■ REVIEWS: Merry Christmas, Alex Cross | Private Oz | NYPD Red | Zoo
James Patterson: always something to add to your library

If you’re ever at a loose end when it comes to reading material, it’s a sure bet that James Patterson has something to keep you occupied.

The world’s bestselling thriller writer ended 2012 as he started it: by publishing another book.

This latest in the Alex Cross series (No 19) was one of 13 books he managed to turn out last year but was the only solo effort.

Interestingly, according to Wikipedia the 20th book in the Alex Cross series is one of five novels Patterson already has publication dates ready for this year. Does the man ever sleep?

The story begins on Christmas Eve, with Detective Alex Cross having just wrapped up a stakeout to catch the person pilfering the poor box at his church. He is looking forward to some family time to celebrate the festive season but the peace is shattered when he receives a phonecall to say a family at a nearby home has been taken hostage.

When Alex arrives at the scene of the drama he finds a father threatening to murder his own children and ex-wife. Her new husband and the wife of a Congressman are also in the middle of it all and the police negotiator has managed to aggravate the father even more.

Then, as it seems it can’t get any worse, a second horrific situation explodes with a potential terrorist attack that is uncomfortably frightening because it is uncomfortably realistic.

Merry Christmas, Alex Cross is classic James Patterson that will keep you on the edge of your seat to the very last page.

And for those who have been critical of his many collaborations with other authors, Patterson shows in this novel that he still has the ability to craft a damn fine thriller that is probably one of his best novels ever.

This is chilling, exciting and perfect holiday reading that I managed to get through in just one day. Which left plenty of time to read a few more Patterson offerings.

Merry Christmas, Alex Cross, by James Patterson (Century, RRP $35)

This latest in the PRIVATE series, about the the world’s top private detective agency is set in Australia with the tagline “Australia, beautiful one day, lethal the next”.

PRIVATE SYDNEY launches its new offices with a glittering party overlooking the Sydney Opera House but the new team have barely raised their glasses when a young blood-soaked man staggers into the party.

At first the man appears to be the victim of a botch kidnapping but it turns out there is a whole lot more to his story. Within days of opening, the agency has a full caseload to deal with but it is a nasty murder and the desperate search for a motive that stretches the team almost to breaking.

This one was OK but not brilliant, and certainly not the best of the PRIVATE series so far: it felt a little too formulaic and the writing wasn’t as compelling as I’ve come to expect from Patterson and the authors he chooses to collaborate with.

Private Oz, by James Patterson and Michael White (Century, RRP $37)

An all-star cast of Hollywood stars and executives arrive in New York for a film festival and on the very first day, a famous producer meets his demise, poisoned during his power breakfast.

The NYPD Red team is a special unit within the New York Police Department, which is assigned to protect the rich and famous, and it is Detective Zach Jordan and his new work partner/ex-girlfriend Kylie MacDonald who catch the case.

Within hours the body count is on the rise, with two more wildly theatrical killings of Hollywood’s finest.

It seems the elusive killer has every murder and every escape planned down to the last detail and has scripted the most explosive finale ever.

This is a great read and while the story works well as a standalone, there is plenty of potential for another bestselling series from Patterson.

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

The number of collaborations between James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge must be getting near double figures now and they have had some interesting results.

In this standalone novel, brutal attacks are crippling cities all over the world and young biologist Jackson Oz watches the escalating events with a sense of dread.

There’s been some criticism in online book review websites of the science behind the storyline and of the behaviour of the characters, but those points didn’t do anything to lessen my enjoyment of a thought-provoking and somewhat creepy plot: animals are rebelling and it’s all our own fault.

Sure, I was struck by the stupidity of scientist Jackson keeping a chimp as a pet when we all know how dangerous they are but let’s face it, people are stupid and often do stupid things, so it’s not outside the realms of possibility that a scientist would do something dangerous. In fact, let’s be honest: most of our biggest scientific breakthroughs have probably come about because of a certain level of stupidity alongside the bravery and intelligence.

This has a bit of a Jurassic Park feel to it, and the science in that one wasn’t totally legit, either. But that didn’t stop it being a bestseller.

If you can appreciate this for what it is – a novel – you’ll find this a fast-paced read that will leave you breathless and more than a little disconcerted.

Oh, and be nice to your cat. You never know what they might be planning.

Zoo, by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge (Century, RRP $37)

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