Those who know me --- and I mean really know me --- know that I'm a sucker for sappy. I have to leave the room for the final five minutes of the movie Homeward Bound. Last year, the song "The Little Girl" by John Michael Montgomery had me misty-eyed whenever I'd hear Eddie Stubbs play it on WSM-AM out of Nashville --- a fact that had my brother derisively howling and calling me a "sappy-ass _____." So, of course, it was a bit more natural than 'twould appear at first blush that the editors at TBR should pass to me, the resident munitions expert, their guns, explosions, and karate guy, SUZANNE'S DIARY FOR NICHOLAS by James Patterson. Yeah. That James Patterson, the grim and gritty author of mystery thrillers like ROSES ARE RED and KISS THE GIRLS, trying his hand at a straight-on romance novel.
So, what do we have here? Patterson actually can't move entirely away from mysteries, because there is one here, of a sort. What we have is one Kate Wilkinson, an attractive, fairly successful editor for a well-heeled publishing house. When we meet her, Wilkinson is in a blue funk. Matt Harrison, the man of her dreams, the man she is totally in love with, has just dumped her, as in Ally-McBeal-in-the-dumpster dumped, without warning or preamble, a Thomas Dolby "I Love You Goodbye." This is bad news for a number of reasons, but her main concern, of course, is why. She knew he had been married, but he had sworn that he was no longer. Had he lied about that? What had happened?
Then, the day after their breakup, she receives a parcel from Matt in the mail. Inside is a diary --- SUZANNE'S DIARY TO NICHOLAS. Who, Wilkinson wonders, is Nicholas. She quickly finds the answer to that question, and so much more. It is painful in places for her to read, for while she is jealous of Suzanne, she also, as the diary unfolds, comes to like her. What Wilkinson ultimately finds at the end of SUZANNE'S DIARY TO NICHOLAS will surprise the reader as much as it surprised her.
I would love, at some point, to find out where the impetus for writing this novel arose. Patterson certainly is straying into unfamiliar territory here, and while his writing is amazingly confident and as strong as ever, it is highly doubtful that his Alex Cross faithful will follow him. At the same time, the audience for this type of novel may well be scared off by the fact that he is a thriller author --- and a male thriller author, no less --- treading on this hallowed ground. I am not going to suggest that Patterson's usual readers will enjoy this venture; fans of romance novels, however, should pick it up and read without fear. Their adventurous action will be more than rewarded.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 23, 2011