Skip to main content

The River Murders


The River Murders

THE RIVER MURDERS is the perfect book with which to start the new year. It is comprised of three interconnected short novels --- “Hidden,” “Malicious” and “Malevolent” --- that feature an interesting and sympathetic character presented by James Patterson and James O. Born. Patterson, of course, is known throughout the world. Born is a former FDLA officer and a bestselling author, as well as an Emmy Award-winning screenwriter. Naturally, one would expect a great deal from such a collaboration. With THE RIVER MURDERS, every expectation is fulfilled.

The book is driven by Mitchum --- he prefers to be known only by his last name --- a capable and likable individual who almost made it through Navy SEAL training. Almost, of course, only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, but he doesn’t let his near-miss unduly chafe at him. As “Hidden” opens, we find Mitchum employed as a home newspaper deliverer in the very early morning and as an unlicensed, unofficial private investigator in his tiny hometown of Milton, New York. He uses a local diner as his office and subsists on referrals from his relatives, who seem to constitute half of the town’s population.

"Patterson and Born give readers triple their time and money’s worth in THE RIVER MURDERS. The pages fly by, and it is all but impossible to drag oneself out of total immersion in each of these stories."

Mitchum brings his occupation and skill set to full bore when his young cousin goes missing. He receives some assistance from Natty, his semi-estranged older brother, in the process. Lest you think you have wandered into an adult version of a Helen Fuller Orton mystery, please note that Mitchum’s brother is a drug dealer and Mitchum is also investigating the apparent murder of a waitress who worked at the diner. His quest leads him into a number of dangerous places, and the body count starts to rise before he is able to determine what happened to his cousin.

Some of Mitchum’s actions in “Hidden” have repercussions that play out in “Malevolent,” but first he has to deal with problems closer to home in “Malicious,” in which Natty’s unfortunate choice of occupation catches up with him when he is charged with murder. Natty insists that he did not kill anyone, but the evidence indicates otherwise to the extent that even the top criminal defense attorney in the area is hard-pressed to help him. Mitchum begins his unofficial investigation and discovers several interesting things that seem on course to get him killed before he can prove his brother’s innocence.

Next comes “Malevolent,” which at 200 pages is the longest novel in THE RIVER MURDERS and my personal favorite. One of the players from “Hidden” makes a reappearance and is targeting Mitchum’s loved ones. Mitchum isn’t one to let that stand and goes to remarkable lengths to get payback. The problem is that he has no idea how truly outclassed he is, as he winds up in some unexpected places in terrible danger, jumping from frying pans to fires from one moment to the next. There is a legitimate question as to whether or not he will survive the final paragraphs of “Malevolent,” but let’s hope he does. There is a plot thread left dangling at the conclusion of “Hidden” that we’d like to see resolved.

Patterson and Born give readers triple their time and money’s worth in THE RIVER MURDERS. The pages fly by, and it is all but impossible to drag oneself out of total immersion in each of these stories. Those who are stuck in post-holiday ennui will find it particularly rewarding.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 10, 2020

The River Murders
by James Patterson and James O. Born

  • Publication Date: January 7, 2020
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • ISBN-10: 1538749971
  • ISBN-13: 9781538749975