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The Black Book


The Black Book

Part police procedural, part legal thriller, THE BLACK BOOK is one of the more complex of James Patterson’s joint writing efforts --- here, with longtime collaborator David Ellis --- full of corruption and double dealing with a bit of twisted romance thrown into the mix, and enough corkscrew plot twists to satisfy even the most jaded reader.

Homicide detective Billy Harney is the focal point of the book. He was born into police work, given that his father is chief of detectives and his twin sister, Patti, is also on the force. Aware of his heritage, Billy likes to do his job strictly by the book, even as he throws himself headlong into his work, despite a devastating personal tragedy that occurred three years before. Kate Fenton is his partner on the force, an over-the-top (in several ways) cop who is very much addicted to the adrenaline that comes with the job.

"As complex as THE BLACK BOOK is, it is a quick read, thanks to Patterson’s and Ellis’ trademark pitch-perfect pacing, plotting and characterization."

However, Billy’s life changes forever with his investigation into the death of a young college student who was supplementing the funding of her university career by working part-time as an escort. Billy, through the victim’s cell phone, narrowed the list of suspects to a high-rolling financial trader with a penchant for kinky sex. While shadowing the trader, he observed him entering a Gold Coast brownstone. After staking the place out, he surmised that it was a house of prostitution with a very high-profile clientele. A subsequent raid netted a number of the rich and powerful. Missing, though, was the black book of the title, a ledger that was believed to contain a list of the house’s clientele and possibly information concerning who in the police department and/or government was being paid off as protection.

When the book cannot be located, suspicion is quickly turned to Billy himself by Amy Lentini, a hard-driving assistant state’s attorney who is extremely interested in advancing her career. Then everything changes, even as Billy becomes involved first with his partner and then with Amy. Against all odds, Billy finds himself charged not only with obstruction of justice, but also with four counts of murder. Making matters worse is that he has a large, trauma-induced gap in his memory, one that leaves him unable to contribute to his own defense. There is much that Billy doesn’t know, chief among them is that he has evidence at hand that will totally exonerate him. He just has to remember what it is.

The narrative bounces back and forth between the present and the past, leaving the reader and Billy in the dark throughout and dealing out clues and memories in a piecemeal fashion. The book, particularly the last third, is full of startling revelations, some of which you may guess but most of which you will not. As complex as THE BLACK BOOK is, it is a quick read, thanks to Patterson’s and Ellis’ trademark pitch-perfect pacing, plotting and characterization. While it ends on an upbeat yet bittersweet note, the characters --- those who make it through to its conclusion, anyway --- seem too good to be consigned to a stand-alone work. So if Patterson and Ellis should return to Chicago and its police force for another visit, I would not complain one bit.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on March 31, 2017

The Black Book
by James Patterson and David Ellis

  • Publication Date: October 24, 2017
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • ISBN-10: 1455542679
  • ISBN-13: 9781455542673