Thriller machine Patterson is back with another gripper

by James Patterson
Century £18.99

It’s fair to say that James Patterson is to thrillers what McDonalds is to food: a fast-paced outlet for easy, tasty matter. Except, unlike the fast food chain, Patterson is a brand associated with sophisticated fare, as well as one that nourishes the mind and the human appetite for suspense.

Fans – and there are many of them given that Patterson is among the world’s best-selling authors (his novels account for one in seventeen of all hard-cover novels sold in the US) – will be best acquainted with hero Alex Cross, the DC-based forensic psychologist. But Private marks the launch of a new series that revolves around a Los Angeles-based private investigation firm called Private, run by Jack Morgan, an Afghanistan war hero. His father, Tom, owns the company, but is in prison for extortion and murder.

Tom wants Jack to make the company great again and gives him a $15m account in the Cayman Islands with which to do it. Within five years he’s turned Private into a global business, with much sought-after service and a client base loaded with celebrities and politicians. Jack badly wants to keep everything above-board and legal, and to avoid being trapped in mob antics like his father was. Still, the mob isn’t easy to resist and when his school friend Abbie calls to say his wife’s been murdered, things start getting grisly. If Morgan can’t get to the bottom of this seemingly senseless murder, bodies will continue to pile up.

With numerous plot strands – including a school-girl murderess – this is yet another fine outing from the master of thrillers and it is guaranteed to keep you busy on the beach.

The Second Life of Bree Tanner
by Stephanie Meyer
Atom, £11.49

Whether you’re a fan of the Twilight series of books and films that has stolen the hearts of millions of teenage girls, or just interested in social phenomena, checking out the first piece of fresh material in nearly two years from best-selling vampire queen Stephanie Meyer is really rather obligatory.

Within one day of being released, the book shot to the top of the UK’s bestseller charts, and was the third-fastest selling book of all time, after JK Rowling’s last Harry Potter and Dan Brown’s The Solomon Key.

As the name suggests, Second Life takes us away from the sweltering romance of Bella Swan and her vampire lover Edward Cullen to the short-lived story of Bree, one of an army of new vampires created by an arch-enemy of Bella’s. Her mission is to take down the Cullens (the beautiful, civilised vampires at the core of Twilight) and the human in their midst (Bella). Much of the story concerns Bree’s day-to-day life – biting off her vampire friends’ limbs before reattaching them courtesy of a special saliva, the music she listens to sulkily, and her beau Diego.

The problem with the whole set-up of this book is how vanilla – and non-vampish – the vampires are. Meyer has been criticised for her reluctance to make any of her characters – including the bad ones – truly dark. And the result here is something oddly dull, PG rather than Cert 18, which would be not only more appealing but also more appropriate. Her fans could probably handle a little bit more genuine darkness, but since this is Stephanie Meyer, no doubt they’ll put up with it and happily, erm, devour the next one too.

The Vintage Caper
by Peter Mayle
Quercus, £12.99

Peter Mayle hit the big time 20 years ago with his romantically oenophile A Year in Provence, about a trip to Luberon to restore an old house. Since then, France, food and wine have been at the core of Mayle’s classic collection. Now he’s back with a thriller that, bien sur, incorporates as much Bordeux as it does crime.

Dan Roth is a rich entertainment lawyer in LA and, among his numerous costly possessions – including a young blond wife and homes in New York and Aspen – he has a massive $3m wine cellar with all the best vintages. No shy and retiring sort, Dan feels his vinous splendour is under-appreciated an?d goes on a publicity drive, pulling strings to get a full-page interview in the International Herald Tribune, headlined The Grapes of Roth.

Not the cleverest move, it turns out. After the piece runs, all his Bordeaux is stolen while he’s on holiday in Aspen. Roth rages; meanwhile, his insurers hire a private investigator called Sam Levitt. The tension soars as a suspect list is born – was it the property’s caretaker, rival collectors, or possibly even Roth himself after the insurance payout? Not likely, and so it’s off to Paris, Bordeux and Marseilles for Levitt (and his glamorous colleague Sophie) to continue the investigation. At this point, readers used to Mayles’ way with wine and food will find themselves in familiar territory as the prose becomes increasingly gatronomic – you’d be hard-pressed to find another crime novel in which the dishes ordered in restaurants gets as much attention as the case.

An evocative blending of wine and crime and a book that is sure to please Mayle fans and newcomers alike.