PRIVATE LONDON is technically not the latest installment in James Patterson’s account of the international protection firm that is at the beck and call of the rich and famous. First published last year in Britain, the book (co-written with Mark Pearson) is just now making its appearance in the United States and Canada, the fourth in the series and the second (after PRIVATE GAMES, co-written with Mark Sullivan) to be published here. Regardless of placement in the Private canon, PRIVATE LONDON meets the high standard established by the other volumes, as it is loaded with action, twists, turns and surprises.
"[Patterson] and Pearson provide a cinematic narration that permits the story to unreel like a film in the reader’s mind --- not always an easy task --- and the incidental travelogue of London that the tale provides as a backdrop is an added and welcome bonus that spices things up without detracting from the narration."
The story focuses on Dan Carter, a former Royal Military Police Sergeant who heads up Private’s London branch. Jack Morgan, Private’s head, is busy elsewhere --- and under subpoena --- so Carter is on his own, assisting an American in London whose ties to Morgan go back several years. Hannah Shapiro, the daughter of a well-known billionaire, was kidnapped with her mother and held for ransom when she was 13. Rather than pay the blood money, her father retained an extraction firm to rescue his wife and daughter. Morgan was employed by that firm at the time and led the team that was only partially --- and tragically --- successful in its mission. Hannah, now a university student in London, is under Carter’s protection in London.
Everything goes well until a night of clubbing with friends turns bad; history repeats itself when Hannah is once again kidnapped and held for ransom. Worse, one of the young women with Hannah is seriously injured. Some time ago and in a faraway place, Carter made a blood oath to her father to protect her. At the same time, Carter learns that he is crossing the path of a hard-wired London police DI named Kirsty Webb, who happens to be his ex-wife. Sparks --- some of which are romantic --- fly as the two work at different ends toward the same goal but with conflicts aplenty.
Meanwhile, Webb is working on a case that may well have ties to Hannah’s abduction. Someone is kidnapping young women, then mutilating and murdering them. The question is whether Hannah is the killer’s latest victim, or if her abduction is something else entirely. Regardless of the answer, it is clear that time is of the essence. It eventually develops that nothing is quite as it seems for Carter, Webb, or Hannah, as surprise follows surprise through a complex trail that leads both Carter and Webb along separate paths to different types of justice.
PRIVATE LONDON is certainly one of Patterson’s more complex works of late. He and Pearson provide a cinematic narration that permits the story to unreel like a film in the reader’s mind --- not always an easy task --- and the incidental travelogue of London that the tale provides as a backdrop is an added and welcome bonus that spices things up without detracting from the narration. If you haven’t read anything by Patterson for a while, you should give PRIVATE LONDON and the Private series a try and acquire a healthy addiction.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on December 14, 2012