3rd Degree (Women’s Murder Club #3) – Andrew Gross and James Patterson

3rd Degree by James Patterson, Andrew Gross
Also by this author: 1st to Die, 2nd Chance, The Horsewoman, 4th of July, The 5th Horseman, The 6th Target, 7th Heaven, The 8th Confession, The 9th Judgment, 10th Anniversary
Series: Women's Murder Club #3
on March 1, 2004
Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
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In James Patterson's shockingly suspenseful #1 New York Times bestseller, one member of the Women's Murder Club is hiding a secret so dangerous that it could destroy them all.
One of James Patterson's best loved heroines is about to die. Detective Lindsay Boxer is jogging along a beautiful San Francisco street when a fiery explosion rips through the neighborhood. When Lindsay plunges inside to search for survivors, she finds three people dead. A lost infant and a mysterious message at the scene leaves Lindsay and the San Francisco Police Department completely baffled.
Then a prominent businessman is found murdered under bizarre circumstances, with another mysterious message left behind by the killer. Lindsay asks her friends Claire Washburn of the medical examiner's office, Assistant D.A. Jill Bernhardt, and Chronicle reporter Cindy Thomas to help her figure out who is committing these murders-and why they are intent on killing someone every three days.
Even more terrifying, the killer has targeted one of the four friends who call themselves the Women's Murder Club.
Which one will it be?

The Women’s Murder Club is back! Andrew Gross returns for a second collaboration with James Patterson and this time the story revolves around stopping a terrorist group that’s fighting for economic justice. I’m going to be honest: I’m a nonviolent pacifist so I can’t condone…you know…all the murdering, but if 3rd Degree was looking for an antagonist to empathize with, they hit it right on the nose. The problem is that by fictionalizing it in such a brutal way and never having the protagonists sympathize with the ideological goals of economic justice, the result is an entire book that just absolutely cannot believe that poor people would be so angry at the wealthy. Hmm.

If you look beyond that, you get a pretty thrilling story about Lindsay Boxer and friends trying to stop a group of domestic terrorists from assassinating the world’s rich and powerful. It’s an intriguing plot and Patterson keeps the pace up, making up any lack of depth with an abundance of action.

3rd Degree also has a significant side plot involving Jill Bernhardt, assistant DA and part of the club. After she suffers a miscarriage, the Club discovers that her husband has been abusing her. Lindsay decides to take things into her own hands and very nearly gets in her own legal trouble. Unfortunately, Patterson and Gross treat this plot line as more of an aside to fill out the novel’s already sparse 286 pages and as a red herring for a later twist. There was a lot that could have been done with this, but again an attempt to set up any sort of a multistory character arc seems to be thwarted.

There’s also romance, as Deputy Director of Homeland Security Joe Molinari appears on the scene and partners with Lindsay in more ways than one (*insert eyebrow waggle here*). It’s a bit of a ham-fisted plot line but if it goes anywhere past this one novel and creates any sort of character development, then I’m all for it.

A problem I’m noticing as I make my way through this series is that Women’s Murder Club is becoming less and less of a club—1st to Die had them joining up to solve the crime, each of them contributing through their own vocations. By 3rd Degree, they’ve been relegated to Lindsay’s supporting cast in quite minor roles. The lack of character development shows up in a big way in the book’s third act when a fairly major death happens and it’s of no real loss to the story. It’s a loss to the characters, but we don’t feel it because we never really knew the character the way the other characters did.

Nonetheless, I see a steady improvement and the books are mindless enough entertainment that I’m willing to passively listen through an audiobook. I wouldn’t expend any energy actively using my eyeballs to read these, though. I’m interested to see what changes when Maxine Paetro takes over in book four.