By James Patterson

With Tim Arnold

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This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around July 3, 2017. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

In this fast-paced mystery from the world’s #1 writer, a New York ad agency is ruled by sex, drugs . . . and murder.

Everyone who knows Tim says he’s a good guy. But the popular advertising exec has a problem: a lot of the people who know him are getting murdered. And by the time he figures out why, Tim won’t feel so good anymore.

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Dear Reader,

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I hope you enjoy Nooners.

All my best,

James Patterson


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Chapter 1

“So, Tim, how would you describe yourself in a single sentence?”

Friday lunch, and I was sitting across the table from Linda Kaplan, the president of one of the most successful advertising agencies in New York, Kaplan-Thaler. She’s in her mid-fifties, attractive, and exudes the confidence of well-deserved success.

I’m your typical New York adman, Madison Avenue through and through, but after a second stint at Paul Marterelli & Partners, I’d hit a wall. It was time to move on. Past time.

And at this lunch, it’s taking all I’ve got to stay in the moment. A lot of bad, crazy shit has come crashing down around me, and I’m trying to figure out what it all means.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.…

We’re at Soho House, a members-only restaurant, hotel, and spa down on 9th Avenue in the Meatpacking District. Linda Kaplan launched her agency in 1997 with the Herbal Essence shampoo “Yes! Yes! Yes!” campaign—think Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally—and never looked back. Now the agency is part of the Publicis Group, a global organization with the financial means to pay their people well. My headhunter hooked us up because Linda is looking for a co-partner and managing director to assume responsibility for all of the agency’s clients.

I’m getting a good vibe. The light in her eyes suggests she has a good sense of humor and doesn’t take life—real life—too damned seriously. Just her job.

This is a big deal. Our first interview. I want this job. A lot. Possibility of a 25 percent salary hike, plus bonus. I know I’m qualified, and so does she.

I’m wearing a necktie for the first time in years. I usually just wear jeans and a button-down to work, unless we have a client in or a new business pitch, but this meeting calls for a tie. Lots at stake here. And the damned thing feels like a noose tightening around my neck.

This was the day of the first murder. Somebody I knew. By the end of next week, my life will have changed forever.

Chapter 2

On bad days the advertising agency profession can get old fast. Especially with lousy clients. But this day is set to remind me why I got in this business in the first place.

We’re presenting a new campaign to a client who’s sat on the same advertising for five years: Chubb Insurance—Marterelli’s biggest client—has become one of those “unapproachable” insurance companies lost in the morass of indistinguishable brands in a category that’s competing on price, and little more. Worse, Chubb is premium priced. We’ve got a scary idea—the kind I love—to take Chubb to the next level. The plan is to confront consumers with the inevitability of some painful loss of assets during their lifetimes. Then we let them know that Chubb will be there to help, with a campaign built around humor to balance the grim forecast.

It’s enough to distract me from the real-life bullshit swirling all around me.

The meeting’s scheduled for eleven a.m. I’m in the office by eight; I stop by the break room, crank up the coffee pot, and head upstairs to go over some notes.

I’m wearing jeans, for sure—Ralph Laurens—pressed, and an oxford cloth open-collar long-sleeved shirt. Got my black-on-black brocade sports jacket slung over a chair, ready for the client. So I’m going formal. Cool New York formal.

“Hey, buenos dias, amigo.” It’s Ramon, our tech guy, at my cubicle door. A tall, dark, and handsome guy, as they say, with a bright, persistent smile on his face. “What’s up? And what am I doing here this early, you ask?”

“Looking for…?”

“No one. Just here to set you guys up in the conference room. Big meeting, huh?”

“Yeah, totally. But we’re ready to kick some client ass. Thanks, man, I’ll see you later.”

“Ciao.” I will definitely see Ramon later.

Back upstairs with my coffee. Now it’s Mary Claire Moriarty, my junior account leader—that’s what I like to call all of us account types. Early twenties, straight out of the Missouri School of Journalism, and she’s a terrific writer, too, so I’ve given her a small part in the pitch. It’s all about teamwork, and providing experience in the trenches for these bright up-and-comers.

“Good morning, sir,” she says. Her bright eyes are beaming. She’s a spark.

“MC, I keep telling you, no ‘sirs’ in this business—or anywhere else for that matter—except the military. Anyway, how are you? Ready to rock?”

“Yeah. Just wanted to thank you for the opportunity. Hope I don’t screw it up.”

“Girl, you won’t. I know you won’t. Now you need to know it. Got it?”

“Yeah, yes…yeah, I’ve got it, thanks. See you downstairs.”

My mind is wandering.…

Will we be through with this meeting in time for a late lunch?

It’s a sixty-minute meeting. Done. No wordy slides. No extraneous BS. We headline the pitch with an innovative brand strategy to convey that Chubb understands life’s risks, and can relate to customers’ needs. Two fabulous ideas, both on strategy: the one with the most potential upside scarier than the other.

Mary Claire describes the brand personality in the colorful language she authored herself.

Then our creative director reads the last scripted line from another satisfied Chubb customer appearing in the TV spot and turns to me for the capper, the tagline that will separate this client’s business from the rest of the category.…

I look the CMO in the eye and announce in my rehearsed voiceover “Insurance Against Regret”…and the room is as quiet as a funeral. For an instant. And then an uncommon reaction in the agency business: applause! Our clients are smiling from ear to ear, and clapping!

They buy it on the spot. Damn, I love this business.

