NYPD Red by Marshall Karp*

*OK, let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way first. Yes, I know James Patterson’s name is on the book too, first no less. However, with no disrespect intended to Mr. Patterson, I read this book because of Marshall Karp, whose writing I was familiar with from his own, outstanding Lomax & Biggs series. Having read all four of those, I can assure you that Marshall’s tone and influence shine through in this novel. So, onward.

NYPD Red by Marshall KarpNew York, New York. If you can make it there, the saying goes, you can make it anywhere. The political big wigs of the city would love for the LA entertainment industry put that theory into practice, and as such have rolled out the red carpet for a huge, weeklong “Hollywood on the Hudson” event intended to lure West coast producers, directors, and actors to the Big Apple for their future film projects.

The NYPD Red task force was originally assembled to give special service and attention to the city’s rich and famous, whose money and opinion have tremendous influence on the city’s structure and reputation. Already a high profile, high stress job, the additional influx of all the A-List out-of-towners puts the members of NYPD Red on 24/7 duty to ensure things run smoothly during the “Hollywood on the Hudson” event.

Of course, we wouldn’t have much of a book if things went smoothly.

The first hitch in the giddyap occurs when a famous, and infamous, Hollywood producer keels over and dies during his power breakfast at a crowded, upscale Manhattan restaurant. Though the restaurant owners and city brass would love to write it off as a heart attack, less bad publicity that way, NYPD Red Detective Zach Jordan and his partner, Detective Kylie MacDonald, aren’t so sure. The way the witnesses describe the producer behaving right before his death sounds suspiciously like poisoning, and when another Hollywood icon goes down later the same morning in a spectacularly violent, and public, manner there is no longer any doubt – “Hollywood on the Hudson” is under attack.

Though just the first book featuring Detectives Jordan and MacDonald, NYPD Red does an outstanding job developing the characters’ backstories while still moving the plot forward at breakneck speed. We learn that Jordan and MacDonald went through the academy together, were once an item, and that Jordan’s still carrying a bit of a torch even though MacDonald’s now happily married, to an NYC television producer no less. And while Jordan is an NYPD Red task force veteran, MacDonald’s assignment to the unit, and as Jordan’s partner, occurred only days before “Hollywood on the Hudson” kicked-off. It makes for some interesting and explosive chemistry between the two.

And since a hero can only be as good as the villain is bad, Jordan and MacDonald have been given a doozy of an opponent. Self-dubbed The Chameleon, the NYPD Red baddie is an actor grinding away in obscurity as a career extra, but who’s decided he’s finally ready for his close-up. Determined to be a star, The Chameleon has written the script for the ultimate blockbuster, one he proceeds to “film” in his head as he unleashes his twisted cinematic vision on the Hollywood luminaries gathered in the Big Apple. And while his Chameleon moniker makes sense on an obvious level as he puts his cumulated knowledge of wardrobe and makeup to work while carrying out his plan, there’s a deeper meaning which becomes apparent as the book makes the turn into the climatic homestretch.

With a rich mix of character and action, NYPD Red is a highly entertaining, fast-paced read. And while the plot at hand is wrapped up come the final page, there are enough loose threads left hanging with regard to the characters themselves that I certainly hope Karp and Patterson choose to pull on those threads and unravel additional adventures for the NYPD Red crew to tackle.

NYPD Red is available from Little, Brown and Company (ISBN: 978-0316199865).

Marshall Karp’s latest novel, NYPD Red, is his second collaboration with James Patterson, following Kill Me If You Can. Marshall is also the author of four books in the Lomax & Biggs series, Cut, Paste, Kill, Flipping Out, Bloodthirsty, and The Rabbit Factory. To learn more about Marshall, visit his website.
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