February 2005

Patterson’s newest villainess loves ’em and loots ’em

By James Patterson
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Forget the title. There's no honeymoon chronicled in the latest fast-paced thriller from James Patterson. But there are plenty of lovemaking scenes of honeymoon intensity. At the center of each one is the gorgeous Nora Sinclair, who uses her body with the precision and deadliness of a sniper's rifle. Her day-to-day job is interior decoration, but her real profession is wooing and dispatching rich, handsome men and pillaging their estates. In so doing, she is constantly shuttling back and forth among her fashionable digs in Boston, Westchester and Manhattan. It's a good life, albeit one that bounces along on a trampoline of intricately woven lies and deceptions.

The qualities that humanize Nora are her circle of "Sex in the City"-like girlfriends and her devotion to her mother, who is stored away in an asylum and nursing her own dark secrets. Nora doesn't so much revel in evil as accept it as the cost of doing business.

Determined to call Nora to account for her misdeeds is FBI agent John O'Hara. (The authors have a bit of fun with literary allusions like this. One character gives another books by such crime-story competitors of Patterson as John Grisham and Patricia Cornwell and yet another passes the time reading Nelson DeMille.) Trouble is, O'Hara, who operates via a variety of guises and ruses, is as susceptible to Sinclair's charms as her earlier victims were. He also has old wounds to deal with, including a failed marriage and the reputation of being an organizational maverick. And he's working on another case as he's pursuing Nora, one that nearly gets him killed.

Unlike Patterson's more densely textured Alex Cross novels, Honeymoon has the quick-cut pacing and visual snap of a screenplay. The chapters really scenes seldom exceed four pages and generally end with a portentous declaration or a cliffhanger incident. The text twinkles with the brand names of tony consumer items, not surprising when dealing with a conspicuous high roller like Nora.

Honeymoon is the sixth novel Patterson has written with a co-author but his first one with Howard Roughan, whose solo works of fiction include the lavishly praised The Promise of a Lie and The Up and Comer. Because the focus is more on the observable scenery and action than on nuanced character development, the two authors' writing styles mesh quite well. The only dissonant factor is an occasional and unaccountable shift in point-of-view. Sometimes O'Hara's character is presented in third person, sometimes in first.

Speaking to BookPage in 2003, just before the release of his historical novel, The Jester (written with Andrew Gross), Patterson joked that he picked his co-authors out of the phone book. Then, on a more serious note, he continued, "I'm looking for somebody who, I think, can bring good things to the party, somebody I can get along with." To date, he has written three novels with Gross and several with other co-writers. "I don't really get into the process [of how I co-write]," he said, "because every time I sort of lay out what I do, the next thing you know, somebody else is doing the same thing." More significant than his method of writing, Patterson asserted, is the variety and appeal of his novels. "I think one of the most interesting things is the diversity of these books and the fact that on a pure readership level, a pure, spellbinding, can't-put-it-down level, that they're pretty successful. Forget about sales. They just move along real well."

Honeymoon does indeed move along "real well," accelerated by a handful of strong supporting characters. Among these are O'Hara's sympathetic and no-nonsense boss, Susan (whose relationship with him turns out to be a bit more complex than manager-employee); Nora's deceptively cunning mother; and a mysterious blonde woman who shadows Nora right through to the novel's unexpected conclusion. Maybe it's a bit early to talk about "beach reading," but Honeymoon should be perfect for the sands of summer if not the sands of time.

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By James Patterson
Little, Brown
ISBN 9780316710626

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