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Having heard very highly of James Patterson's crime thrillers, this was the first one of his which I tried and I've been hooked ever since. He co-wrote it with Peter de Jonge, which I always think is a bit risky as you can lose some of the author's style, but this book is filled with suspense the whole way through.
It is unusual to begin with as it gives a list of characters in order of appearance, along with a bit of background. In this prologue-type chapter, it states that the reader must 'Keep in mind that people often lie, especially in the current age, and that the full extent of their lies can be almost beyond our comprehension'. When faced with this I was a little unsure if it was a good idea to be directly told this or not, as instead of being explicitly told that some people are lying and some are not, I always like to try and work out whom in a book can be trusted and who can't. However, once I was halfway through the book I was pleased that I had been warned about some characters' lies, as it gave me an extra incentive to sort the truth from the lies as I read. By the time I had finished the book, I had guessed something (which I would never have guessed if I hadn't been told that people might be lying), but there was so much more that never even crossed my mind. The lies really can reach 'almost beyond our comprehension', so it was no bad thing that that comment had been included before the story started proper.
The story is told from seven different characters' perspectives, which may at first sound quite confusing, but it is clearly stated at the beginning of each chapter who will be the first person speaker in that chapter. Most of the chapters are from Tom Dunleavy's perspective, a struggling lawyer living and working in East Hampton, a neighbourhood in America for the super-rich. He becomes involved in a murder case where three of his acquaintances were shot, and he represents the young man on trial for murder - another friend of his - Dante Halleyville. Tom enlists the help of a top lawyer and former lover of his, Kate Costello, and the story goes from there.
However, nothing is that simple. Tom and Kate's relationship goes from stony and strained as he is forced to atone for letting Kate down in their previous relationship, to strong and dependable as the case and isolation they feel from their neighbours brings them closer together. Furthermore, other mysterious murderers and drug dealers leave you wondering how they could be relevant and how they might help to tie everything up...
The setting of the novel, in East Hampton, an extremely rich area in Long Island, America, is probably somewhere where none of us will ever see the likes of, except in our dreams! This can mean that at times it's a little hard to relate to the characters or what's going on, as it can seem a bit too fantastical. On the other hand, you could take it as a nice bit of escapism, allowing you to enter a world you'd never be able to see in real life.
Dante's court case is described over several chapters, and usually court scenes in books leave me a bit baffled as to what's going on. However, James Patterson manages to omit all the legal and court jargon, but without losing the tension and idea of what's going on at the same time. It was easy to follow exactly what was going on, who was saying what, and who was on Dante's side and who was not. Whether or not it was accurate in terms of what a court case is actually like I've got no idea, but the whole case was well explained, and the high level legal stuff was, thankfully, left out.
As with most James Patterson books, the chapters in 'Beach Road' are very short. This means you can get through it very quickly, as each chapter just flies by. You could be endlessly saying you'll read 'just another chapter', as you can get caught up in the story so easily! It's also really satisfying as if you read in bed, you'll never have to go to sleep by ending halfway through a chapter.
As you read, you'll go through a range of emotions, which is exactly the type of journey which a well-executed book should take you on. From surprise at the murders, to humour, a calmness as Tom and Kate seem to be taking control, to finally extreme shock as everything is tied together at the end. As I reached the final seven or eight chapters, my mouth literally hung open as I read in shock. I was stunned as I read, and the anguish I felt for one of the characters (I won't say which one and ruin the story for you!) was something I had never felt from a book before. For me, this was what gave the book its exceptional quality and fifth star, and as I said before, the ending was something which had never even crossed my mind.
All in all this is a fantastic book which keeps you guessing until the very end. It's a really quick and easy book to read, yet it still manages to take you on an emotional rollercoaster, and to a part of the world you can only imagine. I would definitely recommend it as, although it won't take you long to read, it'll leave you questioning people's motivations behind doing things.
Beach Road was a book I approached with some trepidation. James Patterson's prolific output can be of variable quality anyway, but I haven't really enjoyed his previous collaborations with Peter De Jong, so had some concerns.
In this instance, the authors almost pull it off, creating a slick and readable book. I say "almost" because there are a number of issues which let it down, and which reduce its overall rating.
