The 9th Judgment (Women’s Murder Club #9) – Maxine Paetro and James Patterson

The 9th Judgment James Patterson
The 9th Judgment 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, 10th Anniversary, 11th Hour, 12th of Never, Unlucky 13, 14th Deadly Sin
Series: Women's Murder Club #9
on April 26, 2010
Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
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The Women's Murder Club takes on two deranged killers, but Detective Lindsay Boxer begins to wonder if the mysterious case is also breaking apart her closest friendships.

During an intimate dinner party, a cat burglar breaks into the home of A-list actor Marcus Dowling. When his wife walks in on the thief, the situation quickly teeters out of control, leaving an empty safe and a lifeless body.
The same night, a woman and her infant child are ruthlessly gunned down in an abandoned garage. The killer hasn't left a shred of evidence, except for a foreboding and cryptic message: WCF, the letters written in blood-red letters.
With two deranged killers on the loose Detective Lindsay Boxer calls on the Women's Murder Club to help her stop the insane killers. But someone is leaking information to the press-details that only those on the inside could know. As allegations fly that Lindsay is the source, she has to wonder: how much she can trust her closest friends?

Every time I’m about to give up on this series, James Patterson and Maxine Paetro actually deliver a good novel. The 9th Judgment isn’t devoid of soap opera style drama that’s been slopped over the last few novels in the series, but it is all kept in its place—with actual character development!—amid two equally compelling plotlines.

Police sergeant Lindsay Boxer is called to the scene of a horrific murder of a mother and child in the mall parking garage. Scrawled on the windshield in lipstick is the cryptic phrase WTC. There’re no witnesses, no suspects, no motive, and the killer seems poised to strike again. That same night, the wife of A-list actor Marcus Downing is murdered and millions of dollars of jewelry are stolen. It seems like an open and shut case, if they can only find the cat burglar, but there just may be something more to the story.

In most of these books there’s been a clearly dominant storyline, but in The 9th Judgment Patterson and Paetro balance the story well. Both storylines are compelling. Both are competing for attention—both the readers’ and the characters’. Obviously, for media reasons, finding the killer of actor’s wife takes priority. But the mother/child killings keep happening and Paetro details the murders with horrific precision. Thematically, the reader is asked to weigh the single murder of a glamorous celebrity against the gritty and brutal deaths of children. It’s a provocative contrast that’s brought into greater tension because the reader knows who killed Downing’s wife…and it wasn’t the cat burglar.

Also like most of the novels, while Lindsay and her team don’t know who the murderer is, Patterson and Paetro take the reader into the killer’s eyes and psyche. The Lipstick Killer’s backstory is both believable and compelling. While not exactly a nuanced character, he has enough depth that you can begin to understand his twisted motivations. It all leads to a terrifying conclusion.

This may be the first Women’s Murder Club novel to adequately use every member of the club. Lindsay, our police sergeant protagonist leads the way into an investigation of both crimes. Cindy, the reporter, is both a friend of Downing’s wife and a reporter trying to get the inside scoop on the stories. Yuki, an assistant DA, is in charge of the court case that results after a suspect is arrested in the Downing case. And Claire, who is all too often in the background, comes to the forefront with a strong and controversial public statement about protecting one’s children.

Is this still the equivalent of junk food? Of course. Patterson’s storytelling is characterized by papering over a lack of depth with a fast pace and short chapters. But sometimes junk food is fun. At least these fries are fresh.