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10 March 2014

Richard North Patterson: Eden in Winter

Future of a Fractured Family
This is the last in an unusual trilogy by one of my favourite authors Richard North Patterson. It is quite a change from his best-selling courtroom novels to this psychological family trilogy about the family of famous novelist Ben Blaine and the impact of his death/apparent murder when he falls from a cliff on Martha's Vineyard. It is also unusual because this third novel is a direct carry over from #1 "Fall from Grace" with #2 "Loss of Innocence" being a (very good) standalone sidetrack about the early days of Ben Blaine.

#1 covers the consequences of Ben's death through the eyes of his estranged son Adam who returns from Afghanistan to his father's funeral and discovers a treasure chest of buried family secrets, many of which could impact the police investigation of Ben's death. Ben is a serial womaniser and his last fling is with Carla Pacelli, a failed popular actress recovering from alcohol and drug abuse who is expecting Ben's child. Ben's hatred for his family surfaces in a recently changed will that leaves most of his wealthy estate to Carla and disinherits his wife from the family home.

Adam works hard to set up a scenario to protect his family from police investigations. This book starts with the Coroner's inquest where the police try to place the blame for Ben's apparent murder on family members. Adam continues to duck and weave with a shield of lies to protect his family. As things develop Adam, who is executor of Ben's will, becomes close to Carla and shares his greatest family secret with her, but he is not prepared to tell her the reason for his estrangement from and intense hatred of Ben which made him leave the Vineyard ten years ago.

This book also tracks Adam's dangerous CIA work in Afghanistan and the way that his developing relationship with Carla affects his work. The author also provides us with an interesting and well researched insight into intense therapy between Adam and his local psychiatrist about his relationship with his father, his approach to his work in Afghanistan and finally about his blossoming friendship with Carla.

While the trilogy cannot compare with Patterson's early work, I did enjoy the full trilogy because of the undoubted skills of the author in covering such a complex tale. With most trilogies it is normally best to start at the beginning. With this one I accidentally started with the second in the trilogy  "Loss of Innocence", an outstanding book which can be read in standalone mode. That book mostly covers the time before Ben becomes famous and before he marries Clarice. It also tells us a lot more (sometimes pretty favourable) things about Ben's character, and his drive to leave behind a family background of poor abusive and alcoholic parents.

All in all I am glad  that I read #2 first as it gave me more information about Ben that helped me understand the first book a lot better. The last book, "Eden in Winter" starts off where #1 ends so it is important to read that book before starting #3. My main criticism of #3 is that because it has been some time since #1 was released the author repeated several slabs of text from that book to remind readers of what happened in the earlier book.

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