As with all Patterson books, the plot is relatively simple, quickly set up and cracks along at a fair old pace. It centres on the murder of a number of young men in the wealthy area of The Hamptons and the arrest and trial of Dante Halleville, a black teenage basketball prodigy, charged with their murder. Defending the teenager are two-bit lawyer Tom Dunleavy and his former girlfriend Kate Costello.
Patterson and De Jong set the book up as a cut-down legal thriller intended to rival the courtroom pot-boilers of John Grisham and to this extent, it works. The story is instantly intriguing, with enough regular plot developments to keep you interested. There are all the usual clichés - the wrongful suspect, corrupt cops, cold-blooded murderers, dark secrets just waiting to be unveiled and so on. Clichés they may be, but the plot whizzes along at such a pace that you don't really care.
Indeed, at times, you begin to wonder whether Grisham's title as King of the Courtroom is under serious threat. His own recent efforts have been somewhat lacklustre, and Patterson and De Jong clearly have him in their sites. If it's possible, the book is even more stripped down than a Grisham thriller. The authors make no attempt to give even the limited veneer of realism to their legal antics that Grisham aims for and there is no room for legal procedures or arcane courtroom rules. Whilst this obviously makes the book rather superficial and light weight, it does mean that the plot is not held back by the limitations of actual legislation. This freedom from legal pedantry makes it highly readable.
As ever, Patterson adopts his trademark short chapters (usually between 1-3 pages long), aids this readability. Regular cliff-hangers or new revelations occur in pretty much every chapter, reinforcing the idea of events happening very quickly and encouraging the reader to keep going to find out what happens next.
What works less well is the adoption of a rather redundant narrative technique. Each chapter is written in the first person, from the viewpoint of several different characters - Tom, Kate, the murderer, some of the police and so on. The intention is that you see the same events from a different perspective, so that you can try and find the gaps between their stories and work out from that who is lying and who is telling the truth. In theory, it's a nice idea; in practice it never really comes off.
The problem is that none of the characters have an individual "voice" - the chapters are all written in exactly the same way and there is no variation in the narrative style. The only clue that you have switched characters comes at the start of each chapter, which is headed up with the name of the person telling this bit of the tale. At best, this makes the "multiple narrator" approach little more than a gimmick; at worst, it's actually rather confusing. Since all the characters sound the same, switching rapidly between them (remember: chapters are very short) can be bewildering. There were a number of occasions when I started reading a chapter and had to break off to look at the top of the page to see whose perspective we were now reading. For this technique to work there needed to be a much greater difference between the way the characters spoke and Patterson and De Jong lack the ability to pull this off.
The book also suffers a little from trying to bring together lots of different elements. On the one hand, it wants to be a gritty crime thriller, an investigation into the brutal, execution-style murder of three people. At the other end of the scale, it gets rather obsessed with the lives of the rich and famous and tries to introduce a frothier, lighter tone. At one stage, for example, both Steven Spielberg and George Clooney are brought in as peripheral characters. This just feels like a bit of artificial name-dropping, an attempt to add a bit of glitz and glamour to the plot. This creates a serious mis-match in tone and it's an issue the book never resolves
The most serious mis-step, though, is the ending. For around 250 pages, the book presents a gripping, if superficial, court-room drama which will keep you entertained. Then, suddenly, without any warnings or clues, it veers off into a ridiculous new direction, introducing a twist so preposterous, so ludicrous that it destroys what limited credibility the book had.
I'm not against wild plot twists when they are merited. A good twist can completely wrong-foot the reader and leave them feeling like they've been skilfully hood-winked through clever writing. A plot twist should be a superb example of mis-direction - a revelation that surprises when you first read it, yet in hindsight, was there for you to work out, had you read the clues properly. The plot twist in Beach Road is anything but this. It's a twist for twists' sake and leaves you feeling very cheated.
The twist is such a horrible error of judgement that it's almost enough to drag the whole book down to just two stars. As it is, I'm feeling generous. Overall, Beach Road gave me enough enjoyment most of the time, that I'll be a little more forgiving and award it three.
Beach Road offers enough of a fix for regular Patterson readers looking to kill time until his next book comes out (given the speed at which he writes, that's probably ten minutes away). It's more enjoyable than previous collaborations between the two writers, although the horrible ending lets it down badly.
