Jack Mullen is a law student who returns home to Montauk, near East Hampton, only to find that his younger brother Peter has been brutally beaten to death. However, the police - led by Det. Frank Volpi - refuse to see it as anything other than an accidental drowning. Jack, his family, his friends and the wider community are all outraged. When they start their own investigation into the truth, they start getting followed, find themselves out of work and even threatened with death.
Jack is certain that Peter's involvement in the wealthy world of the rich East Hampton folk (albeit as a valet) somehow lead to his death and that their endless wealth is making sure that justice isn't done. Jack himself has links to that world through his girlfriend Dana Neubauer, the daughter of Barry and Campion Neubauer, one of the wealthiest and most powerful couples in society. However, Dana is quite the sweetie-pie she initially appeared to be.
When Jack discovers that Peter had money in his account far more than what you would expect from a valet, his suspicions are outright confirmed. His fight for truth and justice only brings on an even more intense defence from the Neubauers, forcing him and his friends to take drastic action.
Back in 2002, it would seem that James Patterson wasn't writing absolute crap. These days I've come to accept him as a guilty pleasure - his books have zero depth but they move quickly and can be quite enjoyable. I've particularly liked "The Quickie" and "Now You See Her". However, "Beach House" has a more consistent plot than what you'd find in one of Patterson's current thrillers. It doesn't stray into ridiculous sub-plots or scenarios - until the final quarter, I guess. But even the silliness of the concluding chapters can't detract from this being exactly what the book cover describes it as - a summer read involving wealth, betrayal, sex and murder.
Of course, this is commercial, cheesy and manipulative as hell. I wanted to applaud the heroes and boo and hiss at the villians. The characters are all pretty one-dimensional, but what can I say? I like heroes like Jack Mullen who are honest, down-to-Earth and want to see justice done. No whiny heroines or stoic alpha-males, no world-weary cops or cluey forensic investigators. It's something of a worry that a James Patterson novel could be less cliched than most thrillers out there.
It was a fun read. Trashy, but fun. I sometimes think a lot of authors are so intent on being accurate with procedure and science of crime investigation, or legal aspects, that they forget to inject the fun. They're so often just going through the motions. Even if Patterson and his co-authors are delivering a bit of nonsense, at least they're trying to give you a bit of a buzz too. After a glut of procedural-laden by-the-numbers thrillers with exceptionally irritating main characters, "Beach House" was a welcome, if silly, change.