18th Abduction (Women’s Murder Club #18), by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

Eight stars

I always look forward to my annual exploration of the Women’s Murder Club, one of James Patterson’s strongest series alongside Maxine Paetro, who is a stellar collaborator. While many series lose their energy after so long, the eighteenth novel in this collection remains fresh and poignant, perfect for the series fan. After a preface in the present day, the story goes back five years, where Detective Lindsay Boxer finds herself in the middle of a baffling query. Three teachers from a prestigious preparatory school have gone missing while out together. There are few clues as to their whereabouts, which makes it all the most confusion. While Boxer is out handling this, her husband, Joe Molinari, comes across a woman on his way home. She tells a story of having seen a war criminal from her native Bosnia, a man who tortured her and her family years ago. Thought rumoured to have drowned, Slobodan Petrović May still be alive and has the glint in his eye made infamous when he held the moniker as the Butcher of Djoba. It perfectly describes the brutality to which he subjected his victims. Molinari is eager to help this woman, but must cut through her determination to take action on her own, while also working with his FBI contacts to bring Petrović to justice. Living under a pseudonym, Molinari will have to approach Petrović closely and ensure that this was not a case of mistaken identity. Meanwhile, Boxer begins to piece together some early clues and one of the victims turns up brutally murdered. Could there be a deeper connection to these three women, outside their teaching together? The rush is on to find the other two women before they are too long, though they are being mocked by the purported killer, Bloodsucker. In a case with more brutality than any Boxer has seen since she joined SFPD, this may be one killer whose determination to eviscerate their victims has deeply psychological ties. A wonderfully dark thriller that takes series readers on a journey with which they are familiar. This deep into the series, I would strongly suggest readers start at the beginning, allowing them to discover some of the character developments and nuances.

James Patterson can be hit and miss for many readers, churning out books faster than many can list them and leaving his name to sell copies. This inconsistency with the quality of writing has soured many and thereby left books like this shunned, forcing new fans not to see that there are still great JP books. Teaming up with Maxine Paetro, Patterson develops this wonderful story that builds on many of the past novels in the series, while adding some new and international flavour. Lindsay Boxer has become a strong character within San Francisco’s Homicide community, working diligently to solve any crime tossed her way. While there is little backstory left to reveal, the reader is always able to see small bouts of development within her work and personal relationships. Her marriage to Joe Molinari has long been a hot/cold situation worthy of exportation, though this book, which flashes back, dodges some of the bumpier parts of their relationship. While the other three ‘Club’ members receive their due mention, there is little the Club does to solve crimes as a unit, as has been the nature of the latter novels in the series. With Patterson’s great use of short and teaser chapters, the reader is pulled into the middle of this thriller in short order and left to explore all aspects of this multi-pronged story. Series fans will likely enjoy this book, as will those who are always looking for strong writing by Patterson and his collaborators. Definitely a series worth exploring for those who have time and are not being drowned by a TO BE READ pile.

Kudos, Mr. Patterson and Madame Paetro, as you continue this well-established series.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

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Private #1 Suspect (Private #2), by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

Six stars

There are times that a reader will find themselves trying to get into a novel or even a short story, but cannot seem to get a handle. It could be poorly developed characters, a weak plot, or even an audiobook narrator that sucks the life from a wonderful opportunity. While many will shelve the book or write a horrid review, I thought it a good time to test the theory that sometimes coming back to something could save it from an eternity on a DNF shelf. Here is my effort of a James Patterson book that started my jaded view of his writing and mass-publication for the sake of making money. Jack Morgan returns from a trip to Europe, tired and ready to sleep. After a quick shower, he makes his way to bed, only to find a body. It is that of his former flame, bloodied and garrotted. While he knows he could not have killed her, the police keep an eye on Morgan, who seems to be acting slightly off. Meanwhile, Private HQ is being flooded by calls for cases, including from a hotel owner who has discovered numerous bodies in her chain of hotels across California. Additionally someone carjacked a shipment of narcotics from Las Vegas, a case on which Private would not normally work, but Morgan’s had a chit called in. Struggling to put the pieces together with these cases might be the distraction Jack Morgan needs, but it will not replace that ache in his heart, as the killer remains free and in the shadows. A decent output by Patterson and Paetro, though it remains one that has not captivated me, which begs the question why I kept devouring the books in this series.

I have mentioned before, I am not a fan of some of these new series that Patterson has glued together with co-authors, for I find them to lack a really strong foundation. This was, again, one of those books. I admit, I read because of the Patterson name, though I rarely go into a book assuming that it is going to be stellar (I let his Alex Cross, Women’s Murder Club, and Michael Bennett woo me that way). This was a mediocre book, but somewhat worth the time I spent. Having read all the books in the series, I must take a giants step back and forget much of what I know about the characters found herein. Jack Morgan has become a super boss in later books, but here, he was still that vulnerable fairly new head of Private. He is not the gritty man I have come to enjoy, nor does he receive much of the accolades from others around him. The rest of the team seemed to fit nicely into this story, though I felt that there were too many of them active and more cases than should have been combined in a single book to keep proper track of them all. As I did the first time around, I simply felt the whole book was less than interesting, but will elevate my star rating to three (of five). It could be that I set the bar too high (see above series preferences), but it is now the label of JAMES PATTERSON that has this on the bestseller’s list, I fear, not its content. As many of you know, I coined the phrase James Patterson Syndrome, and this may have been an early novel that helped me form the diagnosis.

