If you are ignoring the Private series due to some sort of preconceived notions about anything or anyone connected with the project, you are making a regrettable error. Between the covers of the first two books (PRIVATE and the newly released #1 SUSPECT) is some of James Patterson’s best work to date. Maxine Paetro, who has done yeoman’s work as co-author of the Women’s Murder Club novels, has been turning in star performances on this series as well, and without a whiff of similarity to her other efforts. What you have here is a private investigation agency that bears more resemblance to Amos Burke than Sam Spade, yet does not sacrifice story, characterization, or plotting. The result is a plot that contains substance without sacrificing readability and is inhabited by characters who are sympathetic and multi-dimensional.
"If you are a fan of the Women’s Murder Club books, you will love this series for many of the same reasons as well as a number of entirely different ones."
“Private” is the name of an international investigation firm run by a former Marine named Jack Morgan who has more money than God and, in #1 SUSPECT, more troubles than Dreyfus. A dog-tired Morgan returns from an international air flight to discover his former girlfriend murdered in his bed. All of the evidence points unerringly toward Morgan as the doer, a conclusion that the two LAPD homicide detectives assigned to the case are more than happy to reach. And when the murder weapon --- Morgan’s gun --- is found haphazardly concealed on the premises, a conviction seems to be a foregone conclusion. This state of affairs does little for Private’s business side, which starts leaking clients like a sieve. But there are two who stick with Morgan for diverse reasons.
One client is a mobster who has lost an extremely valuable shipment of prescription drugs, with a street value in the millions, to a hijacking. Morgan wants neither the case nor the client, but for reasons made clear in the story, he really has no choice. Ascertaining the whereabouts of the hijacked truck is relatively easy for the talented crew at Private, but recovering the drugs themselves is quite another matter. Additionally, Morgan has to find some way to fulfill his obligation to his client, however reluctant he may be to do so, and still maintain his integrity.
The other client is the desperate and very beautiful owner of a chain of upscale hotels. She is losing business the hard way. Someone is killing her guests in their rooms, which doesn’t exactly make her lodgings a landmark for sleepy Americans. To make things even more interesting, the owner has a little secret of her own. So do the murdered guests, who, though unrelated, all have one thing in common besides winding up dead. Morgan accordingly has to prove his own innocence while balancing the interest of one client and keeping his nose clean from the dealings of the other. Fortunately, he has an extremely interesting and loyal support staff whose knowledge and skill sets make them a joy to observe.
Morgan’s personal life, however, seems to be damaged beyond repair. His girlfriend --- who also happens to be one of his most valued employees --- is not happy to learn that his former and deceased lover is not as “former” as she was supposed to be. Even if he proves himself innocent of murder, Morgan is going to have a much tougher sell in the relationship department. His success with respect to either looks extremely unlikely as the story progresses. Will there be a third book in the series? You’ll have to find out for yourself. But I guarantee you will not be sorry.
Patterson and Paetro’s concept and execution for PRIVATE: #1 SUSPECT is flawless. If you are a fan of the Women’s Murder Club books, you will love this series for many of the same reasons as well as a number of entirely different ones. And if someone doesn’t latch onto these novels for a television drama, they should find employment in another industry. Jump on now.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 6, 2012