When James Patterson was interviewed for the article about him in Time, he listed Beach Road among his five favorite books. But after reading the book, I feel like that was more to generate some advance publicity for the book than anything else. It does contain a great twist but apart from that, its a courtroom thriller that falls in the same "average" category as Patterson's other recent books.
The story takes place in the Hamptons, a community made up of the really wealthy. When three white kids are found murdered, suspicion falls on a Dante, a black youth who is expected to be the Michael Jordan of tomorrow. Tom, an ex-basketball player takes up his case and asks Kate, his ex-girlfriend to help him out.
For the most part, the book is a courtroom thriller. As Tom and Kate defend Dante in court, the novel contains all the elements of such thrillers like hostile cross-questioning, surprise witnesses and grandiose closing statements. The case has a racial component but that is barely touched upon. The book's intention is to be a light, fast thriller rather than a study about the effects of racism.
What makes even that part of the book interesting though, is the style Patterson has chosen. The entire book is presented in first person but by different players in the drama. So everything, right from the style of narration, changes between chapters. We are also given insights into the minds of each of the players, something which would not have been possible with the more traditional third person narrative. Patterson also begins with an intriguing note that any of these narrators could be lying. So, we can't take what the individuals say at face value either and that always keeps us in doubt about their roles.
We get the feeling that the entire book was written for the sake of the twist at the end. It is definitely a helluva twist but we aren't given enough time to savor it since it occurs too late. Also, we haven't connected with any of the characters and so the twist doesn't quite have the effect a twist of this magnitude should have had.