Kudos, Mr. Patterson and Madam Paetro, for this early novel in the series. I am still not sure I liked it, but there have been some interesting follow-up novels that span far reaches of the world.

This book fulfills Topic #2: Still Tepid? for the Equinox #4 Reading Challenge.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

The 17th Suspect (Women’s Murder Club #17) by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

Eight stars

A longtime fan of the Women’s Murder Club series, I was pleased to get my hands on its seventeenth instalment. James Patterson and Maxine Paetro have been able to keep the momentum up throughout the years and keep the reader highly entertained. When ADA Yuki Castellano learns that a man is seeking to press charges of rape against his female superior, she’s intrigued and ready to take it to the Grand Jury. Believing that she can make the case, Yuki puts all her efforts into selling it, hoping to dispel the stigma that surrounds sexual assaults with male victims, while bringing justice to someone who feels violated. Meanwhile, on her way to the office, Sergeant Lindsay Boxer encounters a homeless woman who shares a disturbing tale; other transient people have been gunned down over the past month and the police are doing nothing. Boxer begins to look into this, only to discover that two homicide detectives appear to be dragging their feet due to the less than upstanding nature of the victims. Boxer is prepared to go to war and will stop at nothing, even when it dredges up old family politics. When Yuki heads to trial with the rape charge, she is left wondering if she made the right choice, as the evidence begins to muddy the original narrative, though she is not ready to give up just yet. Boxer seeks justice for the homeless, even as the killer lurks in the shadows and has developed a personal vendetta against her. With Lindsay and Yuki both facing personal issues of their own, they cannot let their home lives cloud the cases before them, for these are women who refuse to be victims. Patterson and Paetro deliver a wonderful addition to the series and keep fans quite impressed with the annual gift of another thriller. Recommended to those who enjoy the Women’s Murder Club, as well as readers looking for something light and entertaining.

While this series has been developing for years, it has not lost its lustre. Fans will enjoy having seen the foursome who dub themselves the ‘Murder Club’ grow and develop on their own. Patterson and Paetro not only keep their characters fresh, but also the crimes that fill the pages of each book, taking an interesting spin on events in San Francisco. Lindsay Boxer is, as always, the central character in the series and her dedication to the badge is never in question. She shoots from the hip and gets to the core of the matter, while always having something going on in her personal life to show the reader that she’s human as well. More personal development and a few spikes to keep her character interesting occur throughout, though the reader may be seeking a real shake-up before too long. Yuki Castellano moves to the forefront here, showing her legal skills and trying to impress not only her boss but the others in the Club. While usually a hardworking wallflower, Yuki has made a name for herself and keeps the reader hoping that she will succeed, even when things do not appear to be going her way. Some personal life struggles keep her from being the confident woman her friends know is within her, but it is surely within her grasp, given time. The story was decent and just what one might expect in a Women’s Murder Club piece. Two narratives running parallel that keep the reader entertained and the characters busy, helps pass the time, without taxing the brain too much. Incremental personal epiphanies help shape the central characters and have allowed the authors to keep stacking on new angles with each passing novel. Those familiar with the series (and Patterson) will be pleased to see those short, cliffhanger chapters that propel the story forward and keep the reader wanting to indulge in just a little more. Pleasantly, this is one series that Patterson has not allowed to go stale, with fresh ideas and a great collaborator working alongside him. One can only hope that as the novel count mounts, the stories will remain just as exciting.

Kudos, Mr. Patterson and Madame Paetro, as you dazzle with yet another collaborative success. I am eager to see what else you have in store for us, Club or BookShot related.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

The Medical Examiner (Women’s Murder Club #16.5), by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

Eight stars

Continuing a mini BookShots binge, I found myself gravitating to another piece that links one of James Patterson’s long-running series, The Women’s Murder Club. Working in collaboration with Maxine Paetro, Patterson has been able to keep these stories entertaining and usually of high quality, amidst a number of hit and miss attempts at writing. With Detective Lindsay Boxer on a much needed vacation, the Club is down to three active members. Dr. Claire Washburn arrives to work on Monday and finds herself scanning the weekend carnage that’s made its way into the Medical Examiner’s Office. When she hears a sound within one of the shelves, Claire discovers that one of the dead bodies is anything but deceased. After a time, Joan Murphy is able to explain that she has no idea how she was shot or who might have been found in bed with her. The faux death can be explained by catalepsy, a rare condition but one that has many people still confused. Claire is baffled by the entire experience and when the SFPD are called in, they begin trying to decipher what happened. News leaks to another Club member, Cindy Thomas, whose crime beat with the San Francisco Chronicle is sure to reach a number of people. Detective Richard Conklin discovers that the mystery man is a second-rate actor, but still Murphy denies knowing anything. When approaching the husband, Conklin learns that he and Murphy have a loving, but distant relationship. Further investigating reveals that Murphy and her ‘man’ were likely part of a hit deemed complete, so there may be someone out there waiting to kill Murphy once and for all. Cindy and Claire both make their way to Murphy’s home, independently, where more trouble awaits. With Lindsay out of the picture and the pieces not fitting together nicely, Claire and Cindy will be forced to turn into sleuths before the killer re-emerges. A great story that never loses its momentum and shines the spotlight on another of the Club members. Series fans will likely enjoy this bridge as they wait for the next full-length novel.

