the final cliffhanger. Brilliant in its execution, one can only hope that Patterson and Fox will continue their partnership, but also realise if Harry Blue is suffering from burnout, when the time comes.

Kudos, Mr. Patterson and Madam Fox, for keeping me curious about what is to come. You work magic together, as well as showing you can stand alone and present great thrillers, given the time and effort.

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

Haunted (Michael Bennett #10), by James Patterson and James O. Born

Eight stars

James O. Born is again working alongside James Patterson on the popular Michael Bennett series. While Detective Bennett has made a name for himself, both as a cop and the father of a massive brood, he is not immune to personal struggles. When his son, Brian, is arrested for possession and distribution of narcotics, Bennett does all he can to climb the ladder. However, Brian knows all too well that ‘snitches get stitches’ and keeps a low profile. While juggling the legal proceedings and his own home life, Bennett stumbles upon a case where other dealers have turned up dead. Seeing a potential connection, Bennett chases this case down and comes face-to-face with the distributor. Might this be the man that Brian served? Who helped cause all the chaos? During the encounter, Bennett discharges his weapon and seems able to justify it, but there is still a body that must be handled by the authorities. Around that same time, Brian is sentenced to hard time, leaving the family in a state of disarray. Taking up an offer to relocate the entire family to Maine for the summer, Bennett packs them up and heads to quieter environs. While vacationing, Bennett agrees to team up with one of the local cops, an old partner of his with a blurry connection, which worries Bennett’s current belle (and live-in nanny), Mary Catherine. What begins as simple parade duty turns more complicated, as a local drug thug seems to be calling in his chits and burying people alive when they fail to answer. Bennett does all he can, turning Maine into more of a working holiday than anything else. A great addition to the series, Born and Patterson have done much with the premise and build a strong novel. Series fans will surely find something to enjoy with this story, though it is hard to surmise how long the high-calibre Bennett series will last.

Many know that I remain leery when James Patterson affixes his name to writing over the last number of years. However, when working alongside James O. Born, I have found much success and high quality writing is usually the end product. The Michael Bennett series is one that requires that added ‘oomph’, as there is usually so much going on. The vast array of characters remain strong and the stories they encounter grow nicely throughout. Be it on the beat or the banter of home living, Bennett and his crew seem to capture the reader’s attention. The story, while focussed on drugs and the like, does not get overly bogged down in ‘rough streets’ or ‘sole lifestyle available’ themes that seem to permeate fiction these days. Born and Patterson craft a well-balanced story with the theme running through it, without exhausting anything. The Michael Bennett series remains strong and, like some of Patterson’s other long-lasting ones, still has much to prove. One can only hope that it does not weaken or become too diluted, but if it does, I can only hope the warning signs are apparent to send Bennett and his dozen away before they become stale.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Born for another great collaboration. I am happy to see Michael Bennett is in good hands and hope you’ll find more time to work together soon.

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

Malicious (Mitchum #2), by James Patterson and James O. Born

Eight stars

James O. Born returns to work alongside James Patterson again in the follow-up BookShot of the Mitchum series. Readers will likely remain impressed with this piece, as it has all the impact of a great short story without losing any of the needed character and story development. Mitchum enjoys his quiet life in upstate New York, where he can deliver his daily newspapers and run an unofficial P.I. business on the side. When his brother, Natty, calls with a problem, Mitchum seems skeptical. However, when a homicide is involved, the brothers reunite, post haste. Mitchum learns that a high school friend has been slain, potentially by a fellow drug dealer. As one who ‘enhances recreational activities’ himself, Natty can attest to the fact that there are some out there who want nothing more than to bury Peter Stahl, but not before discovering the secret he has about a new and ‘hot’ commodity for the street. As Mitchum works to iron out all the details, he learns that Natty is deeply in love with the deceased’s wife, which could prove to be a problem. Before Mitchum can learn much more, Natty been hauled away to jail, the primary suspect in the murder. It is now a race to find the true killer and clear Natty’s name, forcing Mitchum to look under every rock, where corrupt figures wait for their slice of the pie. A wonderful follow-up piece that pushes the reader into the middle of the action as Mitchum forges ahead at top speed. BookShot fans will surely enjoy this piece, both for its excitement and quick pace.

