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Book Review: Private by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

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For the most part I really liked Jack Morgan, the protagonist of James Patterson’s new series, but I had trouble sustaining my belief that such a stand-up guy would struggle with wondering whether he did the right thing for so long. As a Marine, I think he would have believed in the decision handed down by his commanding officers. As a good friend of Rick Del Rio, who was there in Afghanistan with Jack, I think he would have believed his friend’s story as well. That subplot almost seemed like an annoyance, especially when it intersected the subplot with Jack’s twin brother, Tom.

There was just too much going on in Private. It felt like 10 novels crammed into one. Many of Patterson’s fans like the cursory view he takes of his plot and characters, the hurry up and keep the balls in the air approach, but the caseload shifts as well as roving points of view from other characters became problematic for an easy read.

I wanted to know more about Jack’s relationship with his father, and how his father had managed to put together a private eye company like Private. (Though I have to give props to the idea of the agency name. All these years of private eye novels, and no one had thought of simply using the name Private Investigations for a detective agency.) I also want to know more about how Jack was trained to be a private eye after his military career ended. Maybe that information will come in later installments in the series, though.

The second tier characters were great. Jack Morgan has an impressive array of detectives and specialists backing his play. Sci (the techno-geek responsible for all the gadgetry and encryption breaking during the course of the novel) is fun and reminds me a lot of Abby Sciuto from NCIS. The online romance part was a turn-off, though.

The gadgets were ultra-cool. I don’t know if any of the stuff was pure fiction, but it all felt and sounded right. Some of the capabilities might be amped up, but the emerging tech sounds right.

In this first novel, Private Investigations takes on cases from Jack’s best friend (who’s suspected of murdering his wife), the NFL (through his uncle), the local police (Private is working this one pro bono because it’s a serial killer one of their agents has been after), but turns down a job from the local Mafia and from a group of superstars.

In addition, Jack deals with his jealous twin and two on-going romantic situation. The resolution with both romances is ultimately dissatisfying in my opinion, and really lowered my respect for Jack. Probably it was to let us know he was capable of failing and meant to endear him to us, but it didn’t work that way in my case.

Also, the solutions to the various investigations just didn’t have much in the way of surprises. They plodded through to endings, but there were none of the familiar twists and turns that Patterson usually delivers (even if they’re pulled out of left field). Maybe he’s going for something different here.

Private London is due out next year and I’ll pick it up for a look. Hopefully some of these issues (including the one chapter about Del Rio settling a score that kind of falls into place) will be resolved. Fans will probably eat this book up.

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