Private is the world’s most influential investigation firm. Helmed by Jack Morgan and with offices seemingly in every corner of the globe, it is the go-to group for the movers and shakers, whether they are individuals, countries or corporations. In PRIVATE BERLIN, written by James Patterson and Mark Sullivan, Private brings all of its resources to bear when a brutal and brilliant killer focuses on one of their own.
"Patterson has always been an expert at conceiving chilling villains of his many pieces, and with Sullivan, he achieves new heights (or would that be depths?) of terror with the Invisible Man. And while the story proceeds at breakneck speed.... Patterson and Sullivan create plenty of scenes that readers will not soon forget."
Chris Schneider rules the roost at Private Berlin; he generally goes it alone, being tasked with Private’s highest profile and most important German cases. However, when he suddenly disappears without warning, the Private offices and personnel become concerned, especially as it pertains to Mattie Engel. Chris and Mattie were colleagues on the job and lovers at home, at least until recently, when Mattie broke their engagement for reasons even she cannot entirely explain. When Chris vanishes, Mattie, whose feelings for the agent still flicker, throws herself into the investigation to either find him or determine his fate.
She begins by investigating the three cases that Chris was handling before disappearing. Each is fascinating in its own right. One concerns a powerful and influential billionaire who is suspected of infidelity by his wife; a second involves an unbelievably talented soccer star who is thought to have been fixing games; and the third deals with a successful nightclub operator who may be in bed with the Russian mob, among others. Any of these people might have found it expedient to take Chris off the board, if he discovered too much about them.
What Mattie finds, however, is that her former lover, who was so closed-mouthed about his past, is hiding a terrifying and deadly secret that is intimately tied with Berlin’s history. Worse, she slowly discovers that Chris shared this secret --- and a frightening experience --- with several other people, all of whom are being selectively targeted and eliminated by a fiend who calls himself the Invisible Man.
The narrative alternates between a third-person omnipresent view, focusing primarily on Mattie, and the chilling first-person, live-as-it-happens observations of the shadowy and dangerous antagonist of the piece, as Mattie and Private find that their investigation is seemingly and inexplicably being hamstrung by a legendary Berlin police investigator with secrets of his own that he does not wish to see the light of day. Worse, Private seems to be chasing a murderer who operates in plain view and who can seemingly change appearance at will. When Engel gets too close to the Invisible Man, she finds that she has put not only herself at mortal risk, but also those whom she loves more than life itself.
Patterson has always been an expert at conceiving chilling villains of his many pieces, and with Sullivan, he achieves new heights (or would that be depths?) of terror with the Invisible Man. And while the story proceeds at breakneck speed --- there are clocks ticking all over the place --- Patterson and Sullivan create plenty of scenes that readers will not soon forget. There is one in particular, that being a vignette in the opening pages of the book, about a fourth of the way in, that lovers of thriller and horror fiction will read over and over again. A rat is involved, but you’ll know it when you see it, trust me.
PRIVATE BERLIN will make you a fan of this wide-ranging and marvelously conceived series, if you are not one already.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 24, 2013