Review

The Beach House

by James Patterson

Read an Excerpt

I'm
not exactly sure what James Patterson is trying to do here. He is
certainly compiling a burgeoning bibliography, writing and
publishing books as if Planet X's rumored collision with our world
in 2003 is all but a certainty. THE BEACH HOUSE, by my count, marks
his fourth book, either by himself or in collaboration with
another, in the past 12 months, but he is varying his output enough
that no one should complain.

Of the Patterson books published most recently, THE BEACH HOUSE
would be my clear favorite. The presence of Peter de Jonge, who
ably collaborated with Patterson on MIRACLE ON THE 17th GREEN, is
most welcome here, providing a bit of a deviation from Patterson's
tried and true methods of keeping his old audience while reaching
out to a new one. No one is going to accuse Patterson of going
deep; his prose reflects his background in advertising, written in
terse sentences with short paragraphs and chapters to keep the
story moving and the reader reading. If he appears, at times, to
have written at a speed commensurate with the action of the story,
it can be chalked up to transmutation, perhaps. No matter; THE
BEACH HOUSE is a page-turner of the highest order.

THE BEACH HOUSE opens with the murder of Peter Mullen, a
21-year-old living in the fast lane of East Hampton. The reader
knows it's a murder; the official verdict is death by drowning.
Jack Mullen, Peter's older, more levelheaded brother, is
immediately suspicious. Jack is everything Peter was not. A law
student at Columbia University with a summer clerking job at one of
the country's most prestigious law firms, Jack seems to have the
world by the string. Everything, however, is shattered by the
mysterious and unexpected death of his brother. Stymied by the
police who doggedly and steadfastly refuse to investigate the
circumstances surrounding Peter's death, Jack enlists the help of
his lifelong friends to conduct his own investigation. It appears
at first that it will be easy to establish that Peter was murdered.
The coroner's report indicates that Peter was beaten to death long
before he was ever in the water, and a number of people in town,
members of the city's wealthy elite, are behaving as if they
something to hide. It soon becomes evident, however, that these
same powerful forces are determined to keep what they are hiding
hidden for good and will do anything to keep the truth behind
Peter's sudden demise buried with him. Although it initially seems
that justice will be denied to Peter and his family, a clue ---
actually, several of them --- suddenly appears from a wholly
unexpected source, and Jack's investigation is given new
life.

There are some flaws to this book --- the resolution is highly
unlikely, to say the least --- but Patterson and de Jonge do such a
great job of building suspense while keeping things moving that
you're not even going to care. What is especially impressive here
is the way the authors handle the central theme of the book. The
reader knows Peter was murdered. The question is, why? This is a
question that is not answered until one is well into THE BEACH
HOUSE and headed for the conclusion. It should also be noted that,
in Patterson fashion, the motive for murder is not the only issue
to be resolved herein.

THE BEACH HOUSE lives up to the seasonal relevance of its title.
This book will be right next to the Coppertone bottle on every
beach in America this summer, with readers devouring it so quickly
that they will have to beware of spontaneous combustion. Maybe,
ultimately, Patterson is trying to prove that there is no such
animal as too much of a good thing, at least where his writing is
concerned.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 21, 2011

The Beach House
by James Patterson

  • Publication Date: June 10, 2002
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
  • ISBN-10: 0316969680
  • ISBN-13: 9781876590840