"Beach Road" by James Patterson is a fast-moving thriller published in 2006 by Little, Brown and Company. It tells the story of Tom Dunleavy, a former professional basketball player who now works as a frustrated and bored attorney. After three young boys with whom he plays basketball are discovered murdered at a local, multimillion-dollar court, Tom decides to help defend the suspect in the hope of proving the boy's innocence and finding greater meaning in life.
Dunleavy was a professional basketball player until he suffered a grievous injury that catapulted his career into the dustbins of history. He soon after became a lawyer, but he never found happiness in that field. So instead of focusing on work, Dunleavy spends most of his time shooting hoops with high school kids at an upscale basketball court in the Hamptons. During one of the games he's playing, his team of kids go head-to-head with Dante Halleyville, a local star athlete. Tension on the court leads to a fight, during which Dante's buddy Michael pulls out a gun. Dunleavy manages to calm the situation, but then his teammates are found dead on the basketball court later that same day.
Everybody thinks Dante killed Tom's teammates, but he isn't so sure. Dante seeks Tom's counsel, but Tom knows he doesn't possess the skills to take this to trial. Instead, he seeks the help of his long-lost love, Kate Costello, who is an upscale Manhattan lawyer with all the right connections. Though they have a bitter history, she decides to defend the boy because she too believes he's innocent -- and so begins a lengthy trial chockablock with racial tension, political panderers and a completely unexpected ending.
"Beach Road" explores such themes as racism, trust, love and justice. From the very beginning, when Tom plays on the basketball court, racism rears its ugly head between the three young white boys and Dante, who is African American. It continues throughout the book and especially through Dante's trial. The issues of trust and love also play a role, what with Tom and Kate putting aside their embittered history and trusting one another and Dante in their pursuit for justice.
"Beach Road" is a suspense novel that leaves you perpetually guessing about what will occur next. Along the way, you meet numerous characters and are confronted with myriad difficult themes and topics. Ultimately, the book is geared to entertain as well as make you think. Questions like "What would I have done if I was in Tom's shoes?" or "Is Dante really guilty?" are common, but while the latter can be answered by completing the book, the former can only be found in your own heart.
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