5 stars out of 5
Prolific author James Patterson and co-author Howard Roughan really hit a home run with this one: Intriguing story, interesting characters and, IMHO, an exceptionally satisfying ending. So much did I enjoy the characters, in fact, that I'd love to see psychology professor Dr. Dylan Reinhart and NYPD Detective Elizabeth Needham turned into a series (one that includes, I emphasize, Reinhart's delightful partner Tracy).
The book reeled me in right from the start (well, if I don't count the opening remarks by a serial killer dubbed "The Dealer") with the introduction of 34-year-old Reinhart, who teaches a course on abnormal behavior and is the author of a book on what he calls "persuasion theory." Psychology is my own undergraduate degree, and just about any time I find a mystery/thriller that focuses on that subject, I'm hooked. Sometimes that's a good thing and sometimes not, but in this case, I got to the end with a big smile on my face.
Truth be told, Reinhart has a bit of an obnoxious streak, but he clearly knows his stuff (and his sometimes off-putting personality is nicely tempered by the aforementioned Tracy). The plot begins as Needham interrupts one of Reinhart's classes, making the attention-getting pronouncement that someone apparently wants to kill the professor. Turns out that's her way of asking for help with a murder case in which the killer leaves a playing card. Reinhart is skeptical, but when a second murder takes place and another playing card is left at the scene, he realizes - as does she - that a serial killer is on the loose.
Reinhart and Needham develop something of a rapport, albeit grudgingly at first. Their investigative efforts are interspersed with bits of humor as they come to respect one another and follow clues that extend to a pesky journalist and even the local mayor, who's in desperation mode while vying for reelection. But is the deck stacked so far against them that the killer will end up with the winning hand?
Inquiring minds want to know - at least mine sure did. Now I do, and I'm sorry to close the book on these characters. Bring them back, please?
Murder Games by James Patterson and Howard Roughan (Little, Brown and Co., June 2017); 400 pp.