This weekend of BookShot reading has proven to be highly useful and I have come across a number of wonderful pieces. James O. Born surely has a handle on this series, which continues to build, and avid readers can only hope that Patterson will turn to him many more times in the future. While short, the story allows more character development as it relates to Robert ‘call me Mitchum’ Mitchum, both from a familial perspective and with his own personal sentiments. The reader can enjoy a dash of sarcasm and some heartfelt emotion without missing out on what ends up being something worth the hour of reading time. The story is by no means unique, but it holds the attention of the read throughout, paced with short chapters and quick development. Anyone who needs a decent filler between major reading assignments can turn to this piece and not be disappointed. I can only hope that Mitchum will be back soon, rising to the top amidst the supersaturation of BookShots in the e-book domain. Readers ought to keep an eye out for these and will surely find something to appeal to their thriller side.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Born for another great collaboration. I enjoy how the Mitchum series is shaping up and hope you have more in store in the coming months.

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

Hidden (Mitchum #1), by James Patterson and James O. Born

Eight stars

James O. Born works alongside James Patterson in the first of this BookShot series that will have readers hooked and quite curious as they travel to upstate New York. Mitchum enjoys the quiet life in Marlboro, away from the fast-paced living of NYC, but still surrounded by a community that thrives on the daily bustle. When he learns that his niece, Bailey Mae, has gone missing, this unofficial P.I. takes matters into his own hands. Working with the local sheriff’s detachment and those around town, Mitchum learns that three shady individuals have been seen around town. Bailey Mae’s famous coffee cakes prove a useful trail, though when two elderly residents are found murdered in their home and a fresh cake sits on the counter, Mitchum becomes more concerned. His past training as a Navy SEAL allows him to forge headlong into the search, still trying to determine who these strangers might be and if they are involved in the kidnapping, or if Bailey Mae is somehow involved. Forced to turn to his drug-dealing brother, Mitchum uses whispers on the street to help him track down any evidence that might lead to Bailey Mae’s safe return. Time is running out, but family ties seem to be unbreakable for Mitchum, fuelling his determination to bring a happy ending to this small town. A quick and captivating story for BookShot fans and those who need a little thrill with their coffee. Patterson and Born have a recipe for success here!

I am on a roll with my current BookShots binge, having found some real winners out there. There is usually little time for character development, but the authors have been able to weave the story of Robert ‘call me Mitchum’ Mitchum into the fabric of this thriller. The small town feel to the story is not lost on the reader, as Mitchum combs through the residents to garner enough clues to help solve the case. Additionally, the vast array of characters on offer may prove useful if the series continues past the next-known published piece. The story itself is interesting and the short chapters keep the story propelling forward without the reader feeling too stuck in any single environ. Patterson and Born work well together and bring the story to life, just as I would expect with a BookShot, which leaves little time to catch one’s breath. I need to get my hands on the next story in the series, as I am still highly impressed with what I’ve read.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Born for this great collaboration. Mitchum is in good hands if you two remain vigilant at keeping the stories as entertaining as this debut.

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

French Twist (Detective Luc Moncrief #3), by James Patterson and Richard DiLallo

Seven stars

The advantage to a BookShots binge is that you can get through a variety of stories in short order, picking and choosing the genre or characters without needing to commit for too long. In the recent instalment of the ‘French’ series, I am able to bask in the work of James Patterson and Richard DiLallo, as they bring their Detective Luc Moncrief back for more fun in NYC. Armed with his partner (and potentially a romantic interest), K. Burke, Moncrief is baffled when they are called to investigate the death of a New York socialite while she is out shopping. There is no clear motive or cause of death, though the fact that this is the third death of a wealthy woman in short order has the top brass of the NYPD breathing down their necks. Without a concrete lead, Moncrief and Burke accept an invitation to attend the Kentucky Derby, where they watch the favoured horse come out well ahead of the competition. However, a threatening letter and murdered horse in the stables leaves the owners less than calm and Moncrief is prepared to take the lead on the investigation. With the next major race to be held in Baltimore, Moncrief can still keep an eye on things while returning to New York. Following up on some potential leads, Moncrief and Burke interview the hired help of the three victims, only to learn that these women appear to have nothing in their backgrounds that could cause any issues, but their marriages are anything but iron-clad. It it only when one of the ‘nannies’ is seen purchasing a clear baggie that Burke feels they have to do some reconnaissance of their own. Meanwhile, the Preakness is run and the horse storms out ahead again, leaving only one more race to complete the Triple Crown, an illustrious honour rarely seen in horse racing. With bookmakers tossing massive odds against a clear sweep and the pressure mounting, Moncrief and Burke had better find their killer in the Big Apple, allowing them the chance to watch horse-racing history and watch their favourite equine take a bite out of the competition. An interesting story by this well-established writing duo that will likely leave fans of this series wanting more, though I am not entirely sure if I would mourn the loss of Luc Moncrief and his stuffy-shirt antics.

