Review: The Black Book by James Patterson and David Ellis


FF’s Star Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Thriller master James Patterson joins forces once again with the author of the Jason Kolarich legal thriller series David Ellis in The Black Book. Two different timelines. Before and after a comedian of a cop got shot. One item that everyone wants. The so-called “Black Book” of a brownstone brothel that identifies some of Chicago’s respected figures as standing customers.

It looks like a female cop walked in on her cop boyfriend cheating on her with another woman and they killed each other. The cop boyfriend was Detective Patti Harney’s twin brother Billy, also a detective. Despite how things seem with the blood running down one side of his face, Billy is still actually very much alive. In a coma. When he comes to, he finds himself having to clear his name because the evidence available points to him as the person who fired the first shot. He remembers who he is, but he doesn’t remember what led to him being in a coma.

Before they found him unconscious with blood down the right side of his face, Billy was alive and well in Chicago, dipping his hands into a cookie jar that he was not supposed to. He was a homicide cop who made a Vice arrest and uncovered something that could cause a whole lot of trouble for Chicago’s powerful elite. Well, people think he uncovered something and that was a tell-all black book. Secretly working for Internal Affairs as well, does he know what trouble he’s gotten himself into if he is, in fact, in possession of the black book?

Billy and Kate (Katherine Fenton), his partner, gets put on administrative leave with the state’s attorney’s investigation looming. Intense and beautiful, Katie, as one Ramona Dillavou would tell you, is not to be pissed off. Amy Lentini, the body discovered along with Kate’s in the present timeline, is the one who took their badges. She is the prosecutor that is going after Billy and throughout the course of the past timeline, the two begin to develop an unofficial kind of romantic relationship.

Billy is the type of cop that can say something arbitrarily snarky to someone he’s putting handcuffs on. Without really doing anything, he is able to get people’s attention in a way that his sister Patti cannot and he finds humor in most situations. An intelligent guy who is always ahead of everyone else, he has a mind that is always busy working toughies out.

Tending to keep an eye out for security cameras, Patti behaves like a well-trained officer on a mechanical type of instinct. She is the type of sister that would warn another woman not to harm her brother in any way. A reporter named Kim sees Billy being in a coma as an opportunity for a good story, but what she gets isn’t a good story, but a good hard slap across the face courtesy of Patti. In a scene in the last chapters of the book, she is ready to take a swing – and point a gun – at a cop who messes around with present-time Billy.

Daniel Harney, his father, is the chief of detectives. There is no way that either Billy or Patti could’ve gotten where they are today because of their father’s position. “Everything you earn, you earn on merit, not because your dad’s a superior.” Hence, the distance between Daniel – a man who goes out of his way to avoid any form of favoritism – and his children. In the present tense, Billy needs answers that only his father, who cannot get involved in the double murder case that involves his son, can give. Not an easy thing to do for the man, but he lets slip of a few details when needed that can’t get him into trouble.

The chance of Billy ending up in jail might seem more likely as the antagonistic Wizniewski aka the Wiz moves his chess pieces across the board in hopes of acquiring the black book that could confirm Billy’s suspicions of him – that the Wiz is a dirty cop who is running a protection racket – but Billy has the man heading Internal Affairs, on his side. “It was colder than a witch’s nipple in a brass bra.” Billy, being the comedian that he is, made this novel a lot of fun to read; Billy’s funny side is a great part of what makes this novel so enjoyable, but what I liked about all his humor was that it didn’t impact the overall modality of the book as a thriller.

The first puzzle pieces of the crime are quickly revealed, giving readers potential answers as to who could’ve committed the crime, although one of these possibilities seems plausible, but ludicrous. Still, there are various possibilities that makes sense to readers. Some more than others. The narrative is not overly technical. Cops are simply referred to as uniforms. The forensic personnel as techies. Overall, the narrative is like actual cop speak while the fast-paced plot threads come together and make it difficult for readers to stop.

At times, though interesting stuff keeps happening, it does seem as if the development of the plot is a bit slow. Billy’s comedic side makes the truth surrounding a personal tragedy that isn’t fully revealed until the later parts come to readers as a shock. Billy’s thinking doesn’t go to this tragedy as much as I would’ve liked. I would’ve liked him to really fall and reflect on this. To, for one long moment, be unable to push down with humorous thoughts or remarks, but, disappointingly, his character lacks in that area.

The mystery that is the little black book was handled brilliantly because, though Billy is the protagonist, you can’t tell if he does have the black book or if he doesn’t until you know for sure. Exploring themes of corruption, true police work, bottled-up envy, James Patterson and David Ellis writes a cop thriller that will leave readers completely flabbergasted at the end, showing how it is often those picture perfect images that need close attention.

Free paperback copy received from Penguin Random House SA in exchange for a review. Click here to view the book on their site.

Kindle Edition:

Publisher: Cornerstone Digital
Date Published: May 4, 2017
Genre: Murder
Pages: 419
View on Amazon

2 thoughts on “Review: The Black Book by James Patterson and David Ellis

  1. I just can’t stand James Patterson’s writing style!! Lol! I’ve never been able to finish one as I usually end up throwing the book across the room thinking “I just don’t even care anymore!!” but, it’s always nice to read others takes on his books!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The guy has some interesting ideas and I guess it’s difficult to judge his writing because he partners with other writers. This is the second book I’ve read by him (and author 2), and it did not disappoint at all.

      Liked by 2 people

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