The Red Book by James Patterson and David Ellis

We often hear a less well known writer referred to as a ‘writer’s writer’ and we understand what it means, a scribe who doesn’t sell well but is revered and respected by colleagues. There’s another kind of writer’s writer, James Patterson is the epitome of a class of admired successful writers, not for the mega-sales, although what author wouldn’t want that? No, it’s about his boundless creative energy and his consummate skill as an entertainer. Stories spring from this man like water from a well. Extraordinarily readable, inventive and exciting tales of adventure and mystery; spy stories, police procedurals, serial killer thrillers, and tales of private eyes. Characters from diverse backgrounds, male and/or female, old or young. Now we have Patterson the collaborator, working with other writers, such as this one with David Ellis. Sometimes collaborations seem to come along as writers are considering retiring the pen, passing the baton on, like Lee Child. Not a bit of that here, Patterson is going on p, string as ever, and it’s remarkable.

Red Book is a police procedural with a roguish, quick witted cop at it’s heart. There’s plenty of humour and oodles of action, sharp dialogue and clever plotting.

K-Town is home to the K-Street Hustlers, Chicago is the shoot-em-up capital of America. Latham is looking for a way out of the gangs, for that he needs money, he wants to go to film school, start a new life away from the hood. That means crossing Shiv and the last person to do that wound up with a joker smile; that was just for bantering with Shiv’s girl, not like Latham plan which is messing with the man’s business. Latham has a camera trained on the street where the gang are congregating on the steps of an apartment block. A BMW approaches, African American foot soldier Frisk waits for Shiv’s nod before approaching the car. A white guy leans out, hands some money to Frisk then heads off to the drug collection point further up the road. Armed with the footage Latham rings his cousin at the DMV, the driver is Richard Dempsey from River Forest, he won’t want his colleagues or his wife to know about his habit, ripe for blackmail, maybe as much as $10k. That’s most of the way to film school in one bite.

Today detective Bill ‘Billy’ Harney gets to go back to work. Cleared of a murder charge and mostly recovered from a bullet to the head. Of course, he’s not popular, bringing down, as he did, the mayor and the Cook county prosecutor, and a police colleague or two for that matter. Superintendent Driscoll tries to get him to quit but Billy means to ride out the storm. They can’t sack the only departmental hero they have.

Later, Shiv, Frisk, and a young woman are selling drugs on the street again. A four year old girl is playing inside the apartment block when a shooter opens up from a passing car. Little Latisha is killed along with the gang members. The justice for Latisha campaign kicks off almost before the investigation starts. Gang members are fair game but a child dying is a tragedy. Billy gets assigned a new partner, Carla Griffin, the pair inherit the K-Street shootings case. Community tensions are mounting, everyone wants a quick result. The pressure is on to resolve this before it blows up and things escalate. The assassins screwed up killing the little girl, somebody has to pay, but it won’t be them, they need a solution, a patsy. The police are offered a neat tie up, a dead perpetrator, case closed, time for plaudits all around, war averted, community soothed. Only Billy doesn’t buy it, it’s too easy, there has to be more. He’s carrying his own tragedy, the fact that his wife killed herself after the death of their daughter, but that may not be the whole truth of things. There are plenty of surprises, the action is non stop and the characters are fun.

David Ellis is a Justice with the Illinois Appellate Court, he has written nine novels and has an Edgar The Red Book is the sequel to The Black Book.

Century, hardback, ISBN 9781529125375, 1/4/21

Personal read 4* group read 4*


The Whispers by Heidi Perks

As the new year starts the body of a woman is found on the beach below Crayne Cliff, it’s not the first such tragedy in Clearwater. Those with long memories remember another such death many years ago but there’s no apparent connection, so just a terrible coincidence. An off duty detective wonders if this latest death couldn’t have been prevented. If only the police had taken Grace Goodwin more seriously when she reported her friend missing three weeks before.

Grace Goodwin left for Australia as a child but has now returned to Clearwater with her own daughter, Matilda. On the first day of school she meets her old friend Anna Robinson. The reunion isn’t everything Grace hoped for but, of course, Anna has her own life, a family of her own and friends Grace doesn’t know. She meets the friends, the atmosphere is a little tense, Grace thinks one of the women is overbearing, controlling of the others, including Anna. Anna seems sad but they never really get a chance to discuss things without the other around. After a night out at the pub Anna disappears. Grace is sure the other women are hiding something, they can’t even seem to get their story straight. When she goes to see Anna’s husband Ben he seems reluctant to report Anna missing. Grace goes to the police herself but they aslo dismiss her concerns. They think adults sometimes take a time out, Anna probably just needed a break. Then Ben says he’s heard from Anna and she’s safe but Grace is worried. She’s not prepared to drop this until she finds out where her childhood friend is.

This is a tale of friendship, twisted friendship, family and loyalty. Sometime your friends aren’t what they seem, they aren’t friends at all and you discover this too late. As Grace tries to convince the police something is very wrong dark secrets emerge – a reckoning is coming. The past won’t stay buried. Of course there’s much more to this than meets the eye…

Readers will spot that something is off from the start but what that is is just out of reach. This is a well told story and by the time what is really going on is apparent readers will be hooked into the lives of the characters and desperate to know what will happen. Whispers is a tense, taut tale, a page turner that fans of domestic noir will enjoy.

Century, Hardback, ISBN 9781529124255

Personal read   3½

Group read       4*

Reviewed by Paul Burke