In his first solo effort, James Patterson co-author de Jonge (Beach Road, 2006, etc.) introduces NYPD Det. Darlene O’Hara, charged with solving a grisly murder that’s getting scads of publicity.
The Monday after Thanksgiving, the mutilated body of Francesca Pena is discovered in lower Manhattan. An autopsy reveals she was horribly tortured before her death, and the newspapers are all over this grim story. The victim was a golden girl from an unsavory, unpromising urban environment, a high-school track star who got a full ride to NYU and was being touted as a future Rhodes Scholar. The case falls to O’Hara, a no-nonsense woman who also surmounted a tough past. The 34-year-old detective has an 18-year-old son and a hard-earned GED; she’s street smart, tenacious and psychologically shrewd. The main suspect is Pena’s erstwhile boyfriend, David McLain, who still pined for her even after she dumped him. Patrick Cooney, a corpulent master detective with plenty of experience in homicide, is ready to haul in McLain and add another award to his stellar résumé, but O’Hara’s not so sure. It turns out Pena was not as golden as she led the world to believe. She worked for a seedy escort service and a strip club. She may have been the lover of NYU’s assistant provost for admissions. Even her community service, tutoring the pubescent daughters of a now-clean crack addict, wasn’t quite what it seemed. O’Hara has tracked down the design of a tattoo the killer carved into Pena’s lower back, and one of the girls has the same tattoo; their mother is not forthcoming with a plausible explanation. While “all she has to generate new leads is her memory, a six-pack, [and] the rapidly diminishing effects of…two large coffees,” O’Hara finds this is enough—although she gets in deep trouble with publicity hound Cooney.
An abhorrent crime, a slimy perp and a noirish prose style—all good but all derivative.