Confessions of a Murder Suspect by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro; Little Brown, 372 pages ($19.99). Ages 12 and up.
The James Patterson writing machine enters the Young Adult market with a high-octane thriller sure to appeal to fans who devoured his Maximum Ride series for preteens. Wealthy Malcolm and Maud Angel are found dead in the bedroom of their locked luxury suite in Manhattan’s Dakota (home to John Lennon etc.). The only suspects seem to be the Angel children: Matthew, a professional football player; Tandoori, a 17-year-old science genius; her twin brother Harry, a piano prodigy; and disturbed 10-year-old Hugo. Malcolm was a pharmaceutical executive, but did his research include experimenting on his children to endow them with superhuman abilities? Tandy narrates the tale, cautioning about the possible use of an “unreliable narrator,” including herself as a suspect and dropping hints about a parental-ordered abduction that might have given her a motive. (This serves as a tease to the next book in the series.) Particularly entertaining is the parents’ use of “the Big Chop,” novel ways to discipline their children (after she insults the ambassador to Bhutan, Tandy is forced to recite the names of every landmark in Bhutan in Dzongkha, the national language, while standing on her head). Another entertaining element is the unique decor of the Angels’ apartment: an 800-gallon aquarium coffee table with four pygmy sharks, a life-size merman hanging by its tail from a bloody hook in the ceiling and a life-size sculpture named Robert, sitting on his own recliner with his own TV. The writing is often clunky (“the armoire doors were opened wide, as if they were pleading with me to come in and find the truth”) but Patterson and his co-author know how to craft a page-turning tale, no matter how over-the-top it may be.
– Jean Westmoore
Black Fridays by Michael Sears; Putnam, 352 pages ($25.95)
While the economy appears to be, we hope, rebounding, the financial thrillers thrive, illustrating how lives are devastated by careless greed.
Debut author Michael Sears, who spent more than 20 years on Wall Street, delivers a thoughtful, intricate cautionary tale about greed, mismanaged money and the thrill that the unscrupulous get from cheating the unsuspecting. But “Black Fridays’ also works well as a character study about a man coming to terms with his own limitations and trying to be a good father to a difficult, special-needs child.
Wall Street hotshot Jason Stafford never started out to be a criminal. A simple accounting error snowballed into a felony when his portfolio lost more than $500 million. Jason lost his career and spent two years in prison.
But Jason didn’t lose his soul or his sense of humor to either Wall Street or the prison system. Although he can’t legally handle accounts, Jason can take a two-week consulting job examining the trading records of a young broker who died in a mysterious boating accident. The high pay will help him regain custody of his 5-year-old autistic son from his alcoholic ex-wife.
But the consulting job isn’t simple as Jason finds discrepancies among several traders’ work and resistance from brokers who see him as an unscrupulous ex-con. During the day, Jason must wade through a sea of arrogance, cover-ups and volatile personalities willing to kill to protect themselves. At night, Jason cares for his son, whose behavior problems stem from neglect as well as autism.
Sears does a first-rate job juggling the complex plot, explaining the financial markets so a novice can understand the intricacies but also appealing to the sophisticated reader.
– McClatchy Newspapers