Private Berlin - James Patterson
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Review of "Private Berlin - James Patterson"
A very active twelve month old means less reviews from mum, but so many toys to review!
Private Berlin is the third instalment in James Patterson’s newest series of thriller books. It follows on from Private London and Private Games. Private is the world’s most exclusive detective agency and has offices all over the world; cue a whole lot more Patterson books! I really like the Private series and was looking forward to reading this one.
The BookMattie Engel is the protagonist of the story and previously worked on Berlin’s police force and is now one of the rising stars in Private Berlin. Her life is thrown into turmoil when her colleague (and until very recently her fiancé), Chris, is found brutally murdered in a slaughterhouse that is full of other bodies.
The slaughterhouse is blown up before they get chance to take any evidence from it and Mattie has to work hard to find out what happened to her ex. The trail leads in a million different directions, but it soon becomes clear that a serial killer is loose and he is picking off victims in a very specific pattern. Mattie has to uncover Chris’ oldest secrets to find his killer before he finishes his game plan.
My ThoughtsLike I said, I really like the Private stories. I am a big fan of James Patterson, but it is nice that he has a new series out and this one is fresh and a new idea. Private Berlin carries on this new series, but each of the Private stories features different characters because it is set in a different office. Some of the characters are the same but they are relatively minor characters and don’t feature heavily in the story. This means that although Private Berlin is part of the series, it reads like a different book to the others in the story so the series hasn’t yet got too familiar.
Mattie Engel makes a great main character, she is a hardened detective but also has a softer side that makes her a pleasure to read about. She is has been written well and help kept me interested in the story. She came across as pretty genuine, by not being completely perfect; she has passion and emotion that Patterson writes convincingly in this story and he shows her to be feisty and demanding in her interactions with other characters, notably the chief of police in Berlin. I also really liked her ex. Even though we never actually meet him, the story very much focusses around him and his life story so you get to know a lot about him. It is quite weird to really like a character that we don’t even meet in the story, but you do end up wishing you could meet him properly somehow. This feeling is really important in my opinion, because his death is what forms the whole basis of the story and if Patterson hadn’t made it so that the reader really cares about what happened to him, the whole thing would fall to pieces really quickly. As it is, Patterson has done a very could job and Chris makes an excellent subject for the story.As I said there are some familiar characters and I was pleased to see that the owner of Private, Jack Morgan, appeared in the story because he is a really cool character that adds a suave and sophisticated element to Private. In fact Private in general is very suave and sophisticated and all of the other members of the exclusive agency fit that bill in some way or another. This is the main problem I have had with other Patterson series’ in the past and it is one that occurs here too. Sometimes things are a little too perfect and unrealistic. I know that nobody is ever going to read a Patterson book and think ‘ooh that is obviously what real life is like’, but I think that he has a habit of making things a little too perfect, even when things are going wrong and it can seem a little forced. His Alex Cross series is now terrible for that exact problem and I am finding that the Private series is slipping down that route. For example, things just seem to go right when it is unlikely to actually. It isn’t too much of a problem on the whole, but the sense of perfection is slightly grating.
The story is read from two perspectives. One is Mattie’s and the other is Chris’ killer’s. The killer is obviously not revealed until the end, but we meet him long before that and he is quite a creepy character. Even reading his part, you can sense that he has a leering but arrogant personality and Patterson has done an excellent job of making sure that you take an instant dislike to him but can still read the story from his point of view without wanting to throw your book out of the nearest window. I found him quite chilling and when he is speaking, Patterson describes certain inflections he has in his speech and certain mannerisms that have almost become his trademark and that you can actually hear him saying or see him doing in your mind’s eye. I actually found him a little annoying too, which added to the sense that I wanted to see him caught sooner rather than later and made me want to read to the end sooner to see if, when and how that might happen.There is one main story that features Mattie’s ex, but there are lots of other little stories that take place throughout the book that help to keep up the suspense. This is where Patterson uses his trademark short chapters that are only a few pages long to control all of the different stories and not make it too confusing for the reader. It is quite good because almost every chapter ends with a bit of suspense and then you flip to another story, which kept me hooked and meant that I struggled to put the book down. I read it as quickly as I usually read Patterson’s books, which is only a couple of days.
