Swimsuit Review
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For Ben Hawkins—the ex-cop turned mystery writer turned L.A. Times reporter—it was just another assignment: fly out to Hawaii to cover the disappearance of swimsuit model Kim McDaniels. It was an all-expense-paid trip—one that, if everything went according to plan, could pan out to be a best-seller.

For Levon and Barbara McDaniels, it was a late-night call that shattered their lives: their daughter was in danger.

But, for the man calling himself Henri Benoit…or Charlie Rollins…or Nils Bjorn, it was all just a game—one that paid him very, very well.

Worried that the local police aren’t doing enough to find Kim, Ben offers to help with the investigation. But the killer is watching—always one step ahead—and Ben and the McDanielses are playing right into his hand.

Swimsuit is a tricky book to explain. In the prologue, readers are told that the book is Henri’s story, as told by Ben—and it plays out in what feels like two separate (but connected) stories. For the first half or so, it’s an account of what happened in Hawaii—both from Ben’s perspective and from Henri’s (with a couple of others thrown in). Then, in the second half, Ben explains how he became a part of the story—and how the killer reached out to him. It’s an intriguing story—and, despite the challenges of writing such a multifaceted narrative, Patterson and Paetro (who last teamed up for The 8th Confession) generally handle it with the skill that you’d expect. In fact, it often feels so horrifyingly real that you’ll have to keep reassuring yourself that it’s just a story; it isn’t really true.

From its first chilling pages to its haunting conclusion, Swimsuit isn’t just another fluffy beach read. It’s a brutal—and often highly graphic—story of kidnapping, rape, and murder at the hands of a heartless contract killer. Its pages are filled with disturbing “I can’t believe he did that” moments. So it’s definitely not for the faint of heart—or the weak of stomach. If it were a movie, you’d watch it through the cracks between your fingers—but there’s no way of escaping the horrors that play out on the page and flood your imagination.

At the same time, though, Swimsuit is also a captivating mystery, built around one terrifying but fascinating character. Obviously, there’s nothing likeable about Henri; he’s a cold, calculating killer who plays with his victims like a cat plays with a mouse. Still, you can’t help but wonder who he really is…and why he does what he does…and what he’ll do next. Even as he opens up about his past, you’ll never really know what’s the truth—and what’s just a part of his carefully constructed story. And, as you read more of his story, you’ll root for someone (anyone) to stop him.

As Ben tries to put the pieces together—to figure out how to stop Henri without becoming one of his victims—the suspense builds to heart-pounding levels, until it all comes to an abrupt and disconcerting conclusion. It’s not entirely satisfying—but it’s appropriately disturbing.

If you’re looking for a light, fluffy mystery to read as you lounge by the pool, it’s best to look elsewhere. But for a terrifying thriller that will leave you with a knot in your stomach, try Swimsuit. Just don’t expect to get a good night’s sleep until long after you’ve finished reading.

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