5 stars out of 5
Call me flamboozled. Call me chastised for all the potshots I've taken at Patterson's works of late (on second thought, check that - I meant what I said). Above all, call me happy that I ignored my previous rants and read this book.
The title, as one might expect, refers to a missing "little black book" that didn't turn up after a raid and thorough search at a house of ill repute at which some of Chicago's finest are customers. Needless to say, the house madam ain't talking - and without it, finding even more high-level patrons (including cops on the take) and others who weren't present during the raid, may never be found.
At the epicenter is police detective Billy Harney and his partner, detective Kate Fenton. Billy's sister Patti is a cop as well, their dad, Daniel, was chief of detectives, and dad's friend (and Billy's beloved mentor) heads up Internal Affairs, so clearly copness is a family affair. As the raid is analyzed, Billy insists he had every right to initiate it; but Amy Lentini, the beautiful assistant state's attorney, seems out to prove that it wasn't justifiable (and therefore was illegal), thus putting the kabosh on potential prosecution of everyone captured.
In reality, that event took place in Billy's fairly recent past; his present has taken a very different turn that has left him unable and/or unwilling to remember details (including, perhaps, the whereabouts of that little black book). Chapters shift back and forth, with "past" chapters peeling away more clues to what really happened. Usually, I'm not fond of this technique - nor did I love it here. But it's actually done very well and helped keep me on the edge of my seat even though I guessed pretty much from the start who was behind everything. In fact, besides an intriguing, fast-moving story, my desire to find out if my guess was right (it was) and learn the how and why was a big part of what kept me going.
All in all, it's a totally engrossing book. The Patterson-Ellis collaboration hasn't always produced such stellar efforts - I'm referring specifically to The Murder House and Mistress, to which I gave 4 and 3 stars, respectively - but this one sure hit the mark. More, please!
The Black Book by James Patterson and David Ellis (Little, Brown and Co., March 2017); 418 pp.