Confessions of a Murder Suspect
James Patterson, Maxine Paetro
Pub 9-2012, Little, Brown
Us mortals sneeze and James Patterson writes novels: this is the accepted way of life. His novels are usually hailed as intensely creative, enjoyable reads, and this is rightly so. The novels of Patterson’s earlier young adult series, Maximum Ride, are fast-paced reads worthy of any teen’s attention and rapid-page turning abilities. The series is remarkable for its concentration on wild, dark visions of world domination-seeking scientists, mutant armies and genetically engineered humans. These ominous visions combined with snappy dialogue and laugh-out-loud funny narration form a unique symphony, sweeping readers along. Yet at the back of that symphony, there is the troubling and persistent rattle of a loose plot, and the whine of campy details.
Patterson’s latest work, Confessions of a Murder Suspect, follows in this style for the most part. It isn’t a high-flying adventure like Maximum Ride, but rather a mystery and a tour of the strange world of the Angel family. The Angels are a fantastically wealthy family living in an over-the-top Dakota Hotel penthouse. The main character, Tandy Angel, and her three siblings, are forced to play the double role of victim and suspect when her parents are found dead in their bedroom and a feisty, belligerent detective takes charge of the case.
Tandy’s predicament is an interesting one. She must learn to handle the mixed emotions conjured up by her parents’ deaths, deal with the police investigation which threatens to rip her family even further apart, and face the sweeping mystery of her parents’ death and the secrets they kept while they were alive. Over the course of her narration, Tandy discovers startling truths that cause her to question much of what she knows, or thinks she knows, about her family and even herself.
Sounds like a rich plot line, told by a deeply introspective narrator, surrounded by a colorful setting: what’s not to like? Well, characteristically of Patterson’s writing, Confessions of a Murder Suspect sacrifices plausibility for shock value.
Tandy and her three siblings turn out to be unbelievably talented—one is the best college football player ever to grace a stadium, another is a jaw-dropping painter-pianist, and Tandy, which is actually short for the whimsically implausible name “Tandoori”, is a brilliant detective, ready to crack the mystery of her parents’ deaths. Each new detail is more over-the-top than the last. In fact, the core of the plot—that Tandy is suspected in the murder of her parents—is entirely forced. Patterson provides no particularly strong reason for why she is a prime suspect. The entire plot, and its characters, are contrived to provide a simplistic tale, thinly coated in the trappings of a thrilling mystery.
- Gene J., 16