4th of July (Women’s Murder Club #4) – Maxine Paetro and James Patterson

4th of July by James Patterson, Maxine Paetro
Also by this author: 1st to Die, 2nd Chance, 3rd Degree, The Horsewoman, The 5th Horseman, The 6th Target, 7th Heaven, The 8th Confession, The 9th Judgment, 10th Anniversary, 11th Hour, 12th of Never, Unlucky 13, 14th Deadly Sin
Series: Women's Murder Club #4
on May 2, 2005
Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
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Detective Lindsay Boxer and the Women's Murder Club make a courageous return for their fourth and most chilling case ever-one that could easily be their last. In a late-night showdown after a near-fatal car chase, San Francisco police lieutenant Lindsay Boxer has to make an instantaneous decision: in self-defense, she fires her weapon-and sets off a chain of events that leaves a police force disgraced, an entire city divided, and a family destroyed. Now everything she's worked her entire life for hinges on the decision of twelve jurors. To escape scrutiny during breaks from her trial, Lindsay retreats to the picturesque town of Half Moon Bay.
But soon after her arrival, a string of grisly murders punches through the peaceful community. There are no witnesses and there is no discernible pattern. But a key detail recalls a case Lindsay worked on as a rookie years before-an unsolved murder that has haunted her ever since. As summer comes into full swing, Lindsay and her friends in the Women's Murder Club battle for her life on two fronts: before a judge and jury as her trial comes to a climax, and facing unknown adversaries who will do anything to keep her from the truth about the killings-including killing again.
James Patterson fine-tunes the tension as never before in this breathtaking addition to the best-selling detective series to debut in a decade.

Up to this point, the Women’s Murder Club series has been a somewhat uneven story about a San Francisco homicide detective and her friends. 1st to Die brought them all together—a cop, a medical examiner, a reporter, and a district attorney—to share info and plot outside of official lines to solve the case. In the next two books, the Murder Club part of the series is downplayed as Patterson brought in co-author Andrew Gross to continue the series. Now, with 4th of July, Maxine Paetro takes over and has added one book a year to the series since this one’s 2005 release. For all intents and purposes, 4th of July is kind of a reset. New author, new vision.

The story begins with San Francisco police detective Lindsay Boxer in trouble. When she and her partner, Warren Jacobi, get a lead on a recent murder, they stakeout a Mercedes that eventually leads them on a high-speed chase. When the Mercedes crashes, Lindsay and Jacobi discover two teenagers, scared that they’d taken daddy’s car out for a joyride without a license. Except…the kids pull a gun on Lindsay and Jacobi, shooting both of them. Lindsay responds, killing one kid and paralyzing another. It’s self-defense, but their wealthy father sues in civil court for wrongful death.

Part of the reason that James Patterson started the Women’s Murder Club series and set it in San Francisco was that fellow mega-bestseller John Grisham was outselling him on the West Coast. 4th of July introduces us to Yuki Castellano, Lindsay’s defense attorney who becomes part of the club (replacing Jill, who died in 3rd Degree). A major part of the book revolves around the trial, with Patterson and Paetro clearly targeting readers of Grisham’s legal thrillers. While Paetro doesn’t quite have the deftness of Grisham, she builds tension well and the courtroom drama becomes the highlight of the novel.

While awaiting trial, Lindsay gets away from the town and housesits for her sister. She, of course, stumbles right into another string of murders that she just has to solve. 4th of July plays both storylines well. After the resolution of the wrongful death case, Boxer returns to work and tracks down the killer in her sister’s town (which also connects to a cold case she worked on years ago). The B plot is rather paint-by-numbers generic but tries to make up for that with a wild motivation on the part of the killer. It could have been a better plotline if made the primary storyline.

One complaint: Patterson’s decision to title the books by number (1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc.) is great, but it would be even better if the stories actually revolved around or had anything to do with the title. Other than the novel wrapping up on July 4, there’s no connection to the title whatsoever. Given that Lindsay has a boyfriend who works for the Department of Homeland Security, I was expected a plot a bit bigger and more connected to that character.

4th of July is a solid introduction to Paetro’s run with the series. It telegraphs an increased emphasis on a legal thriller plotline, does better in uniting the members of the club together, and tells a fast-paced story. The introduction of a female author does wonders for the female voice and characterization. I’m excited to see if this series stays mediocre pulp fiction or if Paetro can transform it into something more.