Death of the Black Widow – James Patterson and JD Barker

Death of the Black Widow James Patterson JD Barker
Death of the Black Widow by James Patterson, J.D. Barker
Also by this author: 1st to Die, 2nd Chance, 3rd Degree, The Horsewoman, 4th of July, The 5th Horseman, The 6th Target, 7th Heaven, The 8th Confession, The 9th Judgment
Published by Grand Central Publishing on April 19, 2022
Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
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She destroys the men she loves—and escapes every time. The most dangerous killer James Patterson has ever created is also his most seductive. On his first night with Detroit PD, Officer Walter O’Brien is called to a murder scene. A terrified twenty-year-old has bludgeoned her kidnapper with skill that shocks even O’Brien’s veteran partner. The young woman is also a brilliant escape artist. Her bold flight from police custody makes the case impossible to solve—and, for Walter, even more impossible to forget. By the time Walter’s promoted to detective, his fascination with the missing, gray-eyed woman is approaching obsession. And when Walter discovers that he’s not alone in his search, one truth is certain. This deadly string of secrets didn’t begin in his home city—but he’s going to make sure it ends there.    

James Patterson has published over three hundred books and this is easily in the top five. Joining with J.D. Barker, Patterson weaves a paranormal thriller that keeps the pages turning and the light on. Death of the Black Widow is a story told over a number of timeframes, beginning in the present—where an old Walter O’Brien is plotting an assassination—moving backward to O’Brien’s first day as a cop, and then forward chronicling his lifelong pursuit of the Black Widow.

Patterson doesn’t typically write supernatural fiction, meaning that the big reveal that the killer wasn’t exactly human was caught me off-guard. It’s a well-written, superbly-concealed secret not made entirely clear until well into the book. The genius is that it leaves readers to grapple with it just like the characters must. Supernatural? Otherworldly? O’Brien is a gritty street cop who deals in facts. Coming to the conclusion that the girl who escaped from him on this first night wasn’t altogether human was something that took years—and part of his sanity. It does the same for the reader. Barker and Patterson also don’t dwell on the supernatural. It’s just written as part of the story, never overshadowing it or becoming a parody of itself. If you wish Steven King wrote like James Patterson, Death of the Black Widow is the novel for you.

Everything from the book’s tone to its setting to its pacing is absolutely perfect. Barker and Patterson craft an intensely creepy story that manages to also feel real and is grounded in reality. The movement across the timeline shows the story’s progression, while slowly explaining the mystery of the modern-day events. At first, it’s not even clear how O’Brien’s first day on the job—where it seems the victim of a kidnapping escapes from his squad car—is related to the current events. What soon becomes obvious is that the person they all thought was the victim was actually the villain…and now, decades later, O’Brien is poised with some vigilante justice to take her down.

Death of the Black Widow is an immersive story that is obviously way more Barker than Patterson. Patterson’s style shines through, but its Barker’s storytelling that really makes the book work, as he makes the unbelievable believable. As I’ve worked my way through Patterson’s seemingly interminable list of books, there are a lot that are good but forgettable. This is the rare Patterson novel that’ll stick with you. As I finished the final page, I was already circling back around to page one for a second read.