While I find that James Patterson can be a little hard to stomach, some of the recent BookShots that I have read show potential. DiLallo helps to augment Patterson’s style of short chapters and to the point storylines. The characters remain somewhat annoying to me, particularly Detective Luc Moncrief, who is an annoying detective on loan from the upper echelons of France’s elite police system. Paired with a somewhat down to earth Katherine ‘K’ Burke, they complement (though rarely compliment) one another as they tackle some of the most obscure crimes in NYC. The story is fairly interesting, though Moncrief finds a way to make it seem a little sillier than first presented. Exploring what might be one of the real issues of the glamorous women of the world, the authors take the reader down a few rabbit holes before presenting a plausible and scandalous explanation for the list of victims. Interesting and surely one of the more productive BookShot duos, there is surely much to be said for a full-length novel option involving these two New York detectives.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and DiLallo for keeping things interesting throughout. I can only hope that your partnership allows for more collaboration in the near future.

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

The Medical Examiner (Women’s Murder Club #16.5), by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

Eight stars

Continuing a mini BookShots binge, I found myself gravitating to another piece that links one of James Patterson’s long-running series, The Women’s Murder Club. Working in collaboration with Maxine Paetro, Patterson has been able to keep these stories entertaining and usually of high quality, amidst a number of hit and miss attempts at writing. With Detective Lindsay Boxer on a much needed vacation, the Club is down to three active members. Dr. Claire Washburn arrives to work on Monday and finds herself scanning the weekend carnage that’s made its way into the Medical Examiner’s Office. When she hears a sound within one of the shelves, Claire discovers that one of the dead bodies is anything but deceased. After a time, Joan Murphy is able to explain that she has no idea how she was shot or who might have been found in bed with her. The faux death can be explained by catalepsy, a rare condition but one that has many people still confused. Claire is baffled by the entire experience and when the SFPD are called in, they begin trying to decipher what happened. News leaks to another Club member, Cindy Thomas, whose crime beat with the San Francisco Chronicle is sure to reach a number of people. Detective Richard Conklin discovers that the mystery man is a second-rate actor, but still Murphy denies knowing anything. When approaching the husband, Conklin learns that he and Murphy have a loving, but distant relationship. Further investigating reveals that Murphy and her ‘man’ were likely part of a hit deemed complete, so there may be someone out there waiting to kill Murphy once and for all. Cindy and Claire both make their way to Murphy’s home, independently, where more trouble awaits. With Lindsay out of the picture and the pieces not fitting together nicely, Claire and Cindy will be forced to turn into sleuths before the killer re-emerges. A great story that never loses its momentum and shines the spotlight on another of the Club members. Series fans will likely enjoy this bridge as they wait for the next full-length novel.

I am a fan of some of Patterson’s series and this is surely one that I have followed from the get-go. Paetro brings an interesting flavour to the writing and the stories are usually fairly well-crafted, full of humour and intrigue, even when the characters step aside and allow Lindsay Boxer to get much of the development. I applaud Patterson and Paetro for placing Boxer on the shelf and turning the attention to other Club members. While Claire’s backstory is not fully developed here, the reader can see some progress and curious nature in her personality, taking her out of the ME’s office, yet still on the job. I can only hope that future stories (BookShots even) will allow Cindy and Yuki to receive much of the attention, as it proves highly refreshing. The story itself worked well, introducing the reader to catalepsy and turning the tables on what was an expected double murder. While things sped by in this short piece, the reader is kept informed and forced on a quick adventure as the story develops. Told with the traditional short chapters for which Patterson is so well known, things come to a swift end with most of the threads tied off. Well presented and whetted my appetite for another Women’s Murder Club novel. Bring it on!

Kudos, Mr. Patterson and Madam Paetro, for another great piece of collaborative work. I am impressed to see that the momentum has not waned and your work keeps readers interested.

