Monday, May 13, 2013

Book Review: 7th Heaven by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro (Women's Murder Club #7)

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Time spent with familiar characters; one story
Cons: The other story fizzles out instead of reaching a great climax
The Bottom Line:
One developed plot
At the expense of others
Not best of series

7th Heaven Finds the Women Stuck in Plot Purgatory

James Patterson is well known for his fast paced thrillers.  He was already a household name when he started the Women's Murder Club series about four women who use their friendship to help solve big cases in San Francisco.  Each book in the series uses a number in the title, so it is fairly easy to figure out that 7th Heaven is the seventh book about them.  It's typical for the series, enjoyable but flawed.

The focus of the books is Lindsay Boxer, a member of the SFPD's homicide division.  In fact, most of the book is narrated from her first person point of view.  Her friends include Cindy, a newspaper reporter, Claire, the very pregnant medical examiner, and Yuki, newest member of the club and a rising star in the District Attorney's office.

Once again, we find ourselves dealing with dueling plots.  The first involves the biggest case going in San Francisco.  The well loved son of a former governor has vanished, and there's been no word for the last several months.  So when the SFPD gets a fresh lead, Lindsay jumps.  She's surprised when the new suspect confesses to letting the teen die in her arms from a heart condition.  Will that be enough for a jury to convict her?

Meanwhile, someone has started setting fires with rich couples in the house.  It's a race to find the villains before the next victim is torched.  With no clues to go on, can Lindsay stop them?

Actually, the case involving the missing teen moves from Lindsay to Yuki fairly quickly.  Most of the scenes involving that story line are the trial and the back and forth trying to get the suspect actually convicted.  Lindsay is definitely the main character of the second story as she and her partner attempt to track down every lead they possibly can.  These two stories flash back and forth across the book, helping the fast pace.  I was always interested in what was happening on the page.

Unfortunately, both stories don't finish strongly.  One of them is very well done, and I enjoyed the climax.  The other one?  It fizzles out and throws some rather random plot points into the mix.  We're talking stuff that comes out of no where.  As a result, I felt it ruined that half of the book.

As I was reading, I discovered something.  I have truly come to like these characters.  Since the books are plot driven, I have often complained that the characters suffered.  Somewhere along the way, they have been developed enough that I care about what happens to them.  Which is why the sub-plot involving Lindsay's love life drove me up a wall.  That woman needs some sense knocked into her fast.  It was also why I was disappointed that Cindy is really reduced to cameo status here.  These books work best when all four of the ladies are contributing to the outcome.

The writing is designed to tell the story without slowing it down.  As such, it succeeds.  There are no clever turns of phrase or extra time spent on anything we don't need.  It's fast paced and lean.  The extremely short chapters help make the book pass quickly as well.  It's not a flaw, but it contributes to making this seem like junk food more than a literary meal.

With one of the two stories having a pretty lame, ending, 7th Heaven is only an average read in the series.  It will certainly entertain the fans of the series.  But it isn't the best the series has to offer.

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

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