The Russian (Michael Bennett (13))

Image of The Russian (A Michael Bennett Thriller, 13)
Release Date: 
January 25, 2021
Little, Brown & Company
Reviewed by: 

“Patterson is a better writer than this, and it is hard to say if he is mentoring a writer new to the series, or not, but The Russian is a disappointment.”

James Patterson and James O. Born’s new thriller, The Russian, opens on a confusing note for the reader who is not familiar with the Michael Bennett detective thriller series. Confusing because the first several chapters are in the first person with no indication who the narrator is. Of course, for those who are already familiar with the character of Michael Bennett, this may not be a problem.

The opening chapter finds the main character, Michael Bennett and his partner, Brett Hollis, racing through the streets of New York after a person of interest in a particularly gruesome murder. The poi is captured and questioned and found not to be the right perpetrator.

After several chapters, the antagonist, Daniel Ott, enters the story in the third person, and the reader is made immediately aware of the fact that this character is definitely the murderer. And if that were not enough, he is a serial killer who really likes his work.

Initially, the flip from first person to third person is distracting, but as the story progresses, the change becomes somewhat transparent and works well to get the reader into the minds of both the protagonist and the antagonist.

Patterson and Born do a good job of developing a three-dimensional character in Ott. The reader will grow more and more disgusted with his attitude toward women and his desire to kill them, while on the other side he tenderly expresses love for his two little girls.

The character of Bennett is perhaps not quite as well developed as Ott, but as the repeat character in a series, this is not quite as demanding as the killer who appears only in this story.

The murders are particularly ugly in their description, and Ott, in his thrill at committing his crimes enjoys playing cat and mouse with the police. He intentionally leaves clues at each crime scene, and just waits to see if the police are smart enough to notice.

As the story progresses, Patterson and Born throw in several side stories— one distracting, the other well placed. The distracting story is Bennett’s personal life, as he prepares for his wedding, with his family of 10 children and one fiancé bubbling around through the story. The family story has literally nothing to do with the mystery at hand.

The second story is a copycat killer, and this is well played as Bennett struggles to determine if this is really a copycat, or the same killer just with a variation on his kills.

The other characters are, for the most part, rather flat, with the exception of John Macy, the aid to the mayor and a man whose lot in life seems to be making life difficult for Bennett. He is well developed as an arrogant, self-centered individual who gets the reader to wondering if he has anything to do with the murders.

Some of the steps drawn by Patterson and Born, as they try to provide the clues necessary for Bennett to resolve the mystery, seem almost too conveniently placed and any observant reader knows early on what the main clue is—it just takes a while for Bennett to get there.

Spoiler alert: The scene in the library when Bennett notices Ott is just too convenient. It should be noted, however, that the scene is necessary for the end of the story, but it could have been developed with more depth.

As the story winds down, the finale is a disappointment—from finding and apprehending the killer, to the FBI revelation, to the wedding scene.

For the reader who is already familiar with the Michael Bennett thrillers, the book may be a disappointment. For the first-time reader of this Michael Bennett thriller, there might not be a second time.

Patterson is a better writer than this, and it is hard to say if he is mentoring a writer new to the series, or not, but The Russian is a disappointment.