Has anyone ever counted the books James Patterson has published? Holy cow! That is one prodigious imagination. And he is not only a prolific writer, he does good things for the cause – he gives away books, he promotes reading, he supports independent booksellers. All good things. I’ve enjoyed a number of his previous books, but The Murder House I did not love. My mother gave me a copy of the audiobook for my birthday and I thought it would be perfect for an upcoming business trip. It’s a long drive from Cleveland to Indianapolis, then on to Detroit and back home. A good thriller would help me keep my eyes on the road. Unfortunately, there were several times that I got so annoyed with it, I almost turned it off completely, and for the very same reason I was frustrated by Black Run – the main character annoyed me.
At the heart of it, this is a terrific mystery and a big, complicated story. First, there’s the Murder House itself – 7 Ocean Drive. Bodies keep turning up there and it has developed a reputation in the Hamptons. Most recently, a Hollywood bigwig and the local woman he was cavorting with have been found tortured and murdered in the master bedroom. Local boy Noah Walker has been arrested for the murders: the local woman is his ex-girlfriend, and the murder weapon was found in his home. There’s a really interesting side-story here about Noah’s married lover. I thought I knew where it was going, but boy, was I wrong.
Then there’s Jenna Murphy. Jenna is the niece of the local police chief, come back to the Hamptons after a stretch on the NYPD and a very unpleasant end to that career path. Her return hasn’t been easy – she is plagued by nightmares and panic attacks, she is not really trusted by her new colleagues, and her relationship to the chief puts her in a difficult position. More than anything else, though, the trouble is caused by her own stupidity. She makes bad decision after bad decision and is still somehow surprised that things turn out badly. She was the primary reason I hit the Eject button on this particular audiobook more than once. She is going to have to confront her demons, face her past, etc., etc., if she’s going to solve the case and save herself.
Now, maybe that won’t bother you the way it bothered me. My mother loved the book, and I can understand that. There’s a thrilling mystery here with plenty of twists and turns. (To be fair, some of those are so well-telegraphed that they can’t even be called “twists.” If anyone didn’t see the final “twist” coming, they must have slept through the middle 50 chapters.) There are plenty of interesting minor characters who turn up, changing the course of the story and making you think it’s heading somewhere that it’s not. So if you aren’t bothered by a main character that you want to throttle, give The Murder House a shot. There’s a great deal to recommend it.