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: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

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.

https://www.mysteryandsuspense.com/the-noise/

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

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: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

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: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

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: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

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: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

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: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

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: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

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: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

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: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons