This is, I believe, the 10th book in the author James Patterson's Private series, and while it's nowhere near my favorite of the bunch, it helps cement my opinion that this is one of the best of all the ongoing series with which he's involved. For obvious reasons, I suppose, the co-author on this one is Kathryn Fox, who lives in Sydney, Australia, and is an accomplished author in her own right. If reports that co-written books are written by sending chapters back and forth between Patterson and the co-author du jour are correct, if nothing else it would account for inclusion of Australian British spellings liberally sprinkled throughout (fittingly, given the location).
If you're expecting much from elite Los Angeles-based detective agency founder Jack Morgan, though, you'll be disappointed; except for a couple of phone calls, he's pretty much nonexistent. This time, the focus is on the Sydney operation and its top dog, Craig Gisto, and his team. From the start, there are two storylines; one involves the sudden and total disappearance of high-profile Australian research company CEO Eric Moss. The request for help came via the CEO's daughter, who happens to be a close friend of Jack Morgan (one phone call down).
The other case came about when Gisto meets a couple asking that the agency do a background check on a potential surrogate mother who has agreed to bear a child for them. To be sure, it's not the sort of case Private Sydney would consider, but for purely personal reasons, Gisto agrees to take it on over the objections of his office mates. Early on, however, it turns into a case murder and kidnapping of an infant - vindicating Gisto for his decision but putting him on the wrong side of Australian law, which prohibits the sale of surrogate services.
The chase to find the missing CEO commands the lion's share of attention throughout the book (in fact, by the end it almost seemed to me as if the Babygate scheme, while interesting and well written, was concocted more to fill up pages than anything else). Efforts to conduct any investigation of the CEO's disappearance from the company headquarters quickly run into stonewalling by the new head honcho - who clearly has no love for the missing guy - and further efforts to discern his whereabouts lead only to dead ends (both figuratively and literally). Clearly, there's more to this story than meets the eye, and sticking to their investigative guns could destroy the stellar reputation of Private Sydney and jeopardize the future of the agency.
Private Sydney by James Patterson and Kathryn Fox (Cornerstone, August 2015); 400 pp.