The Trial (Women’s Murder Club #15.5) – Maxine Paetro and James Patterson

The Trial 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, The 9th Judgment, 10th Anniversary, 11th Hour, 12th of Never, Unlucky 13
Series: Women's Murder Club #15.5
Published by BookShots on July 5, 2016
Genres: Fiction, Short Form, Suspense
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"I'm not on trial. San Francisco is."
An accused murderer called Kingfisher is about to go on trial for his life. Or is he? By unleashing unexpected violence on the lawyers, jurors, and police involved in the case, he has paralyzed the city. Detective Lindsay Boxer and the Women's Murder Club are caught in the eye of the storm.
Now comes a courtroom shocker you will never see coming.

All thriller. No filler. James Patterson is known for his utilitarian writing style and blazingly fast plots. Many of his books have multiple plots all threaded together, and, at least in the case of the Women’s Murder Club series, they don’t always overlap. Write one plotline instead of three and you have yourself a self-contained novella that Patterson dubbed a Bookshot. Bookshots were around 150 pages and were all-new original stories. James Patterson’s vision was that these would be sold on magazine racks and be marketed toward people who said they didn’t have enough time to read. That vision ultimately failed, possibly because Patterson saturated the market, publishing over seventy volumes from 2016-2017.

The Trial was published in July 2016, just a few months after 15th Affair, and that’s where it fits chronologically on the timeline as well, wedging itself in before 16th Seduction. These are two Women’s Murder Club novels where there’s a huge focus on Lindsay’s storyline with her husband, Joe Molinari, leaving me to wonder if this Bookshot started as an abandoned secondary storyline for 15th Affair.

As you might imagine, The Trial features our favorite assistant district attorney, Yuki Castellano, in the protagonist’s position. Lindsay features as well, as she hunts down the notorious murderer Kingfisher, a man they already thought to be dead. This is a good twist, because the book doesn’t require readers to have any previous knowledge of Kingfisher and the events of the previous books aren’t negated by Kingfisher’s return. Patterson and Paetro resurrect a favorite villain in order to put him on trial. It’s not that easy, of course. Poor Yuki never gets an easy one.

The Trial suffers from the same thin plot and unrealistic happenings that characterize the regular novels only Patterson can’t trick you into thinking the book is more substantial with multiple plots. This wasn’t a bad way to spend an hour—which is entirely what Patterson was going for—but neither is high-quality crime fiction. I like that the focus was on Yuki, the courtroom drama points back to the reason Patterson started the series—because he wanted to outsell Grisham on the West Coast. Well, it may have worked, but Grisham still writes a better legal thriller by far.

I’ll give this one credit for ingenuity and bringing a different experience to the table, but in the end it’s a Women’s Murder Club plotline that comes across as a standalone and, by nature, can be easily excised from the overarching plot and not be missed.