With the third entry of the Women's Murder Club series, James Patterson and co-author Andrew Gross don't even wait until the opening chapter to get the ball rolling. There, shining out from the dust jacket, is the warning, "One of James Patterson's best-loved heroines is about to die." This tantalizing but gratuitous revelation sets the pace for the book, which reads like a package of rapidly exploding firecrackers. But it's bombs not firecrackers that are blowing people up in San Francisco as the city prepares to host a G-8 meeting of the world's top finance ministers.
As in the two earlier books in the series 1st To Die and 2nd Chance the principal characters here are San Francisco Police Lieutenant Lindsay Boxer (who serves both as chief investigator and narrator), reporter Cindy Thomas, assistant district attorney Jill Bernhardt and medical examiner Claire Washburn. Each has a life, but they are most alive when they involve themselves in each other's problems and triumphs.
Soon after Boxer is almost blown away in a townhouse explosion, it becomes clear that she is up against homegrown terrorists who are intent on slowing the juggernaut of global capitalism. At least that's what they boast in the notes they leave behind with their victims and in the carefully masked e-mails they send to Thomas at her newspaper. Adding to Boxer's burdens is her discovery that Bernhardt's husband is abusing her. Then there's the sticky matter of her growing attraction to Joe Molinari, who's been sent in from Washington by the Department of Homeland Security to help out with the case.
Boxer's sleuthing takes her across the bay to "The People's Republic of Berkeley," where she begins to unearth a cell led by radical holdovers from the1960s. While their rhetoric is dated, their weapons are state of the art: C-4 explosives ignited by cell phone, intimidation by internet and in an eerie anticipation of recent headlines the lavish use of the deadly poison ricin. In typical Patterson style, the chapters are so brief and filled with action that they flash by like movie scenes.
In an earlier interview with BookPage, Patterson brushed aside discussions of his prolific output this is his 25th book and his massive sales. "I think one of the most interesting things is the diversity of these books," he said, "and the fact that on a pure readership level, a pure, spellbinding, can't-put-it-down level, that they're pretty successful. Forget about sales. They just move along real well." This is Patterson's third co-authorship with Gross, who made his debut with 2nd Chance and then went on to collaborate on the historical thriller, The Jester. Patterson's reputation extends beyond writing a lot of fast-paced books to overseeing the ways they're promoted and marketed. So the teasing dust jacket tip-off that a major character is "about to die" has his fingerprints all over it. "I involve myself in a fair amount of [planning]," he told BookPage. "We kind of like to sit in a room and go, 'Do we like the cover?' 'Do we like the book?' 'Do we like the [proposed] tour?' I think that's a healthy thing to do. It works out very well." It certainly works out well for 3rd Degree. By now the ladies are like old friends, whose quirks we cherish and whose troubles immediately become our own.