James Patterson and Peter de Jong
© Copyright SWSt 2009
James Patterson is an author probably best known for his novels featuring his favoured character, Alex Cross. However, he does have a plethora of books to his name, and some of those have been written in collaboration with another author. This book, Peter De Jonge is the lucky author to have a go keeping up with Patterson fast and furious style of storytelling, and while I have not ben a huge favourite of some of Patterson's other collaborative books, this is an exception.
In true John Grisham style, Patterson introduces us to Tom Dunleavy, a one-man law firm struggling to make ends meet, as all the rich folk already have lawyers. Then along comes the big case that could set him good for life, making a big name for himself. The problem? He's defending his friend, accused of a triple murder, and all the evidence is stacked against his client. However, convinced of his friend's innocence, Tom brings in the best lawye he knows: hot shot Manhattan lawyer Kate Costello, who also just happens to be his ex-girlfriend, and the two of them embark on uncovering what really happened.
The truth is out there to shock, and Patterson is known for his twists, and this book is no exception. As his familiar set up of male and female heroine combine to take on the big guns, the action flies thick and fast. The writing style is definitely hallmarked with Patterson through and through, but De Jonge adds a certain sense of mystery, an ominous feeling that normally isn't there with Patterson on his own.
The mystery adds perfectly to the frenetic pace at which the story unfolds. Patterson's style is to not let us stop, keeping the chapters short so that we'll read 'just one more', and doing away with long and descriptive passages. He just tells it how it is, full of action.
The only downside to this is that you are slightly left wondering a bit more about the characters, wishing they were developed a bit further, but this in no way detracts from the entertainment value of reading this book. I highly recommend giving this one a go. It is a one-off/stand alone book from Patterson and De Jonge, and thus it won't affect the enjoyment if you haven't read him before. Beach Road is currently available from amazon.co.uk for £5.99.
'Beach Road' is one of James Patterson's latest offerings (written in collaboration with Peter De Jonge) and like all of his novels it is a tense psychological thriller! Unlike many of his novels which tend to be part of a series (like the Alex Cross series and The Women's Muder Club) this novel is a 'one off' and as a consequence introduces a whole new batch of characters! It is actually quite unusual at the beginning because, a bit like a play, it introduces all the characters in order of appearance. More about these later but before that I will give a brief outline of the plot without giving anything away!
The novel is set in a very affluent area of the Hamptons in an area called Beach Road. Very near the beginning three young white men are murdered, execution style, in the grounds of one of The Beach Road homes. Before long, everyone is looking for the two main suspects, both young black guys. However within a couple of weeks one of the boys is dead and the other has turned himself in declaring his innocence.
Local lawyer Tom Dunleavy is called upon to defend the accused and he soon join forces with his old flame and New York hot shot lawyer, Kate Costello. The start of the novel focuses on Tom and kate's search for a defence story and towards the end of the novel it all culminates in a gripping courtroom trial. There are many seedy characters introduced and many twists and turns as the novel gallops towards a quite thrilling and unexpected conclusion! In fact I have to say that I was quite shocked by one or two things at the end - there was one twist that I never suspected for a moment! I shan't say any more about that though - you will just have to read the book!
It is a great read though and I do think that James Patterson is a master of suspense writing. He always writes short pacy chapters that move the action on very quickly and almost leave you breathless. It is also quite a clever way of enabling the reader to read on. As the chapters are short (normally only about three or four pages - sometimes even less) it is very easy to think that you'll just read the next, and then the next, and so on... I am the sort of reader who does not like to put a book down mid chapter so if the chapters are overly long I won't start on the next one if I think I'm too tired to see it all the way through!
So with these short chapters, and the fact that I was drawn in and absorbed from virtually the first page, I actually read the entire book over four days - something which as a busy working mother of two small girls is virtually unheard of for me. I put this down mainly to the gripping story line - I just had to keep on reading to see what was going to happen next!
One aspect of the novel that I was not so keen on though, and which made it quite demanding on me as a reader, was the fact that the chapters kept being written from different characters' first person perspective. There might be a couple of chapters from Kate, then one or two from Tom, and these would be interspersed with about another eight characters' points of view! Even though under each chapter number there was the name of the teller, I did find this quite difficult, and had to keep reminding myself to check who was telling the story now!