“Tim,” said the Chubb CMO, Kevin Magnus, shaking my hand, “you’ve just reminded me in dramatic fashion why I hired you guys in the first place. Send me the summary and a production estimate, and let’s get it done!”

My team hears all this and responds with enthusiastic, polite applause of their own. The client’s not out the front door before we’re gathering into a group hug, backslaps all around.

“Guys, this is the result of some fabulous teamwork. Never forget that. Together, we make shit happen.

“Now, get your asses back to work!” I say with a broad smile, which is returned in kind by every one of them.

Perfect timing for a lunch break. And I think I’ve earned a long one.

Chapter 3

By the time I get back, it’s four-ish, and the proverbial cocktail hour is within reach.

“Well done, MacGhee!” Paul Marterelli is at my door before I can get my jacket off. “Magnus just called me to say how excited he is about the possibilities! I’ve never heard him so enthusiastic. Must have been great. Obviously he bought the big one.…”

“Absolutely. Thanks, Paul, really appreciate it. It’s days like today that remind me why I came back to work with you,” I tell him. Hey, I’m an adman.

“Wanna grab a beverage?”

“Damn, man, would love to. Can’t. Got plans.”

“Ah, okay, see you tomorrow,” Paul says, and heads downstairs.

I first met Paul Marterelli right out of the Marines. With my Columbia journalism degree there was only one gig for me: adman! Soon enough some good networking connected me with Paul, and we clicked instantly.

Paul was a creative guy, a writer, and a good one. Clean-cut, glasses, conservative dresser; would have assumed he was an account guy if you didn’t know better. Met him the first time downtown at McSorley’s. We hung out, had beers, told stories. Tells me he’s got the CrawDaddy account, an up-and-coming tech company, with their kick-ass cowboy CEO—an ex-Marine!—and wants my own Marine self to take him on. Perfect—at least for an advertising moment. More on that later.

Paul founded Marterelli & Partners in 2003, positioning his team as a feisty “ad store,” and soon established his agency as an early and proactive user of social media on behalf of their clients.

On my first day, he called the agency team together to introduce me. “Okay, guys, listen up,” he said, “It is my great pleasure to introduce Tim MacGhee, a kindred spirit if there ever was one. An adman in the truest sense of the word. New to our business, but he’s got a couple of years and some genuine leadership experience under his…ammo belt. A natural leader. A teammate. He’s joining us to, well, call CrawDaddy’s bluff and help us get their kick-ass brand on the Super Bowl!”

There was warm applause all around. A couple of whistles.

“Tim, as a small token of our sincere welcome, I want you to have this, a present from all of us.” He handed me a gift-wrapped box.

“Wow, this is amazing!” I patted my heart a few times. “Thank you, Paul. Thank you all.” They’d given me a really nice canvas attaché. I recognize the maker—J.W. Hulme. Damn!

“And by no means does this suggest that you are a bag-carrier.”

“Beautiful. And it sure beats the hell out of my Marine assault backpack!”

A genuinely wonderful reception. Turns out it was the perfect gift. I offered a few positive words of appreciation, and Mark showed me to my desk. That was day one, about three lifetimes ago.

Now I’m on my way back up to my corner cubicle on the fifth floor, and I’m getting universal smiles and nods in the hallways, colleagues glowing in the shared success of our Chubb meeting. Feels good. Word travels fast.

I’ve got time to kill, and here’s Ramon to help. As you can tell by now, I’m not one of those stuffed suits that wears his title on his tailored sleeve, looking down his nose. I love the troops. I’m a team guy. And over the years I’ve discovered I have a lot more in common with some of these guys than I do with my so-called peers.

“Everything work?” he asks.

“Like a charm. Thanks, as always. Well done.”

“I’m here to serve,” he says with a grin.

“So, meet you up on the roof?” I say.

“Let’s do it,” Ramon says. What a good guy. And a good partner.

“Okay, man. I’ll get it wrapped here—then I’ve got to run out for a quick stop. Back in a flash. Sun’s already dropping. See you upstairs.”

The agency occupies the top three stories of a five-story brownstone in downtown Manhattan, so we have exclusive access to the roof, a convenient escape that offers a view of historic surroundings and fresh air—as fresh as Manhattan air gets. A place to hang. On nights like tonight, it’s an after-work gathering space for us kindred spirits.

Got to get to the bank first, down on Canal Street. I grab my attaché and catch a cab on Second Avenue. “Canal and Broadway,” I tell the driver. “Wait for me, okay? I’ll be in and out in a flash.”

“Sure,” she says, and off we go.

Thirty minutes down and back, and I’m on the roof in another fifteen. Ramon’s already there with a handful of other agency types, each one with a beer in hand from various coolers downstairs.

It will take an hour or so for me and Ramon to be left up there, alone.

Chapter 4

Tough night. Couldn’t sleep. Since when does this kind of stuff get to me?


On Sale
Jul 3, 2017
Page Count
144 pages

James Patterson

About the Author

James Patterson is the world’s bestselling author, best known for his many enduring fictional characters and series, including Alex Cross, the Women’s Murder Club, Michael Bennett, Maximum Ride, Middle School, I Funny, and Jacky Ha-Ha. Patterson’s writing career is characterized by a single mission: to prove to everyone, from children to adults, that there is no such thing as a person who “doesn’t like to read,” only people who haven’t found the right book. He’s given over a million books to schoolkids and over forty million dollars to support education, and endowed over five thousand college scholarships for teachers. He writes full-time and lives in Florida with his family.

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