The Store, by James Patterson and Richard DiLallo

Seven stars

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

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

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

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

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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