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The Murder House


The Murder House

Let’s go back 40 or 50 years and walk into a drug or department store, and head over to the book and magazine section. If you spun the wire paperback display, you would see that a good number of the spots were devoted to gothic suspense novels, which all had similar, if not identical, covers. These consisted of night settings; a large, foreboding mansion with only one window lit (always upstairs); and a formally dressed or nightgown-clad woman outside, looking at the mansion with fear in her eyes. Gothic horror and suspense exist to this day and goes back to the 18th century, even if the method of cover-marketing it to readers has upped its game.

"Patterson and Ellis provide a great number of twists and turns along the way, creating, even at this late point in the season, a beach read that is suitable for vacation at any time of the year."

THE MURDER HOUSE by James Patterson and David Ellis put me in the mind of those books and that genre. As one can tell from the title, the novel centers on a house with an unsavory reputation, one associated with death and a family with unsavory associations. The house is located at No. 7 Ocean Drive in the Hamptons and has not been occupied consistently for two decades, other than for occasional vacation rentals whose visitors are more often than not sorry that they stayed. The number of unsolved murders at the house tends to keep the locals away. Detective Jenna Murphy has vague unpleasant associations with the house, but is not sure why. When she was a child, she and her parents would spend summers there visiting her uncle, who, as the book opens, is the local police chief. However, those visits abruptly stopped when Jenna was still young.

When we meet her, Jenna has been a police officer in her uncle’s department for about a year, having resigned from the NYPD under a cloud of suspicion. But her first murder case with her new department brings her back to Ocean Drive when a Hollywood power broker and his newly minted mistress --- a local waitress --- are found ritualistically murdered in the house. In this case, it does not stay unsolved for long. A local construction worker named Noah Walker, who had been dating the waitress before she left him for greener, if fatal, pastures, is quickly arrested for the murders and released on bond pending trial. Jenna is somewhat troubled by the rush to judgment, particularly since it seems as if her uncle is engineering it. She is further troubled when the body of a prostitute is found displayed in a nearby woods, in a manner similar to that of the mogul and his mistress.

The trial is quick, and the verdict is a foregone conclusion, especially after tragedy strikes again, this time landing very close to Jenna. Things, though, are actually nowhere near that simple. Jenna finds that her allegiances, both of her mind and of her heart, are challenged as she goes against the department in an attempt to find the killer who may be responsible for as many as eight unsolved murders in the area, even as she learns things about people, and herself, that she never would’ve thought to be possible.

Mystery aficionados may discern several of the outcomes of the subplots, or even all of them. The worth of the story is in the journey, particularly if one is fond of stories with brooding houses that give up their secrets with great reluctance. Patterson and Ellis provide a great number of twists and turns along the way, creating, even at this late point in the season, a beach read that is suitable for vacation at any time of the year. It’s a great stand-alone, one-sit read.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on October 2, 2015

The Murder House
by James Patterson and David Ellis

  • Publication Date: April 5, 2016
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • ISBN-10: 145558990X
  • ISBN-13: 9781455589906