Sunday September 30, 2012
Fun return to form
Review by SHARMILA NAIR
Does James Patterson live up to his ‘world’s bestselling thriller writer’ label with this latest book?
Authors: James Patterson and David Ellis
Publisher: Century, 448 pages
I MUST confess that I (along with a whole bunch of fans, I’m sure) was beginning to think that James Patterson had lost his mojo – his recent books have been pretty whack, to be honest. But I’m happy to announce to my fellow followers of the thriller writer that he’s found it again, and that it is pretty evident in Guilty Wives.
The book, cowritten with David Ellis, offers almost everything that a fan looks for in a Patterson novel: drama, suspense, a slight hint of comedy – and the best part is that it is super concise. Unlike some authors who love to tease their readers and force them to endure entire chapters of unnecessary words (well, I’m sure they’re necessary for the storyline, but seriously, it’s really annoying when you just want to find out the who, what, where and why), this book, like most of Patterson’s previous works, just gets to the darn point.
Guilty Wives tells the tale of four married gal pals in desperate need of a vacation that doesn’t involve pleasing their husbands or picking up after their noisy and boisterous kids. All these ladies want is a nice trip to somewhere far away from their families so they can spend a few days full of massages, pool time and lots of alcohol.
And that is exactly what they get when 30-somethings Abbie Elliot, Bryah Gordon, Winnie Brooks go on an all-expenses-paid trip to Monte Carlo courtesy of another of their clique, Serena Schofield, who married into a rich family. The story is told from Abbie’s point of view, and according to her take on her friends, Bryah is in an abusive relationship, Winnie is an exotic British diva, and Serena is one heck of a lucky woman.
Thanks to Serena sharing that luck, Abbie and gang get to arrive in style in Monte Carlo in a private helicopter, and they are then ushered into the luxurious presidential suite in a lavish hotel that overlooks the scenic millionaire’s playground. The girls are more than ready to surrender themselves to a weekend during which they will be free to live someone else’s life, and bask in the sun and attention from the gorgeous men surrounding them.
But their magical vacation turns into a nightmare when, after an alcohol-charged night in the company of some new men friends, the women are arrested for a world-shaking act of terrorism. Unable to prove their innocence, or even give a coherent account of their crazy night of passion with men other than their husbands, the women are thrown into a maximum security facility in France after a quickie, lip-service trial.
Of the group, Abbie is the only one who is absolutely sure of their innocence and is determined to fight the French judiciary system that seems hell bent on seeing the women suffer for the act they supposedly committed. Isolated from her friends, unable to see her family, Abbie endures physical and sexual abuse from the prison guards and is even threatened with death during her struggle. And as she gets closer to uncovering the truth, those threats become full blown assassination attempts.
Patterson and Ellis do an awesome job in setting up the scenes in the book but they do make a few mistakes here and there. The big revelation on why Abbie and her girlfriends get into this situation, for instance, falls kind of flat and asks for a little too much suspension of belief, in my opinion. Patterson seems to have slipped back into a bad habit here and underestimated the intelligence of his readers, assuming that we won’t be able to catch on to the clues and solve the mystery before he does in the end.
But it is fun solving that mystery, and Guilty Wives does have almost everything we have come to love in a Patterson novel. While it’s not an Alex Cross winner (like Cat And Mouse or Pop Goes The Weasel), it is a definite return to form for a writer who has been called the world’s bestselling thriller writer. This will do until he gets even more of his mojo back.