‘Steal’ by James Patterson and Howard Roughan is a thriller that has layered con upon con in a deadly game

Steal by James Patterson
and Howard Roughan

This is the third James Patterson novel, written with Howard Roughan, that features Dr. Dylan Reinhart, a Yale professor of abnormal psychology. The thriller is not just filled with action and danger; it also features a plot that layers intelligence agencies with both Italian and Russian crime heads, foreign governments, stolen Nazi artwork, billionaires who think they are above the law, and Reinhart, who we learn was previously a CIA agent. As with most novels of this genre, the story features nonstop danger and people who are not what they appear to be. The most obvious case in point is the billionaire’s son, who posts a suicide note on Instagram and then disappears. His father is convinced that his son is alive, and he wants Reinhart to find him. Which of those factors are not what they appear to be? Perhaps both?

As the plot develops, a rhythm does, too. The chapters are very short—usually two to three pages. And many of the chapters end in the middle of an action, thus ensuring, of course, that the reader will continue on to see what happens. For example, when Reinhart claims to have saved the life of a Russian mob boss, who asks him why he thinks that, Reinhart responds, “Here, I’ll show you.” The chapter ends. The action continues without interruption on the following page in the next chapter.

Reinhart’s partner from the previous two books, Elizabeth Needham, a NYPD officer on special assignment, works with Reinhart over the course of this novel, and there are other characters from his CIA days who support his investigation. We watch as Reinhart almost singlehandedly bests all of his foes, from the Italian mafioso to the Russian crime boss to others who are caught up in the plot. But the authors deviously leave us in the dark about who exactly Reinhart is up against— the plot as presented to us is not the plot that we end up with. In fact, the plot changes and changes again as we learn more about the characters’ motivations and desires.

And while Reinhart might have the wool pulled over his eyes once, or even twice, (or is it thrice?) he does finally catch on. In truly noble fashion, he tries to protect those who, while not completely innocent, are not truly guilty of heinous crimes. At times, such protection does not serve to help him in his ultimate goal, and for that he earns the derision of some characters. But Reinhart has morals, and he does his best to live his life by them.

This is not a book for readers looking to deeply connect with characters and observe those characters as they mature and evolve. Reinhart is who he is, and the plot is the driving force here. Can you outwit the authors and guess what double crosses they have planned in this novel to try to stump you and keep you from guessing the final outcome? There are few shades of gray here, for the bad guys are really bad—even the ones who we think might be good guys at the start. And those bad guys are truly rotten; we do not mourn the ones who do not live until the final pages of the novel. This is a novel to be read for quick enjoyment and for those who enjoy puzzles. Be prepared to watch the pieces change even as you think you know where they belong.

Please note: This review was first posted on Bookreporter.com.