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Friday, October 17, 2014


3-1/2 stars out of 5

After reading countless books by Patterson and his co-authors du jour, I'm aware of two things when I open up the next one: It won't tax my aging brain or put me on the edge of my seat, and the pages will whiz by in a flash. This one, the seventh in the series featuring Detective Michael Bennett and his rather large family, fit that pattern perfectly.

Well, almost; I gave four stars to each of the other six, but I just can't muster up more than three for this one. Exactly why I'm not totally sure, except this one seems to be more of a mishmash of story lines, with an ending that sort of left things hanging and felt thrown together at the last minute.

Here, Bennett and his crew return to their New York City home; they've been spending time in witness protection after Bennett captured a crime biggie who was intent on payback. Shortly after his return, Bennett is called in by a boss who's carrying a grudge; instead of a pat on the back for bringing a top criminal to justice, Bennett is reassigned to what's called an "Outreach Squad" in Harlem. 

The ragtag squad members have been hardly working, but with a few carefully chosen phrases, Bennett turns them into professionals who are working hard (yeah, right)! Most of the calls to the squad are complaints from neighborhood residents that aren't even police matters, and when one speaks of seeing some well-heeled dudes having a strange get-together in an abandoned building, Bennett figures the caller is a nut case. That is, until a charred body turns up in that building - bringing a whole new meaning to barbecue spit.

Ah, but we're not done yet. After a short time at the squad, Bennett is called by an old friend who's pulled some strings to get him back to his old job to help capture a team of robbers who are hitting high-end jewelry stores. Of course, Bennett's offer to return is conditioned on his solving the case and bringing the thieves to justice within two weeks. Because Bennett has bonded so well with his new crew, he just can't force himself to abandon them - so he insists on investigating both cases simultaneously.

As if all that weren't enough, Bennett continues to deal with feelings for his children's "nanny" and housekeeper, the very Irish and beauteous Mary Catherine, the health crisis of a close family member and - whew! - the threat that he'll lose one of his adopted daughters to her biological father.

Hey, don't shoot the messenger - I told you early on about the story line jumble. All things considered (and clearly there are plenty of things going on here), it's not an awful book. But I'd at least wait till the paperback comes out and it won't cost as much.

Burn by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge (Little, Brown and Co., September 2014); 433 pp.

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