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Beach Road    by James Patterson & Peter De Jonge order for
Beach Road
by James Patterson
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2006 (2006)
Hardcover, Audio, CD
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Beach Road masquerades as a fairly standard legal thriller - albeit with the engaging characters that these authors can always make us care about, even if we never get to know them well - till late in the action when it takes a hairpin turn for a shocker of a plot twist that caught me - and I expect will also catch you - off guard.

The tale is told from alternating points of view, including the anonymous ones of a Hamptons drug dealer named Loco and his boss BW, whose identities are only revealed late in the story. Early on, we meet the engaging Tom Dunleavy, a professional athlete who blew out his knee at the end of his rookie season. He has his own, rather relaxed law firm in East Hampton. His loyal pooch Wingo is his constant companion. We learn that the life of Dante Halleyville, 'the best high school basketball player in the country', is about to change for the worse. And we're introduced to hotshot New York attorney Katherine 'Kate' Costello, who was once Tom's girlfriend and is about to have a crisis of conscience about the corporate legal work she's so good at.

Then three bodies of local Hamptons young men are found on Beach Road, brutally murdered, stacked in a heap, and all known to Tom. The immediate assumption is that black men did it, and Dante quickly comes under suspicion because of a basketball court tussle the day before. An old friend begs Tom to help, and he ends up defending Dante, and enlisting Kate's aid. This makes Tom very unpopular with the once friendly folk around him - their responses include a beating and arson. As Tom and Kate prepare their defense of Dante, we also meet Brooklyn Detective Connie P. Raiborne, a bloodhound on the scent of related killings in New York. And we share the point of view of Dante's grandmother and chief supporter, Marie Scott, and of his 'criminally cute' cousin Nikki Robinson.

The court case ends in an exciting crescendo, but that's far from the end of this fast-paced story, as Detective Raiborne still persistently follows the real killer's trail. In Beach Road, James Patterson and Peter De Jonge deliver an engrossing read that's shock full of surprises.

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