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:


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

Eight stars

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

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

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

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

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: