Saturday 03 Dec 2016

Beach House
Michelle McClory

Minor lawyer, Tom Dunleavy, is a sudden celebrity in the Hamptons. He lives in Montauk, and has most of his adult life. He runs a one-lawyer office, mostly on the fading glory of his star-status as a college basketball player at St. John's.

Over the Memorial Day weekend, there's a triple murder in Montauk. TheĀ number one suspect is future NBA star Dante Halleyville. Halleyville, for shrouded reasons, hires Dunleavy to defend him. It's a reach for a lawyer who specializes in petty crime, real estate and mostly long bouts of idleness.

James Patterson and Peter de Jonge offer a good back-story. They develop characters, with backgrounds. There are a few sub-plots, which go nowhere.

Dunleavy enlists the help of his long-lost love, Kate Costello, a swanky New York lawyer. This gives the reader some back-story, but seems more a context for sex scenes. There's tension between Dunleavy and Costello, but it falls far short of that between "Spencer" or "Jessie Stone" and Rita Fiore, the steamy Boston lawyer created by Robert C. Parker.

Patterson and De Jonge show a solid knowledge of the law and criminal justice. This leads to the image of true settings and reasonably accurate details about courtroom goings-on. Knowing the law doesn't mean Dunleavy ends with a compelling final argument; he doesn't, and there are too many unanswered questions. When Dunleavy gets around to his closing argument, I've already made mine, and exposed the plot twist.

Patterson and De Jonge devise a complicated plot, but make a half-hearted effort to work it into a compelling read. They leave little to the imagination, unless you count holes in the story, and the twist won't fool many readers. Most readers may not make it to the end of "Beach House," it's just that weak.

For summer readers after diversion, "Beach House" is just what you want. For mystery lovers or fans of the other series by Patterson, "Beach House" won't meet expectations. For devotees of the courtroom fiction, "Beach House" offers nothing.

Give "Beach House," a two-bookworm rating. It's one bookworm because of the character development. The second bookworm is because it wasn't too long to finish in a weekend.

Little, Brown, published "Beach House," by James Patterson and Peter de Jonge, in 2002.

Michelle McClory was the first writer to contribute to Grub Street.

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