The 6th Target (Women’s Murder Club #6) – Maxine Paetro and James Patterson

The 6th Target James Patterson
The 6th Target by James Patterson, Maxine Paetro
Also by this author: 1st to Die, 2nd Chance, 3rd Degree, The Horsewoman, 4th of July, The 5th Horseman, 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 #6
on May 8, 2007
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When a horrifying attack leaves one of the Women's Murder Club struggling for her life, the others fight to keep a madman behind bars before anyone else is hurt.
Lindsay Boxer and her new partner in the San Francisco police department are racing to stop a series of kidnappings that has electrified the city: children are being plucked off the streets together with their nannies, but the kidnappers aren't demanding ransom. Amid uncertainty and rising panic, Lindsay juggles the possibility of a new love with an unsolvable investigation, and the knowledge that one member of the club could be on the brink of death.
And just when everything appears momentarily under control, the case takes a terrifying turn, putting an entire city in lethal danger. Lindsay must make a choice she never dreamed she'd face-with no certainty that either outcome has more than a prayer of success.

I was afraid this would happen. After James Patterson and Maxine Paetro showed us what the Women’s Murder Club series could be in The 5th Horseman, they returned to the same implausibly sensational storylines with shock value twists instead of continuing to build their characters with exciting and grounded stories.

The 6th Target begins with a man who is clearly insane murdering a bunch of people on a ferry after the voices in his head tell him to. We know this because Patterson and Paetro give us this scene through the point of view of the killer. Later, when the killer learns that he’s wanted for the murders, he willingly turns himself in. The bulk of the book is Yuki Castellano—obviously Paetro’s favorite character to write—trying to get the guy convicted of murder.

For this to happen, Patterson and Paetro have to make some changes. A few books ago, Yuki was a defense lawyer because main protagonist Lindsay Boxer needed defending. Now she’s a prosecutor working in the district attorney’s office. That’s not a typical career change that one would make. Going from defense to prosecution is a big move and not something you see lawyers doing. But, for the sake of fiction, let’s allow it.

All through The 6th Target, Yuki and Lindsay worry that they won’t be able to convict. They have video. They have eyewitness testimony. They have a confession. But their worry is that the jury will find the killer not guilty by reason of insanity. Throughout the book, it’s argued that the killer was rational, in control of his faculties, and knew what he was doing. Except, as the introduction of the book made clear—he absolutely wasn’t. Not guilty by reason of insanity is precisely the right conclusion.

Of course, that’s what the jurors do and the killer is sentenced to a mental institution. Except, because there’s one therapist who insists on having mass murderers seen in his office instead of in their cell, the killer manages to disarm a guard and escape. Patterson and Paetro twist the plot to incredulity to make it fit their narrative. All they had to do to solve this was simply not clearly present their murderer as mentally unstable.

I haven’t yet mentioned that a third member of the club—medical examiner Claire Washburn—is one of the ones shot (but not killed) by our ferry murder-man. That’s a nice touch, because it helps bring the group together and develops Claire’s character outside the morgue. I’m just sad she had to get shot for it to happen.

There are not one, but two other storylines going on in addition to this one. Neither of them are worth talking about or add anything. Because these books are so fast anyway, they barely have space for a second storyline, let alone a third. They end up as unwelcome distractions that might present the realities of police life—the murders and investigations don’t stop just because you caught one guy—but because they aren’t developed well, they end up as just filler.

I thought Maxine Paetro was onto something with the last book. The 6th Target disappoints on every level.