Burn: A Detective Michael Bennett Thriller
You really should be reading the Michael Bennett series by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge. Bennett wears many hats: he is an NYPD detective who is part of the Major Crimes unit, a widower, and the father of 10 children. He is assisted in the joys and duties of the latter by his uncle Seamus (who is also a Roman Catholic priest) and Mary Catherine, the family’s indispensable nanny and Bennett’s on-again, off-again romantic interest. It’s a combination that shouldn’t work, but it does. If someone is casting about for a television series, they should be looking here, because there is an almost perfect balance between very tough and family tender in these pages. Once you start the series, it’s impossible to pass up as it progresses.
BURN is the latest installment in the series and by far the best to date. The book finds the Bennett family, after being in a somewhat de facto witness protection situation in southern California, returned to their beloved digs in New York. For Bennett, the return is not without surprises. He finds himself confronted with a new boss, a gent with whom he has a somewhat unpleasant past and who bears a king-sized grudge. In short order, Bennett finds himself transferred off his beloved Major Crimes squad and into a supervisory slot in the “Ombudsman Outreach Squad” in Harlem. It’s even worse than it sounds --- from the personnel who have grown roots under their desks, to the citizens they serve who haven’t entirely gotten a grip on what the squad should and should not be doing.
"BURN solidifies the chronicles of Bennett and family as one of my favorites of the Patterson-authored series, and it will do the same for you if you try it out."
Bennett, true to form, comes in and shakes things up. Along the way, he actually finds some cases to work on, including the handling of a complaint from a poor woman with a horribly abusive ex-boyfriend and a street person with a complaint about a bizarre and ghastly incident that he witnessed in an abandoned building. But when one of his officers is murdered during the course of the investigation, Bennett vows he will not rest until the killer is brought to justice. Then, unexpectedly, he finds himself back in Major Crimes. A series of bold and brilliant jewelry store robberies are occurring in Manhattan, just before the International Diamond Conference is scheduled to take place. Bennett is stymied at every turn as the criminals seem to be just as unique as the heists they pull off.
As if Bennett did not have enough on his plate, one of his children is suddenly in danger of being removed from his family. Bennett is as capable a man as one is likely to encounter, but the primary question posed here is: Can he keep his job and family intact? It will take you until almost the end of the book to find out, but you will love every paragraph of the story while you are doing so.
The primary element of this series is Bennett’s first person narrative, which provides a peek into his soul, his core. You’ll like what you see. He’s a hard guy when he needs to be, but it’s not his default setting. There are points in the story where you might wonder how Bennett maintains his sanity with all that’s going on, but you soon realize he does it the same way that someone would eat an elephant: a bite at a time. Additionally, Patterson and Ledwidge infuse a subtle charm into the series that offsets the often gritty nature of the crimes that Bennett is tasked with solving.
BURN solidifies the chronicles of Bennett and family as one of my favorites of the Patterson-authored series, and it will do the same for you if you try it out.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on October 3, 2014