San Francisco, California
--- Skip down to read review of 3rd Degree ---
--- Skip down to read review of 2nd Chance ---
--- Skip down to read review of 1st to Die ---
"4th of July"
(Reviewed by Sebastian Fernandez JUl 15, 2005)
There was a terrible hushed silence on Larkin Street. Then sounds kicked in. A radio played rap in the middle distance. I heard the soft moans of the boy. I heard police sirens coming closer.
Jacobi wasn't moving at all. I called out to him, but he didn't answer. I unhooked my Nextel from my belt and, to the best of my ability, I called in.
"Two officers down. Two civilians down. Need medical assistance. Send two ambulances. Now."
As its name clearly suggests, this is the fourth book in the Women's Murder Club series, and gladly Patterson is back at the top of his game, improving considerably comparing to the weak 3rd Degree. The winning formula from other of his great novels is still there, short chapters, brief sentences and an action packed plot. What is surprising is that even though the descriptions of settings and characters' emotions are neither lengthy nor frequent, we get a clear idea of the places where the action develops and of the way the characters feel.
There is a characteristic that Patterson never loses, not even in his worst book, and that is the way in which his novels grab the reader's attention right from the beginning. In this case, we find Lieutenant Lindsay Boxer in a crime scene, looking at the second victim of a serial killer that claims that "Nobody cares." The disturbing message is painted on the inside of the bathroom door, and the body is lying in the bathtub, left there by the killer after the fatal electrocution. The fact that the victims are children affects Lindsay in a very special way, and even though she is not supposed to be involved in fieldwork, she plunges into the case with no reservations whatsoever.
Patterson has created an interesting set of main characters as members of the Women's Murder Club, and this is a considerable portion of what makes the series so interesting. Even though the members have been reduced from four to three after the murder of one of Lindsay's friends, the group is still ready for action. Claire, the Chief Medical Examiner, is involved in the case of the serial killer in her professional capacity, and Cindy, in her role as a reporter for The Chronicle is not too far from the action either.
When Lindsay and her partner, Jacobi, end up in a car chase following a lead in the case, things turn south and the shooting ends up in a huge mess. As a result Lindsay finds herself being sued for not following proper police procedure. And here is when we get to see Patterson's ability for describing trials. I noticed this when I read The Beach House, and always wondered why the author did not test that route more often. He makes the trials extremely engaging and he can be compared with the best in the genre without any qualms.
With the trial approaching, Lindsay decides to get away for a while to evade the press, and she ends up at her sister's house, in a very quiet town. Or I should say, usually quiet, since lately it has been hammered by a series of gruesome murders at the hands of The Watcher, The Seeker and The Truth. This story in conjunction with Lindsay's trial makes this one of the best books in the series. I trust that most people will read this novel in one sitting if allowed to do so. That is how enthralling the story is! My only complaint is that I felt that the authors focused too much on Lindsay and the other two members of the "sorority" ended up relegated in the story.
Overall, I was extremely satisfied with this novel and I think that the Patterson – Paetro collaboration yielded much better results than some of the previous ones. If Patterson can keep the quality of his future novels at this level I will continue to eagerly look forward to his engaging thrillers. One can only hope.
- Amazon readers rating: from 68 reviews
"3rd Degree "
(reviewed by Kam Aures MAR 9, 2004)
Lieutenant Lindsay Boxer of the San Francisco Police Department and her dog, Martha, are enjoying a jog through one of her favorite neighborhoods when an explosion nearly knocks her to the ground. After calling 911 on her cell phone Lindsay ties her dog to a pole and runs inside the burning building to see if there are any survivors. After finding two dead bodies she hears the sound of someone crying and discovers a small boy whom she is able to rescue.
Once the police arrive Lindsay notices a backpack leaning against a car outside. After they check to see if it is an explosive device, the bag is opened and a picture of a man is found. On the picture are the words, "Morton Lightower, An Enemy of the People."
