Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Book Review: 21st Birthday by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro (Women's Murder Club #21)

Stars: 2 out of 5
Pros: Characters we love all working on one case
Cons: Poor editing and sloppy plotting leave us unsatisfied
The Bottom Line:
Working together
On a compelling story
Poorly edited

Needed Some Careful Editing to be Good

One of my constant complaints about the Women’s Murder Club books is the fact that the books often contain two or three different storylines and the women rarely interact.  When I realized that 21st Birthday was going to feature all of them in one storyline, I was thrilled.  How I wish the book were better.

It all starts with a woman confronting Cindy Thomas in her office at the San Francisco Chronicle.  The woman is certain that something bad has happened to her daughter and granddaughter, and her son-in-law is to blame.  She wants Cindy to write stories about it and post about it on her blog, but Cindy quickly turns the woman over to her friend, San Francisco detective Lindsay Boxer, who pushes the police to start an investigation and make it a priority.  Sadly, it isn’t long before a dead body turns up.  Will Lindsay and the rest of the Women’s Murder Club figure out what is really happening?

As I said, all the women participate in this one case, Claire performing autopsies and Yuki when the case goes to trial.  I love seeing all four of the main characters working together to bring about justice.

And the case is compelling.  There were more than enough twists to keep me engaged and reading.  As always with a Patterson novel, the pace is fast and the chapters short, so the pages just fly by.

Unfortunately, when I finished the book, I was left wondering exactly what had happened.  Oh, I know what is supposed to have happened.  But there is a key piece of evidence that would have to be explained for that conclusion to be the truth, and we never got that explanation in the rush to throw in one last twist and then wrap things up.

Then there are the little things in the timeline that don’t make any sense.  Like students being at a school on a Saturday.  Or us suddenly skipping from a Sunday to a Friday with only one day supposedly passing.  Lindsay clearly has figured out how to be in two places at once near the end of the novel.  You know, things like that.  (And I’m not even looking at the fact that this major of a trial only took two days in criminal court.)

The characters are pretty set at this point.  If you’ve been reading the series thus far, you’ll want to check in with them.  I’m not saying they are well developed, but they are developed enough that we care, and I enjoy finding out about the latest in their lives..  And we like all of them here – we don’t get any sub-plots that make us question when aliens took over these characters.

It’s a shame this book was so poorly edited.  I wanted to like 21st Birthday.  And I might have if this had been properly edited.  Instead, this reads like a first draft that needed an editor to provide feedback to fix all the issues in it.

Here are the rest of the Women's Murder Club series.

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