Saturday, May 4, 2013

Book Review: 3rd Degree by James Patterson and Andrew Gross (Women's Murder Club #3)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Fast paced, fun thriller
Cons: Shallow characters; one sub-plot goes nowhere
The Bottom Line:
Characters still weak
But it's a fun, wild thrill ride
You won't want to stop




3rd Degree Marks Big Changes for the Women's Murder Club

James Patterson has built an empire out of writing (or co-writing) fast paced thrillers.  3rd Degree is his third novel about four women in San Francisco.  Lindsay is a homicide inspector, Claire is a medical examiner, Jill is an assistant district attorney, and Cindy is a crime reporter.  They are friends, but when an especially baffling case comes along, they combine expertise and contacts to solve it.

Lindsay is just finishing up her jog when a neighboring building blows up.  One minute, it is there, the next it is gone.  Racing inside, she manages to save a 10-year-old child from the flames.  A group named August Spies claims responsibility in the name of the poor nations in the world.  Then they claim another victim, announcing they will continue to claim victims every three days through the G-8 summit scheduled for San Francisco next week.  Can Lindsay and her friends piece things together in time?  And what will happen when things take a very personal turn?

While there may be four main characters, this series is and always has been Lindsay's show.  Most of the book is narrated first person by Lindsay with only the occasional break for a third person chapter from another of the women, the villain, or even a victim.  Having said that, all four women really contribute to this case.  Cindy especially gets involved here since the group keeps sending her e-mails.

The story felt a little more straight forward than the last one, but it still had a couple of nice twists to it.  I was hooked from page one until the ending.  There is always something going on here, making it almost impossible to put down.

There is a sub-plot involving spousal abuse in this book.  I knew that going in; I even knew who was involved.  Initially, I didn't find the idea believable.  But as I watched it play out, I actually bought into it.  But the storyline fizzles out before the book ends, making me wonder why exactly it was included.

Which brings us to the characters.  They are developed enough to get us through the story, but not quite enough to make us care about the outcome.  This was driven home for me when tragedy struck the group.  I normally cry at the drop of a hat, but this time I made it through just fine.  Maybe it's because I've been stealing myself for that moment from the beginning of book one.  But I think it is because the characters don't quite feel real to me.

The books are written to be fast reads, and they are.  I breezed through the 300 pages in a little over three hours, a record for me.  It does help that the chapters average 3 pages apiece.  That gives us plenty of white space.

3rd Degree is a fun, fast thriller.  But the shallow characters keep it from being especially memorable.  You'll enjoy it; it just won't stick with you after you've finished it.

Here are the Women's Murder Club Mysteries in order.

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