The other little stories that take place in the Private Berlin can sometimes seem a bit like they are only there for padding purposes, but I think they actually do a lot more than that. They are great for developing some of the lesser characters who are not important enough for a starring role, but that are great to read about all the same and knowing a little bit more about them makes everything tie together a bit better. For example, Berlin’s chief of police is one such character who it turns out has a few of his own secrets and as a result has his own agenda. His sub story in the book helps us to understand some of his actions and explains why he deliberately creates some tensions with main protagonists.The action in Private Berlin starts straight away and I found that I was gripped from the start; there is no building up to the suspense in this story, you are thrown in at the deep end so to speak and I loved it. This continues throughout the book and, for me, it made it a really addictive story. The ending is pretty good too and features Patterson’s usual explosive style. He rather nicely tidies up all the loose ends in an epilogue afterwards, which I love although I know some will find a little too convenient. It does seem perhaps a bit of a lame way to finish the story off, but I think that it works really well and it is a brilliant way to tie in all the sub stories without losing the impact of the big ending that Patterson is famous for.
Something else I like about this story is the description of locales. I have been to Berlin and although I don’t know it like the back of my hand, I recognised many of the places where the story took place and so it was easier to read about and understand. Patterson has a good knack for describing places and it helps to move the story along and to create atmosphere. Much of the beginning of Private Berlin takes place in an abandoned warehouse and Patterson does a great job of building up the suspense and intrigue by making sure you feel like you are really there with the characters. This ability to create suspense by setting the scene so well continues throughout the story and is very well done.The story is, as many of Patterson’s books are these days, co-written by another author. In this case it is Mark Sullivan, who, I think, is co-writer on most, if not all, of the Private books. I have mixed feelings about the co-writing thing, because I don’t know who the credit should go to, or the blame for that matter. However in this case I think that the partnership works, unlike in books like ‘Zoo’, where the fact that somebody else was writing with Patterson was immediately apparent (and detrimental to the story), the two authors seem to have hit a winning combination in this story and indeed the whole series. It is not so different from other Patterson books that you hate the fact that there is another mind working on the story, but it is, in my opinion, slightly better than his usual standard and I think that probably lies with the partnership.
James Patterson’s books in general do have a lot of familiarity about them and one series can interchange into another quite easily. You can put the protagonist of any of them into another story and it essentially wouldn’t change the story. As a result they are quite predictable in general and, I’m afraid, Private Berlin is not different. That is not necessarily a fault though if you ask me, because I think it is Patterson’s fast paced, page turning, familiar style that has made him such a huge number of fans and that style is in this book by the bucket load. I understand that not everyone will like this, but if you aren’t a fan you probably wouldn’t have picked the book up in the first place. What I can say is that the Private series is a slightly new take on this tried and tested style and I think it works really well in this newest instalment.So yes, I would recommend this book because I think this is James Patterson at his best. I know a lot of people find James Patterson’s books a bit lame and simplistic, but if you are a fan, this is a good one. Private Berlin is fast paced, easy to read and gripping to the end. The characters and the story are both great and I would definitely recommend it if you are a fan.
The Audio Version
I also have this book in the audio version and that is pretty good if you are into audio books. The two ‘parts’ are played well, but I particularly liked the killer, played by Ari Fliakos, an American actor who has had bit parts in various TV series in the States. I think he got him just right in terms of creating an arrogance and sense of importance about him, without going over the top that you couldn’t listen to it. Mattie is played by January Lavoy, who has done a lot of work on US daytime television and on Broadway. She has done some Patterson audio books before and is very easy to listen to.The audio book is unabridged and lasts for about 8 hours and is great to listen to in the car on the way to work, which is what I do!
Other InformationThe book is available in hardback (£8.93), paperback (£12.99), audio CD (£25.00) and kindle download (£8.48) on Amazon at the moment. To be honest I think you could probably find certainly the paperback and audio versions cheaper elsewhere because those prices seem a bit extortionate.
Hardback copy is 448 pages.
Product Information : Private Berlin - James Patterson
Manufacturer's product description
Author: James Patterson
Listed on Ciao since: 11/05/2013