Bullseye
A Detective Michael Bennett Thriller by James Patterson & Michael Ledwidge
Book review by Jules Brenner
Little, Brown, released 8/1/16, 368 pp., $28.00 (hardcover)
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What we have here is a doubling down on the assassin thriller with two masters of marksmanship as well as all the espionage, betrayals and dirty tricks that go with the genre. The idea of opposing marksmen isn't exactly new (Tom Wood's "No Tomorrow") but the way it's played in this latest Detective Michael Bennett novel from the highly productive pens of authors James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge, provides originality and not a little cleverness with two very skilled, high achieving killers on conflicting sides of a presidential assassination plot.

When Bennett arrives at the NYPD's JFK airport's command center on the orders of his boss, Neil Febretti, and spots a load of secret service agents arriving in corporate jets, he wonders what he, a Major Case detective, is doing there. He finds out soon enough when Febretti introduces him to the FBI's New York anti-terror chief, Paul Ernenwein, a man with whom he's destined to spend a lot of time trying to avoid one critical death that would change geopolitical dynamics for a long time to come.

He's quickly informed that "an extremely reliable Russian mafia informant has provided information that a hit is going down," and that the target is no less than the man soon to arrive in Airforce One, the new president, Jeremy Buckland. But Mike doesn't truly learn why he's been called until he gets teamed up with Greg, a Nassau County SWAT team sharpshooter who's been told that Mike has been selected to be his spotter.

At that very moment, the man we will know as the British Assassin is in his blind in the MetLife building fifty stories up, calmly sighting his Barrett M107 in on the front door entrance of The United Nations Building, a shot over 2,000 yards -- a shot shy of his confirmed kills "at over twenty-five." He has reason to believe he's the best shooter in the world, but we'll see.

By now, our hero, Bennett, is panning a 16-power scope in the opposite direction from a perch on the SWAT team chopper after being stunned emotionally by the sight of the presidential DC-10 appearing in the sky and coming in for a landing at the UN.

[POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT]

With tension elevated to a crisp boil as the president's motorcade makes its way on a circular path to the building's entrance, Bennett, on the patrolling heli, spots the sniper! Which confirms the visual acuity that he employed on a similar feat when he was briefly assigned to Dignitary Protection. It also tells us why Febretti called Mike for this detail.

The British Assassin's mission is foiled but he gets away, leaving the highly paid killer-for-hire free to try again. But, this pro's not working for free (though, after learning who spotted his blind, he'd take Bennett out gratis, given the chance). Who's paying him is the person who wants Buckland's life. And, therein, lies the path of the investigation which gets hairier and hairier as we get close to the time The British Assassin is going to get his second opportunity. Is it true, as many surmise, that the Russian government is behind the dire plan? Putin is actually brought on stage. Is the President of the Russian Federation calling the shots here?

The tale is fraught with technical specs since readers. (such as myself), love the detail of calibers, guns and other weaponry detail, as well as the colooration of abreviations (Do you know what an ASAC is? an RO? a BMG? Is it important to?).

That's all part of the fun of an action tale like this, along with the pacing and the suspense, which are critical to forgiving the coincidences and stretches of plausibility. Character depth isn't so important and the whole is an easily digested read with twists, shocks and suprises... and you learn a lot about New York streets.

If you don't yet own Bullseye and would like to purchase it (usually at a sizable discount), click here.