7th Heaven (Women’s Murder Club #7) – Maxine Paetro and James Patterson

7th Heaven 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, The 8th Confession, The 9th Judgment, 10th Anniversary, 11th Hour, 12th of Never, Unlucky 13, 14th Deadly Sin
Series: Women's Murder Club #7
on February 4, 2008
Genres: Fiction, Thriller
Buy on Amazon

A terrible fire in a wealthy suburban home leaves a married couple dead and Detective Lindsay Boxer and her partner Rich Conklin searching for clues. And after California's golden boy, Michael Campion has been missing for a month, there finally seems to be a lead in his case--a very devastating lead.
As fire after fire consume couples in wealthy, comfortable homes, Lindsay and the Murder Club must race to find the arsonists responsible and get to the bottom of Michael Campion's disappearance. But suddenly the fires are raging too close to home.
Frightened for her life and torn between two men, Lindsay must find a way to solve the most daunting dilemmas she's ever faced--at work and at home.

After the disappointment that was The 6th Target, pretty much any plotline that makes the good guys look like the good guys would look stellar in comparison. 7th Heaven is almost return to form for the Women’s Murder Club, but the soap operatic personal drama between Lindsay, Joe, and Rich is bafflingly bad. The rest of the book—Lindsay’s exploration of a series of arson murders and Yuki’s attempts to prosecute the alleged murderer of the son of a famous person—is about on par with the rest of the series.

In Yuki’s storyline—she really has become more of a co-primary protagonist at this point, highlighting Patterson’s desire to compete with Grisham—the son of a senator has gone missing and been presumed dead for months. An anonymous tip leads police to the home of a young, high-end prostitute who confesses that he died of a heart attack while at her house. She called her boyfriend and he disposed of the body. There’s no evidence, no other witnesses, and the prostitute later recants her confession. It makes for a predictable, though still somewhat interesting story. I think in real life there wouldn’t have been enough evidence to arrest, let alone convict. I kept waiting for something to move the plotline forward and finally got it—in the book’s epilogue. Whether or not you find it satisfactory…meh…I wasn’t invested enough in the characters to care.

Meanwhile, Lindsay and her partner Rich Conklin are investigating a series of murders by arson that have terrorized the well-to-do in San Fran. It’s an entertaining enough storyline that drives the story onward but it’s all pretty perfunctory and straightforward. Paetro does give readers some hellish chapters that describe Pidge and Hawk’s Clockwork Orange-esque madness as they burn their victims alive. 7th Heaven also has the courtesy to intersect the two main stories in a cursory way that advances both plotlines and I’ll give it points for that.

By far, though, 7th Heaven is concerned with the love triangle between Lindsay Boxer, Joe Molinari, and Rich Conklin. It’s the most asinine and self-destructive plot device I’ve ever seen. Lindsay and Joe’s relationship stretches back several books. He’s proposed. He’s stepped down from being the Deputy Director of Homeland Security to move to San Francisco. And now, suddenly, Lindsay finds herself spurning him for a workplace fling with her cop partner. Conklin knows she’s in a long-term relationship and doesn’t seem to care. In one fell swoop, the book’s primary protagonist and a main secondary character become instantly unlikable. I thought at first it was Patterson and Paetro’s way of writing Molinari out of the series, as he’s so obviously been shoe-horned into the storyline. Even though the story, when in Lindsay’s point of view, is in first person, we get little insight what she’s thinking or feeling in any depth. It takes a strong female character and morphs her into something way different, completely driven by their feelings in the moment.

Congrats to 7th Heaven for having a mildly entertaining murder storyline, but if the series is going to morph into a romantic melodrama, then I’m out.