There is an interesting set of characters in the book. The main two are the lawyers Kate and Tom, but there is also the accused young man, his very proud grandmother, a couple of cops and also a drug dealer. As you are reading you start to think that you have got the measure on all these characters, but as with any self respecting James Patterson novel, not everybody is who or what they seem. As with many suspense novels the character are more two dimensional because it is the action which is more important. However, the characters of Tom and Kate are quite well developed, and there is a nice little sideline as their old romance is rekindled!
Overall, if you like a bit of suspense, coupled with some gruesome murders and a good old fashioned cortroom drama thrown in for good measure, then this is probably just the book for you! It is a gripping, absorbing read and if you are anything like me you will be hooked from page one!
It is published by Hodder Headline, and my paperback copy, with just over four hundred pages, has a RRP of £6.99. Having said that though, I bought mine from Tesco for £3.73!
I have a great love of reading and in particular of novels by the great James Patterson. So much so, that when a new book of his comes out, I will instantly buy it without even reading the back cover as I know that I will love it. It was no different on the day that 'Beach Road' appeared on the bookshelves and I was instantly drawn to it by its very simple, yet very appealing front cover with a picture of a simple golden beach and the words Beach Road in big, bold blue letters in the middle.
However, it pains me to say that I was disappointed with Beach Road. It didn't have the fast paced, page turning abilities that is so apparent in many of his books and I actually found it hard, at times, to concentrate on the story and stay interested.
Tom Dunleavy owns a law firm in East Hampton but his clients are usually those serving the rich as opposed to the billionaires and celebrity types that swarm the beaches. He mainly deals with real estate property and doesn't make much money to keep going. Then a friend of Tom's, Dante Halleyville, an up and coming basketball pro is arrested for a triple murder near a famous actor's mansion, after what seems to be a racial attack at a basketball court.
Tom knows that Dante is innocent and Dante asks him to represent him. Knowing that he wont be able to pull it off on his own, he asks for the help of Kate Costello, a Manhattan superlawyer who also happens to be his ex-girlfriend. Kate (after some gentle persuasion) agrees. They take a lot of abuse from locals in the area who believe that Dante is guilty so have this to put up with as well. In their search to find who really murdered the three young men, they do their best to expose the killer but they discover something else which is much more shocking.
The beginning of the book I found particularly hard to get into because so many characters were being introduced and I had to remember who was who and I had to keep flicking back through the book to remind myself.
There is a twist at the end of the book (which obviously I wont tell you what that is!) which did make the ending more interesting than it could have been but the book in general was still very disappointing. I didn't feel it was on par with his other great novels that are not in the Alex Cross or in the Woman's Murder Club series, such as The Lifeguard, Honeymoon etc and maybe it could be the influence of Peter de Jonge as co-writer that made the difference, but Peter de Jonge was also co-writer on The Beach House which is a book that is another of my favourites of James Patterson's.
The characters didn't seem to have the same sort of flare that is unmistakable in his other books and they didn't really keep me interested. The story itself was not a bad idea but parts of the book seemed to drag on a bit and there seemed to be chapters included to simply make up the pages but didn't seem to really have any relevance (the Steven Spielberg party for example).
The chapter length had the typical James Patterson short chapters of a few pages but there wasn't a fast paced, thrilling atmosphere to them. Each 'main' character takes control of the story at some point so we see lots of points of view, but this can get a bit too much at times as usually in his book there is just two or three at the most but in Beach Road there was about seven. Needless to say, again I was forced to have to flick back through the book to remind me of who the character was as they didn't seem to flow in to each other.
Overall I have to say that I wasn't very impressed with this book. It was not completely awful but I am used to the excellent, edge of my seat, thrillers that he is so famous for and this book isn't even close. If you have never read a Patterson before then you may find this book really interesting and enjoyable but if you are a big Patterson fan and have liked his other novels, then you may, like me, find this one a disappointing, hard to get through read.
Thanks for reading
A gripping and surprising thriller from bestselling author James Patterson. Tom Dunleavy has a law firm in the legendary East Hampton, summer home to billionaires and Hollywood celebrities. When an old friend of his is arrested for a triple murder near a movie star's mansion, Tom is in the public eye for the first time in his life. Dante Halleyville asks Tom to represent him in what could be the trial of the century. Tom knows in his gut that Dante is innocent, and recruits super lawyer Kate Costello to help fight the case. As Tom wonders whether ex-girlfriend Kate can ever forgive him for his past sins, the case takes on astonishing dimensions, revealing a world of illegal pleasures and revenge among the super-rich.