Summary of "The Beach House" by James Patterson

by Erik Arvidson

"The Beach House" is a 2002 crime thriller novel written by James Patterson and Peter de Jonge. The novel tells the story of Jack Mullen, an Ivy League law student who investigates the mysterious drowning death of his brother, Peter Mullen, who Jack determines has died under suspicious circumstances. Jack also faces resistance from the police as he investigates his brother's death, while the wealthy people in the city, who control the legal system, seem to have a secret to hide.


Peter is a high school dropout who parks cars at parties hosted by the wealthy Neubauer family in the Hamptons on Long Island, New York. One night, Peter's body washes up on the beachfront property of the Neubauers, who insist that he has drowned. Yet this is only the beginning of the mystery.

Jack Mullen

The novel is narrated by Jack, who is seven years older than Peter and who is an associate at a prestigious law firm in New York. On Memorial Day weekend, Jack travels to the city of Montauk, Long Island, to meet his girlfriend, Dana Neubauer. Instead, Jack is met at the train by his father and grandfather, along with Dana, who he notices has been crying, and a local police officer. The police inform Jack of his brother's death.

Police Determination

The police tell Jack that his brother had likely drowned in the ocean either by accident or by suicide. However, when Jack views Peter's body, he is immediately suspicious and doubtful that it was a suicide or an accident. He notices significant bruising on his brother's body. In addition, the Cape Hatteras area had been struck by a hurricane recently, and Jack doubts that his brother would have gone swimming in the cold, rough waters. However, Chief Detective Frank Volpi refuses to investigate the death further.


Jack and his grandfather, who is 86 years old, decide to pursue their own investigation of Peter's death, which leads them to details about his brother's secret life. Jack and his grandfather also enlist the help of Jack's hometown friends to try to determine what Peter was doing the night he died. According to a review by, it soon becomes clear during Jack's investigation that Detective Volpi is being pressured by the wealthy and powerful people in the city not to look into the circumstances of Peter's death further. Jack's suspicions are confirmed when the coroner's report shows that Peter was beaten to death before he was in the water. However, Jack continues to encounter stonewalling as the police, judges and the legal system in general are controlled by the city's wealthy elite. As the circumstances of his brother's murder become clear, Jack seeks payback against those responsible.