MISTRESS is a somewhat different stand-alone work, not only for James Patterson but also for co-author David Ellis (whose fine courtroom thriller, THE LAST ALIBI, was published earlier this month). It begins as a mystery but soon enough transforms into a political thriller, which reads as if the authors had prescient knowledge of tomorrow’s headlines.
The book is told through the first-person, present-tense voice of Ben, the editor and financial support of an online newspaper that isn’t exactly known for its number of hits but stubbornly attempts to cling to some semblance of old-school journalistic integrity. Ben is (how can I put this?) a little hard to take, his noble ethical aspirations notwithstanding. He has some difficulty staying on task, which makes his narration an occasional labor of love to follow while also making him somewhat, or maybe almost, endearing. He is also in the grips of love with a woman named Diana Hotchkiss, a goddess among mortals for whom he literally would do anything. That his love is unrequited does not deter him in the slightest; he is sure that Diana ultimately will come around.
"Trying to guess what is going to happen next is like walking confidently into a room and having the Persian rug in the center of it suddenly yanked out from under you; just when you think you have the answers, the questions change."
Therefore, Ben is emotionally shattered when he witnesses his beloved falling to her death from the balcony of her Washington, D.C. apartment. It is ruled a suicide, but he simply cannot accept this conclusion. Diana had a fabulous job that brought her into the offices of the highest levels of the Federal government, and had intelligence and beauty to boot, along with Ben’s undying love. Ben believes there is no way that she could have killed herself. He begins investigating the circumstances leading up to her death and uncovers a number of startling things about her. Diana was apparently leading a double life that she kept hidden from her family and friends, and included a relationship with a Chinese lobbyist and, quite possibly, an extremely prominent politician.
As Ben gets deeper into his investigation, more people start dying around him, and he soon finds himself accused of the deaths of Diana and one of his best friends. He soon realizes that he has almost nowhere left to turn. In a last-ditch effort to find out the truth --- and to save the United States government from itself --- Ben pulls out all the stops and discovers that he was right all along: Diana did not commit suicide. The truth, though, may be more than he can handle.
MISTRESS is one of Patterson’s more ambitious and complex co-written novels, full of surprises and unexpected twists. Trying to guess what is going to happen next is like walking confidently into a room and having the Persian rug in the center of it suddenly yanked out from under you; just when you think you have the answers, the questions change. And if an action-filled, suspenseful work is not enough for you, the book includes excerpts from two forthcoming Patterson novels. All of the above make MISTRESS a perfect book with which to close out your summer.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on August 9, 2013