The note is signed with the name August Spies. It is found that Lightower, an Internet businessman, was the owner of the townhouse and he and his wife were the ones who died in the explosion. The young boy is their son.
This is the first in a series of related brutal killings. At every scene there is a note from August Spies. At the scene of the second murder the note is shoved in the victim's mouth and it reads, "We have declared war on the agents of greed and corruption in our society. No longer can we sit back and tolerate the powered class, whose only birthright is arrogance, as they enrich themselves on the oppressed, the weak, and the poor. The era of economic apartheid is over. We will find you, no matter how large your house or how powerful your lawyers. We are inside your homes, your workplaces. We announce to you, your war is not beyond, but here. It is with us."
As in the previous Patterson novels in this series, Lindsay searches for help from her three closest friends who together call themselves the Women's Murder Club. The club consists of Jill Berhardt (Assistant D.A.), Claire Washburn (Medical Examiner), and Cindy Thomas (Chronicle reporter). Each woman is able to contribute to the case in her own unique way. One of the members is chosen by August Spies to be the recipient of e-mails which warn of the coming events and another one of the members will end up murdered herself.
With surprising plot twists, Patterson and Gross have once again created a novel that the reader will fly through with riveting speed. If you enjoyed 1st to Die and 2nd Chance this novel will not disappoint you. The characters of the Women's Murder Club again put their heads together to try to crack a difficult case. Sadly though one of them will die. Normally I would not give hat much of the plot away but that fact has been in advertisements for the book and it is in bold on the inside of the dust jacket. When I first saw that, I thought it was strange to reveal that much information. However, I now think that knowing that a club member is going to die makes the book even more suspenseful as you wait to see which one it is and how it is going to happen. True to form, the murdered member still plays a part in providing clues in the case.
While it is not necessary, I believe it is beneficial to read the other two books in the series first. By reading the first two you get more of an insight and learn more of the history of the members of the Women's Murder Club, which will help in being able to relate to this novel. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel so much so that I read all 341 pages in one sitting. Patterson's format of short two to four page chapters seems to make the book fly right by. I am wondering if there will be a fourth Women's Murder Club novel now that one of the members is deceased, and if so, if that member will be replaced. I do hope so.
- Amazon readers rating: from 135 reviews
Read an excerpt from 3rd Degree at MostlyFiction.com(back to top)
(reviewed by Judi Clark MAR 1, 2002)
Just like 1st to Die, this book is nearly impossible to put down. In this second novel featuring Lindsay Boxer and the Women's Murder Club, an eleven-year-old girl is gunned downed outside of a community church in what appears to be a random shooting. After the Bride and Groom murders, Lindsay was promoted to Lieutenant, but she's laid low for the past four months, recovering from losing Chris and I assume regaining her health after fighting the rare Negli's disorder, although this isn't really mentioned.
It's her good friend, reporter Cindy Thomas, who clues her into a murder in Oakland that has an odd link to this young girl's death. And it is Lindsay's best friend, chief medical examiner Claire Washburn that has the proof that the young girl was not an accidental hit. And thus the Women's Murder Club is back in business and this time they seem to be dealing with a white supremacist group or an individual from one of these groups and the motive is hate. Meanwhile, District Attorney Jill Bernhardt reveals that she's pregnant, yet it doesn't slow her down or make her any less stringent when it comes to making sure there's reasonable evidence to make the case. And as time goes on and more killings happen, including one very shocking on close to Lindsay, it is apparent that this hate crime is targeted not only at African-Americans, but is connected to the San Francisco Police Department. The more that is known, the closer to home it gets.
Like 1st to Die, we are treated to a mix of personal lives between the four women, but especially of Lindsay's life, since Lindsay is the narrator of this series. In both of these novels, the book titles tend to have more to do with Lindsay's personal life than the open case. In 2nd Chance, Lindsay's father comes back into her life, after he walked out when she was thirteen. While giving Lindsay a chance to ask some long-awaited questions, it also adds some subtle twists to the unfolding plot. Again, Patterson treats us to some high-speed plot twists. All I can say is, he knows how to play us all the way to the very end.
