■ REVIEWS: NYPD Red 2 | Unlucky 13 | First Love
James Patterson: prolific and entertaining

The prolific James Patterson never seems to run out of ideas for novel. Sure, most of them involved murder, but it’s nice to see he can produce a bit of romantic fluff, too.

Sure, he has his critics – mainly having a crack at the sheer volume of his published efforts — but it’s hard to argue with the number of best-sellers this bloke has under his belt.

While some of his books are a tad simplistic and predictable, there have also been a decent number of them that have delivered surprise plot twists and no matter where they fall on the “didn’t see that coming” scale, his book are always easy reading.

NYPD Red 2, by James Patterson and Marshall Karp (Century, RRP $37)

The second book in the NYPD Red series again centres on the complicated relationship between Detective Zach Jordan and his ex-girlfriend and current work partner Detective Kylie MacDonald.

NYPD Red is the elite task force called in for high-profile crimes involving New York’s most rich and influential citizens, and when the body of one of the woman running the campaign for a mayoral candidate is found strapped to a carousel in Central Park, the team is called in to investigate.

The woman is the latest victim of the “hazmat killer”, who has a taste for torture and brutal murder. He (or she) also has a better than average knowledge of forensic procedures, with the bodies of each of the four victims scrubbed clean of any evidence and clad in a hazmat suit when found.

As with the previous murders, the killer sends police a video of his victim confessing to a serious crime.

Public and political pressure mounts on the NYPD Red team to stop the vigilante killer playing judge, jury and executioner in the Big Apple before there is a sixth victim but with no forensic evidence, they are struggling to make any headway in their investigation.

This is Patterson back to his best. Yes, there’s no denying some of his more recent books have been a little formulaic (but still very readable), but is one of the best police procedural books I’ve read in a long time. It is original, full of action, has a spot of potential romance with our two detectives, a good dose of violence and mayhem (it is a murder mystery, after all) and will give you plenty of “aha” moments as the story unfolds and the plot is revealed.

Good stuff.

Unlucky 13, by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro (Century, RRP $37)

This is the latest in the “Women’s Murder Club” series that has proven more popular in print that it did on the small screen, with the television series based on the books lasting just one season a few years ago.

Each book brings together a group of women – including a cop, a lawyer, a journalist and a doctor – who pool their professional knowledge to solve murders in San Francisco.

Two dead bodies are found in a wrecked car on the Golden Gate Bridge but the gruesome scene indicates that they didn’t die in a crash and it’s up to Detective Lindsay Boxer to investigate.

However, Lindsay’s week goes from bad to worse when she gets a call to say her psycho ex-colleague has been spotted in the area. Her former workmate Mackie Morales had been in custody after turning into a ruthless killer, as you do, but escaped earlier and had been in hiding.

Now, she’s back in town and it looks like she’s ready to get up close and personal with some old friends.

I enjoyed most of this book but was a little let down by the ending: it felt a little rushed, with all the loose ends wrapped up with a nice bow in too much of a hurry.

First Love, by James Patterson and Emily Raymond (Century, RRP $27)

Let me begin by saying I don’t do romance novels: I’m not a fan of this genre, not even the racier versions like the much-hyped Fifty Shades series.

However, this one has a little more grunt to it that the average sappy romance. And no, by grunt, I do not mean whips and chains. I mean it had a plot that involved something more than breathless lust.

Because the plot involved a young couple with cancer, this one has been subject to some criticism online, with accusations of it being a knock off of The Fault in our Stars. However, the story really is totally different and the criticism isn’t deserved.

Axi and Oscar meet in hospital, where they are both recovering from chemo. Aside from cancer, Axi has a lot to contend with: the death of her sister, her mother has run away from home and her father has taken to drinking like a fish.

So she decides to do what any sensible 16-year-old would do in her situation. She takes a cross-country road trip, with Oscar along for company.

Along the way they get to know each other even better, encounter a few obstacles, provide more than a few laughs and deliver a story that was actually pretty heart-warming. Even for a cynical old realist like me.

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