(2018), a mystery/thriller co-written by James Patterson and James O. Born, is the eleventh in the Michael Bennett series. In this installment, Michael Bennett takes on two drug cartels vying for control over New York City’s illicit opioid trade, and they know where he lives. Bennett must contend with a killer who seems to be everywhere and nowhere. Worse, yet, the killer also targets his family, arranging an attack on his incarcerated son, and endangering his daughter.
The novel opens as Bennett and his new partner, Antrole Martens, answer an anonymous tip to the crime-line about the whereabouts of a suspected murderer. The tip leads them into an ambush meant to kill Bennett, but Antrole is killed, instead, when one of the assailants lobs a hand grenade at them. Bennett wakes up in the hospital with minor injuries. He receives an update from Mary Catherine, the au pair-turned-fiancée who helps him take care of his ten adopted kids, and his grandfather Seamus, a Catholic priest. Bennett is still in the hospital when he receives word that his son Brian has been stabbed while serving a sentence for drug dealing. He rushes upstate to see him.
The assassin who arranged all the mayhem and murder is one Alexandra “Alex” Martinez, an assassin from Columbia. Ostensibly, she works as a fashion photographer because it provides a good cover and a legitimate reason to travel around the world. She had outsourced the hit to a local gang to cover up her tracks and arranged it to happen while she was photographing underwear models to create an alibi. After she has dinner, she goes to the hospital disguised as a nurse and kills the injured gang members to make sure her involvement remains a secret. Then she starts on the other hits the job requires, starting with a Canadian mobster. After she clears up her contracts, she goes home to her ranch and daughters in Colombia…only to receive the message that Michael Bennett survived, and her contract is not yet closed.
Wondering if there are connections between the murders, Bennett stops by Holy Name to talk to his grandfather and the new priest, Father Alonzo. Alonzo is from Columbia, and he seems to know an unusual amount about the drug trade, which makes Bennett suspicious. Nevertheless, he has Seamus and Alonzo over for dinner. He also realizes that his daughter Juliana is growing up—she is a fledgling actor who landed her first role in a small TV production. This makes Bennett nervous because it seems that she is pulling away from all of them.
Meanwhile, Alex meets her cartel contact and is told to go back to New York to finish the job. Bennett had killed a cartel member some time back, and his mother (related to someone high-ranking) requested that they have Bennett killed. Alex flies back to New York, working through the Canadian mobsters newly arrived in town. Then she starts surveilling Bennett to learn his habits.
During his research to find connections between his ambush and the dead Canadians, Bennett talks to Sgt. Tim Marcia in narcotics. He learns that the synthetic drug market is in upheaval. The Canadians flooded the market with extra meth, but the Mexican cartel warned people away from it. While the product war goes on, people are going back to marijuana and cocaine. The two cops talk about whether it would be a good idea to legalize the drugs, taking it out of the hands of drug dealers, like the Dutch. He drops by the Holy Name and hangs out with Alonzo for a little while, talking sports. They are jumped by some gangsters, taking Bennett by surprise. Alonzo fights them off. Bennett does a background check and finds out that Alonzo was a captain in the Colombian national police until his fiancée dumped him for a cartel kingpin, and he left the service to become a priest.
Alex has issues of her own when she realizes she is being followed. She lures her watchers out into the open, and when they attack her, she kills one of them and abducts the other to interrogate. She takes him back to her hotel room with the story that he is her drunken little brother. He turns out to be another gang member and a friend of the one she killed in the hospital. Because she thinks he is a reprehensible, vile creature who knows what she looks like and threatens her with rape and torture, she kills him. She also starts killing the rest of the gang members who could identify her.
While watching Bennett, she notices his daughter Juliana. Alex approaches her as a talent agent and invites her out to lunch. Unfortunately, for her, Bennett, Seamus, and Alonzo arrive to see Juliana and catch her speaking to the girl. She takes Juliana hostage, but Bennett and Alonzo tag-team her, saving Juliana but Alonzo is shot. Alex runs away, Bennett in pursuit. He catches up to her and arrests her.
Alonzo survives his gunshot wound, and a representative from the Mexican cartel tells Bennett that they will not hunt him or his family anymore.
Reviewers of the novel claim that Ambush
is one of the best, most action-packed books in the series to date. There are 101 short chapters, each no more than a couple of pages, and an epilogue. The book’s backmatter also includes a bonus Michael Bennett novella, Manhunt
. The story starts with a terror attack at the Thanksgiving Day Parade and sees Bennett paired up with the NYPD’s liaison from the Russian Embassy, Darya Kuznetsova, to solve the crime.