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

Detective Cross (Alex Cross #24.5), by James Patterson

Eight stars

After a hiatus, I am back reading BookShots and revelling in some of the superior work that James Patterson has to offer with one of his original series, Alex Cross. While out running, Chief of Detectives Bree Stone (married to the aforementioned Dr. Cross) receives a call that a bomb is set to explode. She calls in resources around the National Monuments and helps diffuse the situation. Meanwhile, Alex Cross is serving his suspension and awaiting trial, having returned to his psychology practice for the time being. After Stone calls him, he drops everything and tries to offer a psych profile of the sort of person who might be capable of this. Narrowing in on a homeless military vet, Cross and Stone think that they might be making headway, only to have more bomb threats called in, forcing the evacuation of the area. Some are simply threats, but others pack an actual explosive punch, leaving the authorities to play roulette with how to handle things. Cross has been seeing a patient who has a military past working with IED (improvised explosive devices) and seems to have a means of helping the investigation. With a pattern emerging, the bomber is likely soon to be in the crosshairs, but then things take a definite turn and no one can be sure of the next move, even this illustrious Dr. Alex Cross. An interesting piece that speaks not only to Patterson’s ability to write independently, but also tackles an issue that is close to the hearts of many. Series fans will surely enjoy this as they wait for the looming trial of their favourite fictional character.

I’ve often said that Patterson can be hit and miss, particularly when he teams up with others. This series, his longest running, is usually quite good and goes to show that he still had ideas to keep the reader hooked. Alex Cross has been through much in the more than two decades that he has graced the pages of novels, though he seems to have a need to remain front and centre. Still, with his wife as Chief of Detectives, it is difficult to keep her too far in the background. The Cross-Stone connection in this story is one that proves they can stand on equal footing, as well as when Cross utilises his patient to help, rather than string her along for the ride. The story itself seems plausible, which makes it all the easier to swallow. The issue, veterans’ rights and the proper recognition of those who have come back stateside, particular those with debilitating injuries, is front and centre throughout the narrative. Patterson handles it well and gets to the core of the issue without trivializing things. My second book today that pointed the corrupt and ignorant nature of Congress on such fundamental issues, so there must be a theme here. Thankfully, I need not get in the middle of this contentious issue and can remain firmly rooted on my Canadian reader perch, enjoying the view.

Kudos, Mr. Patterson, for enthralling your fans with this short story. While BookShots are supersaturating the market, it is nice to see that some are still of such high calibre.

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

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.

Two From the Heart, by James Patterson (with Emily Raymond, Frank Constantini, and Brian Sitts)

Seven stars

It remains a gamble when a reader picks up something by James Patterson. Will it be a decent read or something that has been cobbled together to make a little pocket change? This pair of short stories seems to show some of Patterson’s great work and warms the heart in that sentimental and calming way.

Tell Me Your Best Story (with Emily Raymond):

Anne McWilliams has chosen to isolate herself on a sparsely populated island around North Carolina after a messy divorce. When a tropical storm hits, it destroys her most valued possessions: her home and the darkroom she used to develop her film. Seeing this as a potential sign, Anne packs up and decides that she is going to take a long and meandering road trip across the country, in search of the ‘best stories’ that people have to offer. She’ll write them down, add some photographs, and publish it for all to see. A wonderful idea as she sets off to see family and friends, but her final destination might be one that she least expected. While Anne has been so busy gathering stories, she forgets that she, too, has a story to tell. Hers is full of peaks and valleys, but in the end, it is heartwarming to see how far she has come in the past two decades.

Write Me a Life (with Frank Costantini and Brian Sitts):

During one of his periods of writer’s block, Damian Crane receives a truly unusual visitor. Tech-genius and billionaire, Tyler Bron, has an offer that Crane cannot refuse. Write him up a new life to contrast with the one he currently lives. Crane receives total control of how it will play out and will be rewarded handsomely if it can be executed smoothly. Bumbling to comprehend the task, Crane begins work on this new life for Bron, setting him down in the desert lands of Nada. It is there that Bron encounters an interesting collection of townsfolk and a complete divorce from his tech-heavy lifestyle. Bron must return to his roots and try to interact naturally, all while Crane continues to compose this story from his own ideas. As the piece progresses, Bron makes a few significant connections and learns the power of hard work, seeing its rewards in the eyes of those around him.

I was pleased to have taken the time for these two stories, which warmed the heart on this rainy day. Patterson has chosen well as he joined forces with these three other authors. I am always fickle when it comes to Patterson’s work and while this was not set in the genre I would not normally read, I did give it a try. “Tell Me…” had moments of sugary writing and I had to try not to roll my eyes, but then again, I steer away from Raymond’s romance work for the most part. “Write Me…” turned into something I found somewhat confusing, as the narrative turned into reality and yet was still coming from the pen of Damian Crane. I likely missed something while driving and streaming the audio, but the premise was worth the time spent. The characters were decent in their portrayal and fit nicely into the storylines. I would recommend it to anyone who needs some lighter reading for an afternoon or those who need it to bridge into something else, as I had happen to me.

