Readers can pick up a James Patterson novel at an airport bookshop
and more often than not finish it by the end of their flight (or,
in some cases, before they've made it through airport security).
Though not great literature, Patterson's books are popular
entertainment. His Women's Murder Club series, co-written with
Andrew Gross and Maxine Paetro, remains reliably entertaining and
engrossing. The same can be said of BEACH ROAD.
A collaborative effort with Peter de Jonge, BEACH ROAD is a fooler.
It appears at first blush to be a well-told but predictable tale
involving an underachieving yet competent attorney named Tom
Dunleavy, who is content to eke out an existence in East Hampton
representing the not-so-rich-and-famous who work for the
All of that abruptly changes when Dante Halleyville, a local star
athlete, is charged with a triple murder and asks his friend
Dunleavy to represent him. Dunleavy knows he is outclassed and goes
to his long-lost love, Kate Costello, for assistance. Costello is a
superstar in Manhattan legal circles and initially rebuffs
Dunleavy's request for a number of reasons, not the least of which
is the way that Dunleavy unceremoniously dumped her years before.
It so happens, however, that Costello is in the midst of a
vocational crisis and decides that Halleyville is the type of
client whom she became a lawyer to represent.
Thus, Dunleavy and Costello begin a long, uphill and unpopular
representation of Halleyville. Stereotypes abound; there is a whole
deck of race and class warfare cards played here, and the
appearance of a number of real-world political panderers will turn
all but the strongest stomachs. The book's conclusion would seem
predictable, given what occurs before, but it isn't. Patterson and
de Jonge masterfully lead the reader down an entertaining but
well-worn path that abruptly drops off into an abyss, a conclusion
(actually a few of them) that will leave you stunned. I re-read the
last 40 or so pages a couple of times to be sure that I wasn't
having a late-night, sleep-deprived hallucination. I wasn't.
Is BEACH ROAD a literary masterpiece? No. It is, however, a heck of
a story that is well-told, and the erotic vignettes --- short and
few, but sweet --- are near perfect. Patterson and de Jonge have a
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on December 22, 2010