Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Private No. 1 Suspect by James Patterson & Maxine Paetro (Private, #4) - Book Review

3.5/5 Stars

A beautiful girl is found dead

in Jack Morgan's bed...

Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 401
Chapters: 127 (Plus a prologue with three parts.)
Publisher: Century

Book Links: Goodreads
                      Author's Website


I've been excited to get back to Jack Morgan, owner of Private Investigations and its worldwide limbs, that I think I might have over-hyped Private No. 1 Suspect in my mind. It's not a bad entry, but there's just something missing that keeps it from clicking.

The plots are interesting and compelling, but they lack a certain spark; characters and their relationships trace a wacky pattern, some are fantastic, while others, again, don't quite hit the mark; and the writing and structure bounce around, never really staying at a high or low point.

I think the authors, James Patterson and Maxine Paetro, are vying to keep a balance. Most Patterson novels that are a part of a series can usually be read as standalone stories, appealing to a wider audience and ensuring you don't need to read the previous books when you like the blurb of one further on. But they also keep an emotional thread for those of us following the entries in order, and Private No. 1 Suspect struggles with that balance, leaving the reader with mixed emotions.


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

Jack Morgan returns to LA to find a dead ex-lover lying on his bed...
...and he's the No. 1 suspect.
With the evidence mounting against him, Jack has more problems coming his way.
A serial killer stalks hotels for unfaithful victims, and the son of a mob leader calls in Jack for some less than legal help.
Friends lose faith, and clients of his company jump ship.
The water is past his chin, and despite the fact Jack can swim, if he doesn't find land, he'll drown...

Plot - 3/5 Stars

Private No. 1 Suspect begins with gusto, setting a hooking plot up right from the get-go. I love the mystery and shock, but unfortunately, the emotional punch isn't as powerful as I feel it's intended to be. Colleen, Jack's ex and former employee at Private, is the victim, and she's a character we get to know in the series' very first entry. But there have been two books since then (and for me they were already out, so I didn't have to wait long), so the reader's connection is blunted.

Aside from that, the collection of cases is a fun one. There's a nice mix, from mobsters to serial killers, and Patterson and Paetro do a fine job of managing the threads.

They also build well, and despite the 'main' plot surrounding Colleen's death lacking emotion, that line of the story is stellar when Jack's malicious twin is added to the mix. I love the sibling rivalry, which is also present in Private (the first instalment); it adds so many layers of repressed rage to an overall story that, while interesting, is often bland.

Conclusions are measured and satisfying as they deliver answers, but it's nothing you haven't seen before. While the series works its global elements well, in comparison to other Patterson novels, it's beginning to feel more and more generic (let's hope that changes, there are still a few entries to come).

Pace - 3.5/5 Stars

Private No. 1 Suspect has tons of great action and some wicked suspense, and thanks to the enjoyable story within, its flow, for the most part, is smooth.

My only con lies in parts of the structure; in fact, the same problem affected this series' second entry, Private London, and comes from the writing and structure, which I'll do below.

Characters - 3/5 Stars

I remember loving this novel's cast back in Private (there's been new ones in the books between), but they missed the mark this time round. I couldn't fully connect with them. I think it's mainly because I feel they focus on the wrong relationships, plus it's development we've already seen happen with these exact characters.

Jack is still a great protagonist, I love being back and seeing the world through his eyes, but his progression is very static. His romantic relationship, or lack of, with Justine is frustrating and, sadly, boring. There's no chemistry to justify it. The silver lining comes when his twin brother Tommy, the bad to Jack's good, becomes a part of the plot. The contention between the two is riveting, and I just can't get enough of their relationship.

Don't lose that thread!

The other members of the cast are just decoration. They work, don't get me wrong, but there's nothing wow about them.

There are more misses than hits, but the hits are fantastic.

Writing - 3/5 Stars

Overall, Patterson's style is secure, with lightning-quick progression and exciting events. 

On the other hand, Private No. 1 Suspect's structure reminds me of Private London's. It's annoying as hell. One bland scene will be split over several short chapters, giving it a stop-and-start feel that can tear you from being immersed. There's also a lot of fluff, but none that contributes to any real development.

Overall - 3.5/5 Stars

A fine read, but nothing the authors haven't done before and haven't done better. 

I'm probably being too critical... I'm in a sour mood today, my friends, and I need to give myself a big shake. 

Previous Instalment: Private Games
Next Instalment: Private Berlin

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