Kudos, Mr. Patterson et al. for this interesting pair of stories. I can see much promise in these collaborative efforts and know BookShots are a wonderful way to leap into the fray, Messrs. Constantine and Sitts! Madam Raymond has already dazzled many with her efforts.

16th Seduction (Women’s Murder Club #16), by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

Seven stars

Another piece that shows that Patterson knows how to choose some of his co-authors to produce entertaining writing. Working alongside Maxine Paetro to craft sixteen novels in the Women’s Murder Club, Patterson has been able to present high-impact writing peppered with some interesting legal and criminal angles. The world is beset with a new terrorist organisation, loosely called GAR, the Great Antiestablishment Reset, happy to wreak havoc at every turn. San Francisco is not immune, which leaves Sergeant Lindsay Boxer on high alert. After agreeing to see her estranged husband, Joe, they take a stroll close to Sci-Tron, the city’s science museum. An explosion rocks and destroys the building. Soon thereafter, Boxer overhears a man claim responsibility, almost unable to believe her own ears. After arresting him, this Connor Grant denies ever saying anything about being culpable and he is sent to trial for murdering twenty-five innocent people and injuring many more, including Joe. While Boxer braces for what is surely a major situation, Yuki Castellano, the lawyer of the Murder Club, assumes second chair in this major trial, pitting the wily District Attorney against Grant, who has chosen to represent himself. The trial is harrowing and far from a slam-dunk, leaving the verdict in the hands of the twelve-member jury. Meanwhile, Dr. Claire Washburn, the city’s Chief Medical Examiner (and, of course, another of the Club’s members) contacts Sergeant Boxer about a mysterious string of deaths, originally attributed to heart conditions. Further investigation shows that the deaths are connected by a strange injection in the buttocks that each victim exhibits. Could there be someone in San Francisco injecting people with some unknown narcotic? As the reader discovers, one Neddie Lambo is on the loose, playing up his detention in a psychiatric facility, but actually plotting a number of these random killings to feed his need for control. All this while Cindy Thomas is getting the inside scoop and reporting the news garnered from her fellow Club members, sometimes without their knowledge and consent. How will San Francisco survive all this and can Boxer rise above an Internal Affairs investigation for her actions as they relate to the Sci-Tron bombing? Patterson and Paetro offer an explosive ending to this sixteenth instalment to the series. A great story for series fans and sure to attract some new readers who have a penchant for quick read stories.

There is something about the Women’s Murder Club that has always kept me on the edge of my seat. While Patterson has stumbled at times, even with key authors around him, the annual return to this series keeps me believing that there is something worthwhile left in the author (the least of which is surely not Paetro’s involvement). The stories are poignant and while the mysteries are not always complex or psychologically thrilling, they move at a quick pace and keep the story from going stale. The strong central cast of characters continue to evolve and there is always a interesting flavour to the one-offs, particularly the criminal element. Patterson and Paetro always leave room for ‘just one more’, be it a chapter before bed or a new book in the series, fostering an ongoing hunger in the reader. Those short chapters propel the reader forward and can, like me, leave them wondering how they polished the book off in a single day. Surely not foundational work in the genre, but a wonderful escape that keeps pace with the swiftness the outside world has to offer. 

Kudos, Mr. Patterson and Madame Paetro for another great novel. I always look forward to what the annual revelation of the Women’s Murder Club will bring and you have not let me down.

