Book Club: Murder Games by James Patterson & Howard Roughan

Whether you are a James Patterson fan or not, I am certain you will thoroughly enjoy this book. James Patterson is one of the best-known and biggest selling writers of all time with an excess of 325 million copies sold worldwide. He is the author of some of the most popular series of the past two decades – Alex Cross, Women’s Murder Club, Detective Michael Bennet and Private novels – and he has written many other number one bestsellers including romance novels and stand-alone thrillers.

Murder Games is one of the latest page turners to hit the shelves, written in collaboration with Howard Roughan. It follows a serial killer on the loose in Manhattan. His victims appear to be total strangers. The only clue that links the crimes is the playing card left behind at each scene hinting at the next target. The killer, known in the tabloids as the Dealer, is baiting cops into a deadly guessing game that has the city (and you as the reader) increasingly on edge.

The only clue that links the crimes is the playing card left behind at each scene hinting at the next target.

Elizabeth Needham, the detective in charge of the case is a straightforward and hard-line person who is highly respected and excellent at her work. She says the following about herself: “I have to interview grieving loved ones on a weekly basis, and approximately once a year someone shoots at me”. When asked if anyone shot at her this year she says no, “but it’s only September. Plenty of time left on the calendar.”

Detective Needham turns to an unlikely ally for help on the case: the brilliant professor of psychology at Yale University, Dr Dylan Reinhart, whose book turned up in connection with the murders. (Although it bears no relevance to the story line, I liked the specific mention that Dr Reinhart rides a 1961 beautifully restored Triumph TR6 Trophy motorcycle).

Two other characters play major parts in the story. Firstly there is the newspaper reporter Allen Grimes (Grimes on crimes). Elizabeth Needham sums him up as follows: His driver’s license says he’s fifty, his libido think he’s twenty, and his liver is convinced he’s Keith Richards. Secondly there is the Mayor, Edward Deacon, whose only concern is to win the upcoming election. He is faced with the problem that the crime rate hadn’t dropped at all since he took office. Once when Detective Needham swore in his presence, he warned her to cool it because apparently only Mayor Deacon himself was allowed to swear like that in his office.

As the public frenzy over the Dealer reaches a fever pitch, Dr Dylan Reinhart and Detective Needham has to work frantically to connect the clues to discover what the victims have in common – before the Dealer runs through his entire pack of playing cards.

The book is a typical James Patterson crime novel: There is a single storyline with very little sideshows to distract the reader’s attention from the main act. If, like me, you read purely for leisure, you are bound to like the way the book is written too. The story is simple yet gripping and unpredictable, right to the end.

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