The Beach House
James Patterson &
Peter de Jonge
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The Beach House
James Patterson & Peter de Jonge
384 pages
May 2003
rated 2 of 5 possible stars

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Townie Peter Mullen has a cushy job parking cars at parties which the fabulously rich Neubauers annually threw at their beach house in the Hamptons. Heís been doing this since he was a kid, and by now heís got the thing down to a routine. However, after working one such job at one such party, Peterís dead body washes up on the beach. This news utterly devastates his family including Peterís father, his grandfather and his brother Jack, an intelligent and diligent law student. Jack and his Irish grandfather are horrified but determined to find out the truth behind Peterís sudden death. Jack starts investigating and to help him is a group of his old friends. The police, though, refuse to consider Peterís death anything other than an accident or suicide.

But Jack and his allies know this to be utter falsehood. When they try to find the truth, they stumble across a frightening realization: the Neubauers want this case closed as soon as possible, and theyíre willing to do anything to achieve this. An ominous man known only as "The Fixer" makes his threatening presence felt, and no one is safe from his menacing attentions. It becomes obvious that the police and the doctors have been bought, and the lawyers of the rich are the best and most unscrupulous that money can possibly buy. Within a short time, Jack and his crusading friends are made to feel all the enormous power that money wields and death begins to haunt them. Not all the lessons he learned in law school can help Jack now. So does Jack give up? If not, then how will he win this losing battle?

James Patterson is an experienced storyteller and The Beach House characteristically has unexpected plot twists. It looks in the beginning that this will most likely take the shape of a Grisham legal thriller, but looks can be -- and often are -- misleading. The story is simply told, often from varying viewpoints. This is a bit confusing, but itís something that Patterson fans are well used to. And again, like most of his books, this one comprises numerous small chapters, many of which are no more than a page long. This, too, can be off-putting to new readers. The suspense in The Beach House is considerable at first, but rapidly becomes obvious towards the middle of the book. Soon the "whodunit" is apparent, although the motives behind it remain obscure. How Jack goes about solving the entire thing is creative and interesting, if a tad unconvincing. What redeems this otherwise clichťd tale are the characterizations, especially those of Jack and his indomitable grandfather. Their emotions are sensitively portrayed, as is their anguish over Peterís death and their unwavering search for truth in the face of what appear to be insurmountable odds; this is positively inspiring. James Patterson entertains here as in all his other books, but The Beach House does not have the depth to make it worth re-reading.

© 2003 by Rashmi Srinivas for Curled Up With a Good Book

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