Publisher: Century (Trade Paperback – 28 September 2021)
Series: Standalone/Book One
Length: 382 pages
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
The powerhouse crime fiction team of James Patterson and Candice Fox returns for 2 Sisters Detective Agency, an intense and clever novel that sets two unlikely protagonists on a dark, character-driven case.
In recent years crime fiction icon James Patterson, best known for his Alex Cross novels and other bestselling series, has been collaborating with a range of talented authors to produce a vast library of crime fiction, murder mystery and thriller novels. These range from major series such as The Women’s Murder Club to multiple standalone novels such as Lost (co-written by James O. Born) which I read last year. These collaborations have allowed Patterson to release multiple books each year; including several in 2021 (examples include The President’s Daughter, which was co-written with Bill Clinton, or The Noise, which was co-written with J. D. Barker).
This latest book was co-written with Australian author Candice Fox, a writer whose crime fiction novels I have been rather enjoying over the last couple of years. Fox is a well-established author who first made her mark with her Archer and Bennett murder mystery series set in Australia. Since then, Fox has written several other novels, including her Crimson Lake series, and two standalone books, Gathering Dark and The Chase, both of which I had a wonderful time reading. Fox has also previously collaborated with James Patterson several times to write the intriguing Detective Harriet Blue series, another interesting Australian crime series. 2 Sisters Detective Agency will be the fifth novel written by the team of Patterson and Fox, and it serves as an excellent standalone read with potential to start a great new series.
Rhonda Bird is a criminal defence attorney in Colorado, specialising in helping young offenders and juvenile delinquents being crushed by the criminal justice system. A strong and independent figure, Rhonda is unprepared for the call informing her that her estranged father has died, especially as his death brings with it certain caveats that will change her life forever.
Travelling to Los Angeles, Rhonda discovers that despite abandoning her years before, her father has decided to leave behind two major surprises. The first is his shady private detective agency; the second is a teenage half-sister she never knew existed named Baby. Reeling from these revelations, Rhonda attempts to bond with the rebellious and strong-willed Baby, while also trying to determine what shady actions led to her father concealing a massive stash of cash in his office. As Rhonda attempts to deal with both these strange circumstances, she suddenly finds herself drawn into a case when a young man walks in, claiming he was abducted.
The young man is a member of a teenage group of self-serving vigilantes, who specialise to bringing their own violent brand of justice to anyone they feel crosses them. However, when their latest spree of terror goes horribly wrong, they suddenly find themselves on the wrong side of a violent former assassin, determined to get revenge. As Rhonda and Baby start to investigate, they find themselves caught between a desperate group of violent teens and a skilled killer, neither of whom are going to have any trouble putting a bullet in two interfering sisters. Worse, the Bird sisters are soon targeted by the Mexican cartel, who are determined to reclaim the money stolen by their father. Can Rhonda and Baby survive their first case, or will these two sisters end up dead before they even get to know each other?
This was an outstandingly entertaining novel that takes the reader on a wild and addictive ride. Patterson and Fox have come up with a pretty awesome story in 2 Sisters Detective Agency, and it was one that I had an extremely hard time putting down. I ended up getting through this cool book in several intensive sessions, and I ended up finishing off the final half in one fun-filled night. 2 Sisters Detective Agency is an interesting and exciting crime fiction read told from multiple character perspectives and containing an entertaining and accessible character driven story. Written as a standalone novel, this book also serves as a potential opening to a whole new Patterson/Fox series focused around some unique and compelling characters. I really liked how this book was composed, with a large collection of short chapters. These short chapters not only ensure that the author keeps the story nice and concise, but it also serves to keep the audience engaged, especially if they know that the next chapter only has a few pages in it. It also helps that this is a pretty non-stop action novel, as the various characters are constantly in the midst of something very interesting, such as attempted murder, psychotic planning by rich teens, or near-fatal family bonding.
The authors do an amazing job of setting up everything really quickly in this book, with all the major storylines starting out in short order. This includes the introduction to the Bird sisters, the preparation surrounding the teenage gang known as the Midnight Crew, and the start of the former assassin turned parent, Jacob, as he starts his mission of vengeance. Once everyone has been introduced, all these storylines start off at the same pace, with the short chapters and multiple perspectives ensuring that readers are constantly updated with what is happening in the various storylines. Rhonda and Baby’s storyline forms an entertaining and relatable half of the novel, and it was a lot of fun seeing these very mismatched siblings meet for the first time and eventually start to work together. Their investigation into the other major storyline is only a small part of their initial narrative, with a bigger focus initially placed on their relationship and their attempts to deal with some murderous cartel members. While I did enjoy the Bird storyline, I ended up having a lot more fun with the Midnight Crew vs assassin storyline. This is a more intense and exciting narrative thread, and there are some outstanding moments involving this single-minded assassin taking apart the group of entitled teens one at a time. However, this storyline really does not go as you would expect, especially as one of the teenagers really cannot be considered helpless.
