Monday, 23 May 2016

Private London by James Patterson & Mark Pearson (Private, #2) - Book Review

3.5/5 Stars

Sometimes when the nightmare ends

-- the terror is only just beginning...

Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 357
Chapters: 116
Publisher: Century

Book Links: Goodreads
                      Author's Website


Private London is an adequate sequel, one that follows in its predecessor's footsteps, but fails to reach its heights. I think my main problem comes down to how jagged this entry's story feels; it never becomes satisfyingly cohesive.

The characters driving the novel and the usually on-point short chapters are, also, mixed bags. Just as you think the mechanics of the book are coming together, they scatter, leaving the reader frustrated.

It's not all bad, of course. Patterson and co-author Mark Pearson build an often emotional and exciting journey under all the sharp edges. There are some nice insights into society and its treatment - or lack of it - of certain minorities. Twists come in a predictable fashion but will still nevertheless make you inwardly gasp.

If you're looking for an easy-going thriller then Private London will be right up your alley, but suspend your disbelief and be ready to weather some cracks.


Synopsis (Not a copy from the book, but I always keep my interpretations close.)

Dan Carter heads up super-detective agency Private's London offices, and a quiet weekend ahead is about to be derailed.
Women are being snatched from the streets and mutilated, and fear erupts as the authorities begin to view their deaths as the work of a vicious serial killer.
It normally wouldn't be Dan's problem, but a client of his, Hannah Shapiro, has gone missing.
Devastated by failing to protect a charge given to him by Private's owner Jack Morgan, Dan races against the clock to uncover the truth beneath the mystery.
Before Hannah is hurt, or worse...

Plot - 3/5 Stars

Private London changes protagonist and location, but I think it takes place after the series' first entry. Chronology gets a bit funny because the novels jump back and forth between main, main character Jack Morgan and other outfits of his company around the globe. While this might mess a little with the understanding of the timeline, I think it works wonders in making the series' world feel whole. There's a certain thrill in knowing that, even though you're reading one story, there are plenty more affecting other places.

In this entry there are, essentially, two specific plots: One headed by our first-person narrator Dan Carter, and the other by his ex-wife, Detective Inspector Kirsty Webb. They both, at points, seem to intersect as if in some way they're connected, but sadly the effort only takes up valuable time as the reader comes to realise they're nothing to do with one another. The frustrating thing is Dan's story is far superior to Kirsty's, and her plot really weighs down the overall novel (as does her character, but we'll get to that in a bit).

Dan's adventure is decent, providing honest thrills and twists. The conclusion falls flat, however, and this is in part due to a simple plot becoming extremely convoluted extremely quickly. I have the feeling that the spike is supposed to raise the stakes for the finale, only to just miss the mark.

Kirsty's journey is, in all honesty, a mess. Too many theories are thrown about and followed, with the true answers crammed in at the end. 

Pace - 3.5/5 Stars

The flow of Private London is uneven thanks to the jumbled plot and surprisingly shaky structure (Patterson novels usually have that perfect). There are moments when you think it's found its rhythm, only for you to run back to the starting line.

It's a shame because there are great action sequences and intriguing mystery. Tied underneath everything is a harrowing look at society's treatment of those who have risked their lives for their country, probably the only steady thing in the novel.

Characters - 3.5/5 Stars

We're introduced to a cast that, in most ways, mirrors this entry's predecessor's cast. Dan in particular is initially a little hard to separate from Private's Jack Morgan. Both are capable leaders with charm and a war background. It's not a bad collection of people, but it does feel overly regulated.

Dan, however, becomes a highlight. His past helps the reader identify the shape of his personality, and it doesn't take long for a whole character to form, one you're willing to back. An abundance of emotion is injected, so we really feel for our protagonist.

One character I can't stand is Dan's ex-wife Kirsty. The story works hard to define her as a strong and capable person, one that can stand up to anything in her way. And she can, in an incredibly bullish and arrogant manner. Her treatment of Dan is completely bonkers. The contention between the two is understandable as they suffer the consequences of a broken marriage. Dan is heaped with a lot of the blame for this, mainly his mindset after he returned from war, but Kirsty's actions within the story provide a haunting alternative. The amount of times she physically assaults him for defending himself against her unproductive verbal attacks is shocking. At one point we're told she almost blinded him by throwing her wedding ring at his eyes.

My problem is the fact that we're explicitly told her physical abuse is nothing new, but it's painted in a way that's almost endearing.

The straw that broke this character's back, though, comes in the form of a one-night stand between her and Dan. Afterwards she blames Dan for getting her drunk, yet forgets that she broke into his home, stole his whisky, drank it all, then made the advances on him, and he, at this point, was also quite drunk.

She's just infuriating, and the story focuses more on Dan's failings than her evil.

Writing - 3/5 Stars

The structure and short chapters are what fail this area. One scene often spans several chapters in a stop-and-start style, and the way the plot threads weave together make the journey an abrasive one.

Overall - 3.5/5 Stars

An entertaining, yet poor, entry to an exciting series.

Previous Instalment: Private
Next Instalment: Private Games

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