11th Hour (Women’s Murder Club #11) – James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

11th Hour by James Patterson, Maxine Paetro
Also by this author: 1st to Die, 2nd Chance, 3rd Degree, The Horsewoman, 4th of July, The 5th Horseman, The 6th Target, 7th Heaven, The 8th Confession, The 9th Judgment, 10th Anniversary, 12th of Never, Unlucky 13, 14th Deadly Sin
Series: Women's Murder Club #11
on May 7, 2012
Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
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Lindsay Boxer is pregnant at last! But her work doesn't slow for a second. When millionaire Chaz Smith is mercilessly gunned down, she discovers that the murder weapon is linked to the deaths of four of San Francisco's most untouchable criminals. And it was taken from her own department's evidence locker. Anyone could be the killer - even her closest friends.
Lindsay is called next to the most bizarre crime scene she's ever witnessed: two bodiless heads elaborately displayed in the garden of a world-famous actor. Another head is unearthed in the garden, and Lindsay realises that the ground could hide hundreds of victims.
A reporter launches a series of malicious articles about the cases and Lindsay's personal life is laid bare. But this time she has no one to turn to - especially not Joe.

This is really a tale of two books. There’s plotting and there’s characterization. In terms of plotting, 11th Hour is a step ahead of most of the Women’s Murder Club novels. The primary plot is a true mystery and Patterson and Paetro manage to drop just enough clues to not make it obvious. The secondary plot is thrilling in its own right, but also serves as a distraction of sorts that keeps readers from focusing too hard on the first plot’s mystery. It’s a combination that works well and left me guessing at where the story was going.

Characterization, however, is another story. The Women’s Murder Club is now eleven books long. There are characters and relational storylines that have been developed from the beginning. 11th Hour proceeds as if none of that matters. At the end of 10th Anniversary, we discover that Lindsay is pregnant. She’s in her mid-thirties, began the series with the scare of a rare disease, and this is a high-risk pregnancy. Despite that, she’s suiting up and going on extended chases and gun battles. It’s almost as if Patterson and Paetro forgot they got their main character pregnant. Nobody mentions it. Nobody even says “Hey, Lindsay, shouldn’t you be taking better care of the baby?”

And then there’s the relational drama between Joe and Lindsay. Well, it’s relational drama with Lindsay. She thinks that Joe is cheating on her, with only the scantest suspicion that anything is wrong. It turns out that the authors are trying to foreshadow something—I won’t say exactly what—but it comes across as Lindsay being paranoid, suspicious, and not at all a good detective. Also following the thread of characters behaving out of character, a major part of the book involves a killer targeting drug dealers. All evidence points to the possibility of a rogue cop and, for some reason, Lieutenant Brady gets the idea that Chief Jacobi—Lindsay’s former partner—is the killer. It’s the dumbest attempt at a plot twist. It’s not Jacobi, obviously, but if it was it would have been infuriating as well. Patterson and Paetro put themselves in a situation where whatever they wrote was a stupid character decision.

Get beyond that, and 11th Hour’s murder mystery involving decapitated heads buried in a garden does make for a compelling and page-turning thriller. The secondary plot about a serial killer out for revenge against drug lords is pretty generic, but plays out well. Overall, this is an above-average installment of the Women’s Murder Club. I just wish we could have good stories and good characterization.