I had a lot of fun with both cool storylines, and I felt that they really complemented each other. While these two storylines have some crossover throughout the book, they really don’t join up until two-thirds of the way through, especially in the lead-up to a couple of epic showdowns. I really liked the way in which both storylines ended, although the big and brutal confrontation at the hospital was pretty exceptional. The story ends up in a rather cool place, and leaves the novel open to a potential sequel, which is something I would be quite eager to see. I absolutely loved how this awesome story unfolded, and Patterson and Fox really came up with something special here.
One of the best parts of 2 Sisters Detective Agency were the awesome and distinctive group of characters featured throughout it. Thanks to the excellent use of multiple character perspectives, the reader is given an up-close view to several of the more interesting members of this cast, and you quickly get drawn into their compelling arcs, even though you shouldn’t get too attached to some of them.
The main character is Rhonda Bird, the maverick criminal defence attorney who travels to Los Angeles to sort out her estranged father’s business, but then gets stuck minding a teenage half-sister. Even though she only appears for around half the novel, Rhonda is set up as the central protagonist of 2 Sisters Detective Agency, especially as her chapters are the only ones told from the first-person perspective. There are a lot of interesting things about Rhonda, especially as the authors have gone out of their way to make her as unique and memorable as possible. Rhonda is described as a larger woman, who is obese but also extremely well-muscled, able to bench 350 pounds. In addition, she has bright pink hair, outrageous clothes (which she wears in court), tattoos, a daring attitude, daddy issues, and destructive combat abilities. While I would say that so many odd distinctive features might be a bit over the top (if she had any more tawdry quirks, she could open up a tawdry quirk shop), it actually ends up working really well, much to my surprise. Despite how strong her unique features were layered on, I quite liked this distinctive character and the way she takes care of business and gets involved in any case that could potentially involve children in trouble. Add in her massive family drama, especially as she nearly meets her match in Baby, and you have quite an interesting character who ended up being the emotional heart of this deeply exciting narrative.
Baby Bird is the wildly independent teenager who, after suffering through the sudden death of her father, is forced into the care of an older sister she never knew. I wasn’t the biggest fan of Baby when the book started, especially as her attitude and demeanour were that of an over-exaggerated and stereotypical disrespectful teen. However, she did grow on me as the story progressed, thanks to her keen detective insight and slowly developing relationship with her sister, which is what the authors probably intended. Baby ends up being a lot more complicated than you would imagine, and you swiftly see that she badly messed up by her father’s lax parenting and the sudden loss of the only family she knew, and this makes for some intense and moving dramatic moments. If this novel continues into a major series, I have a feeling that Baby is going to develop the most, and I would be quite interested in seeing that.
The rest of the characters in this novel are also exceeding distinctive, with several outrageous and over-the-top figures who help to amp up the entertainment factor of this fun novel. These include the members of the Midnight Crew, a group of violent, rich teenagers who get their thrills breaking into houses and assaulting the residents to settle their petty grudges. The members of the Midnight Crew are essentially a more psychotic and deranged version of the Bling Ring, and Patterson and Fox really spend time portraying them as exceedingly spoiled rich kids, more concerned with status and thrills than ethics (with one exception). Out of all the members of the Midnight Crew, easily the best is their leader, Vera. Vera is the entire driving force behind them, and the authors do a really good job of building her up throughout the novel, especially as she is far more psychotic and murderous than you would expect. The entire storyline around her is exceptional, and it opens some interesting narrative threads that could be explored in any future entries in this series. I also really liked the assassin character, Jacob, who gets violently drawn into the Midnight Crew’s obit. The authors do a great job with Jacob, and I deeply appreciated their portrayal of him as a former killer who is dragged back into his former life and has very few regrets about it. Finally, I must highlight the fun Dr Perry Tuddy, a world-renowned chemist who keeps getting kidnapped to make drugs. The entire storyline around Tuddy is pretty hilarious, especially as he has developed a weird fetish for getting held captive, the explanation of which makes for one of the weirdest and most entertaining scenes in the entire book. I had a lot of fun with all these characters, and they helped turn 2 Sisters Detective Agency into something special.
Overall, 2 Sisters Detective Agency ended up being an amazing and deeply compelling read that I found to be particularly addictive. The brilliant team of James Patterson and Candice Fox really did a great job with this clever book, and I still cannot believe how much I enjoyed its fantastic story. I really loved the unique narrative and characters contained within this novel, and I hope that this amazing team will strongly consider providing us with a sequel to this cool and captivating read.