by James Patterson & Mark Sullivan (Random House Struik, R215)

From the Alex Cross thrillers – “Along Came a Spider”, “Kiss the Girls” et al – to the dozens of books in The Women’s Murder Club series, the Detective Michael Bennett series and a slew of tales written for young readers, prolific author James Patterson churns them out.

Here he is churning, along with co-author Mark Sullivan.

Oddly enough, this is the first Patterson I have read, hence it took me a while to get into his short, sharp style of punching out a chapter every few pages.

But, it works. I was galloping along, ended up reading “Private Berlin” in one sitting.

Private is an elite, international investigation organisation. Branches worldwide.

Staffed by experts in their fields, the company specialises in everything, from tracing a teenage heiress gone AWOL with a fortune-hunting, lowlife polo player, to delving into the background and horrific murders of a repugnant, mask-wearing serial killer.

This creepy executioner with a hackle-raising background (linked to the sinister Stasi secret police, who operated on the wrong side of the infamous Berlin Wall), is so steeped in the macabre he could give grisly gourmet Hannibal Lecter a run for his money.

Set in Berlin two decades after the wall came down, with a horribly fascinating background story of the doings of the Stasi and their acolytes, the story plays out against a race against time.

Attempting to wipe out the perpetrator of a gruesome chapter in his very early life, Chris Schneider, a top Private Berlin operative, has gone off on his own, clandestine investigation, having not told any of his colleagues, including ex-fiancée Mattie Engel.

When Chris goes missing, Engel and the rest of the PB operatives are determined to delve into how and why. This is one of their own and it’s all hands on deck.

Throw in a philandering millionaire, a high-powered betting ring and a Brazilian football player who might be throwing games, and it all makes for narrative twists and turns which should keep most thriller fans satisfied. – Sally Scott