NOW YOU SEE HER is a thriller. Make that A Thriller. James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge, who conceived and midwived this wonderful romp into the book marketplace, can each take a bow. It's this summer's beach book, pool book, airplane book, bedtime book, checkout line book. Yeah. It's that good.
The pages turn so fast that they should be labeled a fire hazard, but even if your copy catches on fire, you won't want to let it go until you've turned the last page.
Their latest effort is not great literature. There's no deep message, no pithy turns of phrase, or anything of high literary merit to be found here. What it has, in overflowing buckets, is entertainment. Not everything has to be on the same literary plane as Cormac McCarthy, James Lee Burke, Tana French or Tom Franklin. Not everyone reads to improve their mind all the time. Sometimes you read just to have fun.
For that purpose, NOW YOU SEE HER fits the bill perfectly. It features a protagonist named Nina Bloom, a successful attorney in a white shoe firm who worked her way up, in part by hiding a past that would almost certainly put her in jail. Twenty years ago, Nina was someone else, a college student on spring break in Key West, when a terrible accident changed her life forever. A guardian angel was in the right place at the right time and intervened to save her. Nina married her angel, but all too quickly discovered that everything she knew about her husband, Peter Fournier --- a cop's cop who had ambition to burn --- was wrong. She fled Key West, carrying her unborn child, and started her life over in New York. Now a pro bono program that her firm is sponsoring threatens to turn her life upside down and reveal a series of terrible secrets that she thought she had buried forever.
Returning to Key West, Nina is charged with aiding Charlie Baylor --- a colorful, alcohol-addled attorney --- in the 11th-hour defense of a death row inmate who Nina knows, without doubt, is innocent of the murder of which he has been convicted. As Nina and Charlie slowly reconstruct the case and discover what appears to be a cover-up that resulted in a wrongful conviction, Fournier, now a police chief with a number of extracurricular sources of income, draws ever closer. As it happens, Fournier has discovered that Nina, whom he believed to be dead, is still alive. And nobody puts one over on Peter Fournier. As Nina and Charlie race against time to stay a wrongful execution, they also must keep Fournier at bay so they won't become victims as well.
NOW YOU SEE HER is a stand-alone novel, but has enough action and plot lines for two or even three books. Nina is one of those hard-luck heroines who at times seems to jump from one catastrophe to another, continually escaping by the skin of her, or someone else's, teeth. The narrative is constructed to advance the storyline --- a common feature of Patterson's writing --- and indeed, things move along all the way through. The pages turn so fast that they should be labeled a fire hazard, but even if your copy catches on fire, you won't want to let it go until you've turned the last page. I don't care if you read every word that Patterson publishes, or if you've decided to take a sabbatical from his (now bi-weekly, it seems) offerings. NOW YOU SEE HER is a book you do not want to miss this summer.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on July 4, 2011