So I'll confess now. I did not read 2nd Chance because I am a James Patterson fan. In fact, it's quite the opposite. However, as it turns out 2nd Chance is the first James Patterson novel that I have read beyond the first few pages. And it's not that I haven't tried before. I once picked up five of his novels at a local book sale and after trying three, donated them all to the nearest book swap. One of the first books sent to me when I started MostlyFiction.com was Pop Goes the Weasel. I was so excited to get a free book. But alas, after trying, I had to inform the contributor that I couldn't review it. I donated that copy to a charity as a secret Santa gift so it wasn't a complete loss. The real truth is, I read 2nd Chance before 1st to Die because I was so afraid I wouldn't like this new series. So knowing that Patterson fans love each subsequent novel better than the previous, I figured why not start with the last. Crazy, I know; sometimes my logic just cracks me up.
So the really funny thing is at page 344, I put down 2nd Chance and picked up 1st to Die, because I was enjoying 2nd Chance so much I didn't want it to end. Plus, I had a few questions about Lindsay and her friends that I knew would be answered in the first novel. I highly recommend that you don't follow my tortuous example and just go ahead and read 1st to Die first. It provided the background I was looking for and had my undivided attention with its myriad of plot twists.
2nd Chance is less gruesome than 1st to Die. For some time now, I've been wondering about the attraction to James Patterson novels and why he has so many fans, especially in light of the fact that I just could not read any of the Alex Cross series. I think I now understand it. Whereas I liked 2nd Chance better because it is less gruesome, the reality is, the plot twist in 1st to Die are more memorable, the idea behind the murders and their motive is so monstrous. It's not to say that the idea behind 2nd Chance isn't any less awful; racism is a nasty plot for a serial killer thriller. It's just that the murders were technically less gruesome (however more shocking). Sad to say, I also suspect that racism is so prevalent, that its harder to be as rocked by it in a plot. Anyhow, it seems to me one reason people are crazy about his books is because the impressions from the novel are stamped into the brain and are difficult to forget, and the more horrible the crime, the stronger the impression. And when a book sticks with us, we always like it better. Whereas this new series is great for attracting new readers like myself, I am curious as to how James Patterson's longtime fans will view 2nd Chance since he purposely intends for it to be less gruesome.
While I'm not planning on going back to read the Alex Cross series, I probably will stick with The Women's Murder Club, even though I'm still not a fan of serial killer thrillers.
By the way, I bit of trivia for the fans: Andrew Gross is given credit under James Patterson's name on the book cover. So who is he? It turns out that Andrew Gross has worked as a researcher on many of the previous novels, and Mr. Patterson thought it would be nice to give him some credit as a co-writer even though the actual novel is still 100% Patterson. From what I understand, Patterson is always recognizing his publishers and others that help throughout his novels by his subtle selection of character names.
- Amazon readers rating: from 218 reviews
Read an excerpt from 2nd Chance at MostlyFiction.com(back to top)
"1st to Die"
(reviewed by Judi Clark MAR 1, 2002)"What is the worse thing that anyone has done?"
Lindsay Boxer is in her doctor's office and has just learned that she has a rare blood disease that could kill her if she neglects to take care of it, when she gets a call from her partner to meet at the Grand Hyatt for a "double one-eight-oh." Lindsay is a senior homicide detective for the San Francisco Police Department and the double homicide she's called to attend is a bride and groom who were murdered in their honeymoon suite.
Lindsay is still reeling from her doctor's diagnosis as well as the gruesome murders, when she has her first encounter with the very clever metro desk reporter Cindy Thomas. Cindy wants off metro and knows if she can get inside the hotel, she can jump-start her career. Thus, she's using every bit of cunning to scoop the "Wedding Night Massacre" story, before the pros at the Chronicle can touch it. Her extra luck comes when she sees Inspector Lindsay enter the women's room and she takes a moment to go in and offer her support. Of course, Cindy gets her story to press that afternoon, which means that Lindsay has a problem with containment. The next morning, Lindsay fully expects the "suits" to be present when she gets to work.
