The blurb for this bills it as a ‘standalone’ novel. However… I’d be surprised if this doesn’t become a series – assuming it’s well-received that is.
Patterson and Fox establish an excellent cast of characters (though they also kill off a few!!!) – and it feels like we’re on the precipice of getting to know some of the mysterious guests of the inn more. And I’d certainly like to do so.
by James Patterson, Candice Fox
Published by Century Australia
on August 6th 2019
Source: Penguin Random House Australia
Genres: Crime Fiction, Thriller / Suspense
Bill Robinson is starting over.
The Inn at Gloucester stands alone on the rocky New England shoreline. Its seclusion suits former Boston police detective Bill Robinson, novice owner and innkeeper. As long as the dozen residents pay their rent, Robinson doesn't ask any questions.
Yet all too soon Robinson discovers that leaving the city is no escape from the dangers he left behind. A new crew of deadly criminals move into the small town, bringing drugs and violence to the front door of the inn.
Robinson feels the weight of responsibility on his shoulders. His sense of duty compels him to fight off the threat to his town. But he can't do it alone. Before time runs out, the residents of the inn will face a choice.
Stand together? Or die alone.
Patterson and Fox have been collaborating on the Harriet Blue series, set in Australia. I can very much sense the involvement of Fox in the series because she gives us a flawed and not-always-likeable lead character, which is something she excels at (also doing so in her Hades/Eden/Fall and Crimson Lake series’).
The Inn isn’t a whodunnit as such. We know who the bad guy is from the get-go.
This book works more because we’re given this eclectic (and eccentric) group of characters – misfits in some way. One of the residents likens them to ‘fucked up’ animals released into the forest by a farmer’s wife in a story she’s heard. They’re ‘rejects’ so not taken away in a truck like the other animals. They’re sad cos they don’t get to go with the others but kinda happy they’re together.
Of course the trucks are taking the other animals to be slaughtered so the rejects don’t know how lucky they are.
Even Bill doesn’t know many of them well and obviously several have their secrets. There’s the reclusive Neddy, ex-FBI agent Susan and Effie (who can’t speak and whose throat is badly scarred). There’s Nick – ex military and struggling with PTSD. The overweight and seemingly blundering town Sheriff (Clay Spears) is also a resident post-divorce. And added into the mix we have an an ex-mobster, middle-aged wannabe novelist, a retired doctor and a teenager with musical talents.
The book kicks off with Bill and his ex-partner Malone’s shameful dismissal from Boston PD. We’re not told why at the time, but later get more detail. We jump forward after that introduction to two and a half years later after Bill and his wife Siobhan have bought the inn. It was long a dream of hers anyway, so she seemed pragmatic about Bill’s sacking, loss of income and their fast-tracked retirement plan.
Things haven’t exactly gone to plan though and when we first meet him Bill is a prickly and sulky man who just can’t be bothered with much at all. He and Nick though have garnered a bit of a reputation though as local ‘muscle’ and solve problems within the small community – in a relatively law-abiding way.
Drugs have hit town however, and we’re introduced to Cline. I kept visualising some slimy young hoodlum wannabe, but he’s savvier than expected and certainly more violent and relentless.
What comes next is not pretty and – though it’s kinda messy (and depressing) – I actually liked that Patterson and Fox offer a realistic vision of drugs, the rise of (not so) small-time criminals and how people can be so easily manipulated.
Bill’s torn. There’s the temptation to just walk away. He realises they could just run Cline out of town, but conscious he’ll then set up in the next town and repeat his efforts. There’s also a sense of the pointlessness of cutting off the head of a snake… or something.
This book is well-paced and certainly action-packed. Patterson’s short sentence structure and paragraphs again help keep things moving. Although in many ways there’s no (whodunnit) ‘mystery’ there are certainly a few surprises along the way.
In addition to the strong and complex characters, Patterson and Fox bring a ‘take no prisoners’ approach. (Though maybe that’s an Australian colloquialism?!). That is to say, the authors have no problem killing off a few central characters, some of which are quite shocking and I must admit I was so surprised by one I cried.
As an aside I would have liked a bit more insight into Cline. Bill hits a sensitive point early in their interaction but doesn’t really pursue it, though we kinda find out what that is later.
Like I said, there are a few backstories introduced that aren’t progressed here so I’d definitely like to hear more from the rejects and misfits (the book’s term not mine!) of the inn. I’m desperate in particular to know more about the hermit-like Neddy and Clay the sheriff, both of whom are most certainly are black sheep.
The Inn by James Patterson and Candice Fox is currently available in the US and will be published in Australia by Penguin (Century) on 6 August 2019.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.