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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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