What she doesn't expect is Chris Raleigh, "a nice looking type dressed in a chambray shirt and striped tie," which she reads as "polished brass" from city hall, someone from the Mayor's office to help with her press containment problem and to act as her new partner. In the prologue of this novel, Lindsay Boxer is on her balcony, holding a service revolver to her head. Because of the few statements she makes of her situation we know something will take place between her and a person named Chris and that it will end tragically. So, while we are watching the investigation unfold, we are also wondering and waiting for the inevitable.
The one person that Lindsay really wants to talk to about her newly diagnosed Negli's disorder is her best friend, Claire Washburn, who is also the chief medical examiner. Lindsay is not alone in her respect for Claire, the entire police department agree that Claire is brilliant and totally accomplished at her job. However, she doesn't get a chance to tell her about the Negli's right away, because she's got her new partner with her when she meets with Claire to review the evidence of the corpses.A week goes by without much progress in
the investigation, and then a bride and groom in Napa go missing and Chris picks up Lindsay with a hunch that it's related. When Cindy shows up at this case, one in which no one knows anything about yet, Lyndsay realizes that she needs to take some extreme action to contain this ambitious reporter. So she promises an exclusive and tells Chris she's letting Cindy drive her back to San Francisco so she can go over the ground rules of their new press-investigator relationship. It's during this ride back that she realizes that maybe her and Cindy could actually be friends and spontaneously invites her along to have dinner with her and Claire. And thus over Margaritas, the Women's Murder Club is formed in which these three women decide to share what they know and work together to resolve the Bride and Groom murder. Later, the District Attorney Jill Bernhardt, another smart and strong women under a soft male boss (which the other three have in common), joins the group.
I like the idea of the Women's Murder Club and based on my own experience, see it as totally plausible. At my last job, we had daily and weekly meetings to run our software project. One day after the official meeting was over, we looked around the table and realized that when it all was said and done, it was the women, each representing a different group, that was running the actual day to day business of the company. We got a chuckle, but also decided we better keep this to ourselves, not that some of our astute male colleagues hadn't figured it out. So the premise for this new series seems fairly natural to me. When women work together they tend to share information versus hoard it. Maybe I'm a little surprised that a guy came up with this series. But then again, maybe not.
Anyhow, by giving these small glimpses into the start of the Women's Murder Club, I am not conveying the general grip this novel has on the reader. There are actually a couple stories going on here. First, as the reader we know that a Phillip Campbell is the twisted killer. Because of this inside knowledge we are not prepared for all the plot twists that occur as the S.F. homicide department and the Women's Murder Club go through the evidence. The other is about Lindsay and Chris. She is dealing with her disease and by now three sets of double homicide, she's realizing how comfortable she feels around Chris, but still hesitant to get involved because of her disease. Just how do you start a new relationship if you think you will the first to die and soon?
Overall, I think from a pure entertainment point of view, it's hard to say anything but "wow." Last week I reviewed a novel and said that my least favorite plot style is serial killer thrillers. Just because I'm reviewing this novel, doesn't mean that has changed. I still don't like serial killer thrillers. But if you are going to read one, I've decided it might as well be written by James Patterson. He knows gruesome and he knows plot twists. He also knows how to build characters that we care about.
- Amazon readers rating: from 457 reviews
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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
- The Thomas Berryman Number (1976)
- Season of the Machete (1977)
- The Jericho Commandment (1979)
- Virgin (1980) (rewritten as Cradle and All)
- Black Market (1986)
- The Midnight Club (1989)
- Hide and Seek (1996)
- See How They Run (199?)
