In author James Patterson’s fictional universe, “NYPD Red” is a group of New York’s finest dedicated to protecting the rich and famous. It is a unit specifically ordered into existence by the mayor who is trying to bring more Hollywood business to the city.
Our heroes, Zach Jordan and Kylie MacDonald, are newly assigned partners with a romantic past. A man calling himself The Chameleon is haunting New York and its visiting Hollywood power players. He’s killing them off one by one, and it’s all for the sake of his “movie” which he is filming in his head.
If this all sounds like an episode of some crime show that reruns on television endlessly, that’s no accident. However, I mean that in the best way possible. Patterson and his co-writer, Marshall Karp, are not trying anything new here. Much of “NYPD Red” feels like already discovered territory: the partners with romantic ties, the killer looking for fame, etc. Patterson and Karp are gunning for entertainment, not originality.
“NYPD Red” is written in a very simplistic and episodic format. There’s not much in the way of characters or emotion that will surprise or challenge readers. However, Patterson knows how to write a damn thriller and he knows how to employ cliches as needed. “NYPD Red” is professional even when it is bad. He uses lines and chapter breaks to build suspense. This gives the novel one of its only pleasures despite the outcome to the novel being quite predictable.
Patterson and Karp serve up a basic “CSI” episode. Don’t expect “NYPD Red” to be the buzz of the town or even for it to challenge veteran thriller readers. What it does is entertain in a basic fashion much like crime TV does. If one is looking for a good airport read or something quick to pass the time in a relatively pleasurable fashion, then “NYPD Red” is perfect.
The relationships between characters – and the characters themselves – are nothing more than stereotypes. We’ve seen the no-nonsense captain before, the female detective alwaystrying to prove herself, blah blah blah. It’s a shame since Patterson previously gave us unforgettable characters like Alex Cross.
The novel does, at times, offer glimpses of something more. Many of The Chameleon’s kills are written in script format (he is writing his own screenplay in the novel) and this works to both make the novel stand out and keep things interesting. Patterson and Karp are also intelligent enough to throw enough curve balls at readers to give predictable action scenes spice and a level of intrigue.
“NYPD Red” is like fast food. It goes down fast and easy and is pleasurable while it is being consumed, but will be forgotten rather quickly.
The novel also contains a sneak peek at Patterson’s next novel, “Merry Christmas, Alex Cross,” slated for a Nov. 12 release. And if the first few pages of that novel are any indication, it will be much more than a Big Mac literary meal from the master writer.