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In the few recent James Patterson books I've read, I was impressed by the power of his storytelling, but also concerned. One of the Alex Cross books contained several unexplained plot episodes and obvious factual misstatements (a military kid grew up in such places as "North Korea." However, Season of the Machete takes both the virtues and flaws to extremes. In brief, the CIA and the Mafia team up to hire a freelance couple of criminals to pull off some kind of job in a fictional Caribbean island nation. They take the opportunity to indulge in an orgy of meaningless violence, turning on the CIA, the Mafia, a buffoonish communist guerrilla leader, the criminals they hired, and finally each other. In the end, the remaining villain gets paid a large book advance to tell the story. The book sort of has a hero -- Peter McDonald, the most ineffectual former Special Operations soldier you could imagine. The bad guys manipulate him until the very end, not that he ever seems to be accomplishing much. The violence is extreme, since it includes many victims hacked up by machetes. However, they're mercifully first killed by a rifle. Why? That's the biggest question of this book -- and it's rarely answered. What did the Mafia and the CIA want the couple to do originally? We're never told. Since the CIA knew this couple, why was the Mafia even involved? We're never told. Why did the couple not do the original job? The "diary" hints that it was to establish them as the top criminal minds in the world. However, they betrayed their "employers," their "employees" and the survivor betrayed their spouse. Who in their right mind would hire that person again for anything? There's back story that's never explained. Carrie kills an old friend out of mercy because he was paralyzed after being shot by one of the CIA people in a Saigon alley. What were any of these civilians (especially a Western civilian woman) doing for the CIA in Saigon during the Vietnam War? We're never told. We're also told that the couple had done some work in Africa, but we're never told what or -- again -- how a white woman could get away with violent acts in a part of the world where she'd stand out so obviously.

I got the feeling that Patterson was trying to tap into vague anti-imperialistic feelings of the time, and so didn't feel the need to even explain any details. It was politically correct to hate the CIA, to believe they worked with the Mafia, and both wanted to do unnamed bad things in the Caribbean, so who needs an explanation? Read this book only if you're determined to read absolutely every novel James Patterson has written, and then be prepared to feel hugely disappointed.

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