Private Moscow by James Patterson and Adam Hamdy                    

‘UK government “badly underestimated” the Russian threat and the response it required, according to an inquiry.’ [BBC, 21/7/20]

Any number of current news stories across the world reveal the open confrontation between Russia and the West but what if the divisions and contra-plotting run even deeper than we can imagine from the headlines? What if the danger of conflict is being stoked but the first forays appear random, deadly but politically inconsequential? Welcome to the world of Private Moscow.

There’s enough action, adventure and excitement to fill two chunky blockbusters in Private Moscow which makes for an exhilarating and totally satisfying read. Last year I would have described it as a perfect holiday novel, now I’m saying it’s an ideal companion for shaking off the new semi-isolation blues. Unlike a lot of high octane thrillers, which can be overblown and under-serious, Private Moscow has a finger on the pulse of world affairs, a grounded seriousness that gives it gravitas and makes it an altogether more intriguing read.

Patterson likes a story that cuts to the chase, one that grips and doesn’t let go. That was the point of the novella bookshots series to cut the fat from the commercial novel. This is a full length thriller that adheres to that ideal, in style it’s like a collection of bookshots with one binding story – of course, there’s more exposition and the plot has more scope but it’s lean and in your face and constantly on the move.

Adam Hamdy has an insight into geopolitics and the world of conspiracy that gives a real edge to the zeitgeisty plot. So rather than James Bond and Spectre, nothing wrong with that by the way, we have a novel that deals in Russian American relations that knows what it’s talking about. The author of the Black 13, one of the most exciting thrillers of the year so far, has combined with Patterson in Private Moscow to great effect; pleasingly both share a belief in modern values and diversity that are a more accurate representation of society.

So Private Moscow is entertaining and engrossing; it takes the reader half way round the world, into shoot outs, explosions and all manner of heart thumping thrills from the comfort of an arm chair. This is rich in atmosphere, plausible setting and political reality that proves there’s much more to the modern high octane thriller than blistering pace. Whatever the nuts and bolts of the collaboration between these two authors it resulted in an alchemical reaction. Private Moscow twice reaches a point where the story could have ended with enough fireworks to please the most hard core action fan but it goes on layering the conspiracy, opening new strands to the story and when it comes the final, final denouement it really does hit the mark. The combination of private eye, conspiracy, chase and high octane adventure is irresistible. It all kicks off in New York:

Jack Morgan is surprised to get a call from his old friend and marine flight instructor Karl Parker, soon to be a telecoms billionaire. His company, Silverlink International, is about to list on the New York stock exchange. Parker wants to meet Jack before the launch but it’s too hectic, he rings the trading bell at the stock exchange with Jack watching on. A shot rings out and Parker goes down. Jack chases the assassin, but this is a meticulously planned operation, the killer escapes. An organisation called Ninety-Nine claims the credit, they say the 1%, the rich, are a legitimate target. Jack doesn’t buy it, this killing was professional not the work of amateurs or anarchists. As head of Private he has the resources to investigate his friend’s death. Parker must have known what was coming because he left a trail for Jack to follow. It isn’t long before Jack realises this is big, there are other targets in the crosshairs and his whole organisation is now under threat too.

Meanwhile in Moscow Yana Petrova is very careful about her movements, fearful of one tiny lapse, she always carries a pistol in her pocket. Her killer is prepared to bomb a bar full of people to ensure she dies. Dinara Orlova runs Private Moscow for Jack, work is sparse, the firm is mistrusted because of it’s American ownership. Maxim Yenan, Oligarch, could be the saviour, he wants Private Moscow to investigate the murder of his friend, Yana. Soon Dinara comes face to face with an organisation called the Black Hundreds. Yenan hasn’t been straight with her and a lot of powerful forces in Moscow don’t want this case investigated.

The two investigations are destined to coalesce; oligarchs, gangsters, spies, sleepers, double agents, corrupt and ambitious politicians all lined up against Jack, Yana and Private. The stakes couldn’t be higher.

The Private series has been a collaboration between James Patterson and a number of very good thriller writers with reputations in their own right. Private (no. 1) was written with Maxine Paetro, the others partners are Kathryn Fox, Ashwin Sanghi, Mark Sullivan, Rees Jones and Michael White. The books are set in locations as diverse as India, Australia, Berlin, LA, Vegas and, now, Moscow. The collaboration between Patterson and Hamdy works brilliantly here. I know both are incredibly busy but I hope there’s room for a second Private collaboration between them. Hamdy has the Black 13 series on going and, if the world returns to a new-normal, an exciting film project based on his Pendulum novels, Patterson always has several irons in the fire but fingers crossed. You can’t Beat this for pure adrenalin fuelled fun.

Century ISBN 9781529124446, hardback, 3/9/20