I am a fan of some of Patterson’s series and this is surely one that I have followed from the get-go. Paetro brings an interesting flavour to the writing and the stories are usually fairly well-crafted, full of humour and intrigue, even when the characters step aside and allow Lindsay Boxer to get much of the development. I applaud Patterson and Paetro for placing Boxer on the shelf and turning the attention to other Club members. While Claire’s backstory is not fully developed here, the reader can see some progress and curious nature in her personality, taking her out of the ME’s office, yet still on the job. I can only hope that future stories (BookShots even) will allow Cindy and Yuki to receive much of the attention, as it proves highly refreshing. The story itself worked well, introducing the reader to catalepsy and turning the tables on what was an expected double murder. While things sped by in this short piece, the reader is kept informed and forced on a quick adventure as the story develops. Told with the traditional short chapters for which Patterson is so well known, things come to a swift end with most of the threads tied off. Well presented and whetted my appetite for another Women’s Murder Club novel. Bring it on!

Kudos, Mr. Patterson and Madam Paetro, for another great piece of collaborative work. I am impressed to see that the momentum has not waned and your work keeps readers interested.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

16th Seduction (Women’s Murder Club #16), by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

Seven stars

Another piece that shows that Patterson knows how to choose some of his co-authors to produce entertaining writing. Working alongside Maxine Paetro to craft sixteen novels in the Women’s Murder Club, Patterson has been able to present high-impact writing peppered with some interesting legal and criminal angles. The world is beset with a new terrorist organisation, loosely called GAR, the Great Antiestablishment Reset, happy to wreak havoc at every turn. San Francisco is not immune, which leaves Sergeant Lindsay Boxer on high alert. After agreeing to see her estranged husband, Joe, they take a stroll close to Sci-Tron, the city’s science museum. An explosion rocks and destroys the building. Soon thereafter, Boxer overhears a man claim responsibility, almost unable to believe her own ears. After arresting him, this Connor Grant denies ever saying anything about being culpable and he is sent to trial for murdering twenty-five innocent people and injuring many more, including Joe. While Boxer braces for what is surely a major situation, Yuki Castellano, the lawyer of the Murder Club, assumes second chair in this major trial, pitting the wily District Attorney against Grant, who has chosen to represent himself. The trial is harrowing and far from a slam-dunk, leaving the verdict in the hands of the twelve-member jury. Meanwhile, Dr. Claire Washburn, the city’s Chief Medical Examiner (and, of course, another of the Club’s members) contacts Sergeant Boxer about a mysterious string of deaths, originally attributed to heart conditions. Further investigation shows that the deaths are connected by a strange injection in the buttocks that each victim exhibits. Could there be someone in San Francisco injecting people with some unknown narcotic? As the reader discovers, one Neddie Lambo is on the loose, playing up his detention in a psychiatric facility, but actually plotting a number of these random killings to feed his need for control. All this while Cindy Thomas is getting the inside scoop and reporting the news garnered from her fellow Club members, sometimes without their knowledge and consent. How will San Francisco survive all this and can Boxer rise above an Internal Affairs investigation for her actions as they relate to the Sci-Tron bombing? Patterson and Paetro offer an explosive ending to this sixteenth instalment to the series. A great story for series fans and sure to attract some new readers who have a penchant for quick read stories.

There is something about the Women’s Murder Club that has always kept me on the edge of my seat. While Patterson has stumbled at times, even with key authors around him, the annual return to this series keeps me believing that there is something worthwhile left in the author (the least of which is surely not Paetro’s involvement). The stories are poignant and while the mysteries are not always complex or psychologically thrilling, they move at a quick pace and keep the story from going stale. The strong central cast of characters continue to evolve and there is always a interesting flavour to the one-offs, particularly the criminal element. Patterson and Paetro always leave room for ‘just one more’, be it a chapter before bed or a new book in the series, fostering an ongoing hunger in the reader. Those short chapters propel the reader forward and can, like me, leave them wondering how they polished the book off in a single day. Surely not foundational work in the genre, but a wonderful escape that keeps pace with the swiftness the outside world has to offer. 

Kudos, Mr. Patterson and Madame Paetro for another great novel. I always look forward to what the annual revelation of the Women’s Murder Club will bring and you have not let me down.