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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Murder Games, by James Patterson and Howard Roughan

Seven stars 

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

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

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

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.