The Black Book, by James Patterson and David Ellis

Eight stars

James Patterson has again teamed up with David Ellis, offering a wonderful standalone thriller that keeps readers on the edge of their seats and up late into the night. In a narrative set in the ‘past’, Billy Harney and Kate Fenton are hardworking members of Homicide in Chicago. While tailing a suspect, Harney makes the decision to raid a brownstone, which opens up a new and troublesome revelation; this is a brothel visited by the city’s rich and powerful men. During the raid, a ‘little black book’ goes missing, with names that could bring even more of the rich and famous to their knees or serve as strong blackmail fodder. All eyes turn to Harney, who must try to clear his name, when it is presumed he pocketed it. As Fenton begins a power struggle with her partner, Harney must find out who is trying to frame him, adamant that he knows nothing of the book. With the case against the defendants caught in the raid fast approaching, Harney works with a hot-shot prosecutor, Amy Lentini, to ensure his testimony is flawless. Her icy exterior soon melts and she turns up the heat with Harney, which only clouds both their judgements. In a parallel narrative, set in the ‘present’, Harney is found naked, in bed with Lentini, while Detective Fenton lays on the floor. All three have been shot and the two women are dead, with Harney clinging to life and a bullet lodged in his skull. As the story continues, it appears Harney is being blamed for the murder, unable to remember anything from the past as it relates to the lead-up to the shooting or anything he may have learned about the black book. As the reader braces for an ever-evolving rollercoaster ride, the story takes twists and turns with everything centred around a list of names and the people will do anything to hold all the power. A powerful thriller that shows Patterson has the ability to rise to the occasion, with the right author at the helm. Highly recommended to any who enjoy losing themselves in quality writing.

I have often said that James Patterson’s writing has waned in the past few years, his lustre buried under many mediocre novels. However, when David Ellis comes to partner, their cooperation produces stellar writing and offers the reader a literary treat. While it may be a standalone, the novel offers an array of superior characters, wonderfully crafted to push the narrative forward without getting caught up in the minutiae. Working with the parallel narratives, Patterson and Ellis keep the reader guessing, while forcing a constant mental gear switch as the story develops, layering a revealed past with a present that is just as murky. If the reader can handle this mix, they are in for a punch to the gut during the numerous plot twists, which only adds the the overall flavour of the piece. Dark, but peppered with some dry humour to keep the reader smiling, Patterson and Ellis know the perfect recipe for a fast-paced thriller.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Ellis for joining forces again and showing that there is never an end to your abilities. I know I am in for a treat when your names grace the cover and hope to see more of your collaborative efforts soon.

Private Delhi (Private #13), by James Patterson and Ashwin Sanghi

Six stars

In the latest Private novel, James Patterson and Ashwin Sanghi take the action back to India, this time focussing their attention on Delhi. Jack Morgan arrives in country for an international security conference, taking some time to check on Private Delhi and its head, Santosh Wagh. After a number of near-death experiences working for Morgan in Mumbai, Wagh quit his job and returned to drowning his sorrows in a bottle of booze. However, Morgan saw much in this man and convinced him to give things another chance. Soon thereafter, Private Delhi took shape and had been thriving for a time. When a number of bodies turn up in large containers, dissolving in acid, whispers about a new serial killer emerges with the posh community on the southern part of the city. However, upon further inspection, this is not a private residence, but a house owned by the state government, which only adds to the rumours and gossip. Morgan agrees to have Private handle the matter when approached by a high-ranking member of the government, even as Wagh warns that this is solely a political competition between two powerful men. Reluctantly, Wagh leads his team into a case that has many nefarious layers in a country where nothing is clear-cut. The bodies found in those containers are missing organs and new victims soon emerge, political figures with sordid pasts. Once there is a connection between the deaths and organ procurement, Wagh can focus the investigation and limit the number of suspects, or can he? With an investigative reporter out for political blood, the investigation takes new and curious spins, which might cost Wagh everything all over again. A culturally interesting addition to the Private series, Patterson and Sanghi entertain the reader who might not be familiar with the practices in this populated portion of the world.

The advantage of the Private collection is that Patterson is able to tap into cultural and geographic nuances by engaging authors around the world to keep things fresh and spot-on. While some past novels have missed the mark, I quite enjoyed this one that seemed chock-full of cultural aspects and local customs not seen in the novels I tend to read. While I cannot speak confidently about how realistic the narrative tends to be, certain areas about organ procurement and the vast economic diversity within India seems to match information I have previously learned about the region. The array of characters keep the reader on their toes and trying to keep track of the entire cast. Wagh’s struggles do not take centre stage throughout the novel, though there is limited time to see much character growth with the purported protagonist. The plot remains rich and multi-faceted, choosing to hang on the theme of healthcare availability and how there is a significant chasm between what the members of various castes can access. Patterson and Sanghi have done well scripting this story and keeping it short enough that the reader could tackle it in a short period of time, while still leaving them wanting more. Impressive for what it is, this book remains at the top of the Private collection to date. 

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and Sanghi for entertaining and teaching me much about India in short order. I am curious to see if you two will come together again for another joint venture before long.