Chapters: 122 (Plus a prologue and an epilogue.)
Book Links: Goodreads
Swimsuit by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro is a stellar standalone that works psychological thriller to the bone. It's a novel with a solid story and an even better collection of characters and emotion. The scenes within are strong and unsettling, so I recommend preparing yourself before you start.
It's actually quite distinctive compared to Patterson's repertoire, and while not perfect, it showcases many of the authors' staples in their strongest light: Short chapters are used to tell a beguiling and intense story; character viewpoints are wide and varied, utilising the cast in the best way possible; and the emotion is on point, with each chapter a punch to the feels and a forceful reminder of the horrors in our world.
Synopsis (Not a copy from the book, but I always keep my interpretations close.)
Ben Hawkins, reporter for the LA Times and a former cop, gets the assignment that could put him on the map.
A model has gone missing, and signs point to an illusive killer who isn't new to the game.
But Ben doesn't realise just what he's stepped into.
Or what the killer has in store for him.
Dragged into a shady world of murder and those who pay to watch it, the villain's fascination with the reporter takes on a whole new colour.
Ben's life, and everyone's he knows, is at risk by a killer who leaves nothing behind.
By a chameleon that can disappear in an instant...
Plot - 4/5 Stars
Patterson and Paetro do a great job in setting everything up. From the very beginning the emotion is palpable, and the way we get to know the cast and their distress gives the reader heart palpitations. It's even more heartbreaking for us due to the fact that we know a lot more than the cast does, and as the story builds to tell them, you can't help but break out in a terrified sweat.
Our protagonist's investigation is riveting, albeit initially a little bland. But your perseverance pays off. Just as you think you have a traditional murder mystery on your hands, the authors switch it up and make it more personal than that. The case that gets the plot rolling is somewhat resolved halfway through, and the second part of the novel is a roller coaster that batters you psychologically.
The seedy underbelly of humanity bubbles under the surface of this. They're called the Alliance, a collection of the rich and depraved who pay our killer to savage people and record it for their viewing pleasure. It's one of those threads that has your mind in a complete downward spiral. Can people like that exist? The murdering kind and the ones who'll pay to watch it? All you have to do is read any newspaper and you'll have your answer: A horrific yes.
I'm quite surprised by the structure, like I said before, but now that I'm done I have huge respect for it. It keeps the reader on their toes and shatters their expectations. We smoothly slide from our protagonist hunting the killer to working for the killer (under duress, of course).
The ending is where most of my contention lies. It's too sudden and silly. I like that the authors tie mostly everything up while still managing to convey a sense of unfinished fear. But, it all feels rushed. I won't spill too much, but the way it ends is something that the characters discuss and discard earlier in the story, rendering parts after that a little obsolete.
Pace - 4.5/5 Stars
A lightning-quick flow that revels in action, adrenaline and audacious mental torture.
Characters - 4.5/5 Stars
An amazing cast populates Swimsuit, both authors really give it their all. The connection and emotion I mention above is amplified by the use of different character viewpoints. We have Ben, our protagonist, the killer, his victims, his victims' parents etc. So there's a nice, or horrific depending on whether you're talking writing mechanics or actual events, picture painted.
I have to give props to the portrayal of the first victim we experience: Kim. Kim is a model, but not the stereotypical and vapid kind. She's smart and training to be a doctor, and while we are only with her for a short time, the effect this has is wonderful.
Ben, our main guy, is also similarly well-fleshed. An ex-cop turned writer and crime reporter isn't portrayed as the parasite a lot of press people get labelled as. He's kind and sympathetic, out to tell the truth rather than spin an angle. His affable nature is his downfall. Drawn into something he can't fathom, it rocks his world and sets an amazing progression in place.
But the main star of Swimsuit is the villain. Whoa... Initially, he's quite unremarkable, filling the role just as many other bad guys have filled other novels. But, the authors build and build and give him a uniqueness that is terrifying and tantalising. He becomes such a presence and horror to both the reader and the cast. His ability to blend and disguise is fantastically conveyed, making him scary and powerful.
Writing - 4/5 Stars
Nothing new for a Patterson story. A fast-paced thriller that spends only the required amount of time it needs. My edition is an early one, so there are a couple mistakes in it that I'm sure have been rectified in later versions. The highlight has to be the surprising structure, which no doubt you'll either love or hate.
Overall - 4/5 Stars
Swimsuit is a surprising standalone that delves deep into character mentalities. Even if you're not sold on the story, the attention to cast development is well worth the read.
For more James Patterson reviews: Index
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