The Games: A PRIVATE Novel
A novel by James Patterson & Mark Sullivan
Book review by Jules Brenner
Little, Brown & Co., released 6/27/16, 400 pp., $28.00
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Best selling author James Patterson isn't timid about dipping into headline news to find elements for his mysteries. In this thriller he and writing partner Mark Sullivan go at it wholesale! First, it's set in Rio de Janeiro, leading up to his highly threatened fictional Olympic Games, with all the doubts and pressures that subject is currently bringing up in the real world; Second and sure enough, it deals with a deadly virus (but not Zika); third, it involves an international security firm that brings to mind military contractor Blackwater during the Iraq war; and, finally, they give us a villain who kills out of malice and revenge while complaining about all the unfairness in his life -- as common in the literature these days as in the newspapers.

Without going into the publishing phenomenon that is James Patterson, I would also point out that this book, titled "The Games," is number eleven in the Private series -- not the first Private Rio. Except for this one, each book is set in a different geographical location. So, if you love it, you've got a lot of additional reading to do.

The term "Private" is used by Patterson and Sullivan, as the name of the security firm hired to protect the games. Too clever by half, the maestro knows that he can turn confusion about the meaning of a word into pay dirt by forcing you to think about it every time it's used. "Private" the firm or private anything else? Tricky. A tip? If the word has caps then it's the firm.

Private is headed by Jack Morgan, attractive hero whose concentration does seem to wander now and then. His smarts and effectiveness in protecting large events and tracking down those who would cause problems before they can pull off their vile intentions isn't as sharp and magnetic as, say, an investigator like Jack Reacher. But he gets the job done and largely through his supportive police backup.

This is because he made friends last time he was in Brazil. Two years ago, he and his team (his employees, actually) headed off a catastrophe at the World Cup, leaving behind plenty of good will and cooperation with the authorities. Considering the two major threats that they're dealing with now, they're only too glad to have his services again when a strange virus breaks out and a double kidnapping scheme emerges from a favela.

Studying the virus with great intensity is Dr. Lucas Castro and, as the spotlight shifts chapter to chapter between Jack dealing with the uneven demands of the kidnapper and Lucas's work in his lab, bodies are found and people disappear.

The authors keep the clock ticking by counting down to the start of the Games on each chapter page, heading us to a possible climactic horror show instead of a grand opening, the threat feeding on our fears.

The professionalism of the writing is the main joy, here, but I have to say that I enjoy Patterson's standalone novels quite a bit more.

If you don't yet own The Games: A PRIVATE Novel and would like to purchase it (usually at a sizable discount), click here.