- Miracle on the 17th Green (1997)
- When the Wind Blows (1998) *
- Cradle and All (2000)
- Suzanne's Diary for Nicholas (2001)
- The Beach House (2002)
- The Jester (2003)
- The Lake House (2003) *
- Sam's Letter to Jennifer (2004)
- Honeymoon (2005)
- Lifeguard (2005)
- Judge & Jury (2006)
- The Quickie (2007)
- You've Been Warned (2007)
- Sunday at Tiffany's (2008)
- Sail (2008)
- Swimsuit (2009)
- Private (2010)
- The Postcard Killers (2010)
- Don't Blink (2010)
- Now You See Her ( 2011)
- Private: #1 Suspect (January 2012)
- Private Games (February 2012)
- Guilty Wives (March 2012)
- Zoo (September 2012)
The Women's Murder Club series:
- 1st to Die (2001)
- 2nd Chance (2002)
- 3rd Degree (2004)
- 4th of July (2005)
- The 5th Horseman (2006)
- The 6th Target (2007)
- 7th Heaven (2008)
- The 8th Confession (2009)
- The 9th Judgment (2010)
- The 10th Anniversary (2011)
- The 11th Hour (May 2012)
Featuring Alex Cross:
- Along Came A Spider (1993)
- Kiss the Girls (1995)
- Jack and Jill (1996)
- Cat and Mouse (1997)
- Pop Goes the Weasel (1999)
- Roses are Red (2000)
- Violets are Blue (2001)
- Four Blind Mice (2002)
- The Big Bad Wolf (2003)
- London Bridges (2004)
- Mary, Mary (2005)
- Cross (2006)
- Double Cross (2007)
- Cross Country (2008)
- Alex Cross's Trial (2009)
- I, Alex Cross (2009)
- Cross Fire (2010)
- Kill Alex Cross (May 2012)
Featuring Detective Michael Bennett:
- Step on a Crack (2007)
- Run for Your Life (2009)
- Worst Case (2010)
- Tick Tock (2011)
- I, Michael Bennett (July 2012)
- The Angel Experiment (2005)
- School's Out - Forever (2006)
- Saving the World (2007)
- The Final Warning (2008)
- Max (2009)
- Fang (2010)
- Angel (2011)
More Teen Sci-Fi:
Middle School series:
- Against Medical Advice: One Family's Struggle with an Agonizing Medical Mystery (2008)
- The Murder of King Tut (2010)
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- Official website for James Patterson
- MostlyFiction.com review of Step on a Crack and Run for Your Life
- MostlyFiction.com review of The Jester
- MostlyFiction.com review of Honeymoon and Lifeguard
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About the Author:
After initially being turned down by twenty-six publishers, James Patterson's first novel, The Thomas Berryman Number, was published and went on to win the Edgar Award for Best First Mystery Novel. That was in 1976 when he was just twenty-seven years old.
Twenty-three years later, Patterson has penned over one-half dozen novels and has created one of America's most memorable modern heroes, Alex Cross. With the publication of the bestseller Along Came a Spider in 1993, Patterson's popularity as a mastermind of page-turning thrillers was set. Kiss the Girls followed and was turned into a major motion picture by Paramount starring the inimitable Morgan Freeman as Alex Cross.
In addition to writing novels, Mr. Patterson served as chairman of J. Walter Thompson, North America from 1990 to 1996. He began his advertising career as a junior copywriter with the company in 1971 and went on to become the youngest executive creative director and youngest chief executive officer in the company's history. He made his mark at the agency by creating award-winning campaigns for Kodak, Burger King, Toys R' Us, Bell Atlantic, Bristol-Myers and others. He collaborated with advertising colleague Peter Kim to produce the nonfiction bestseller The Day America Told the Truth.
Patterson grew up in Newburgh, New York, fifty miles north of New York City. He graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in English from Manhattan College and summa cum laude with an M.A. in English from Vanderbilt University.
James Patterson lives in Palm Beach County, Florida, with his wife and their young son.