Review

3rd Degree

by James Patterson



3RD DEGREE is the third of the Women's Murder Club novels. I'm
going to diverge for just a second here and note that the Women's
Murder Club name for this series gives the impression that
Patterson is writing a series of cozies, if you will. Not so. The
protagonists in these stories all get their hands quite dirty,
thank you --- particularly Claire Washburn, who is with the Medical
Examiner's office. Accordingly, if you have been staying away from
this series because drawing room mysteries aren't your thing, feel
free to dive into 3RD DEGREE headfirst. The water is fine and
deep.

Patterson collaborates with Andrew Gross on this novel; Gross was
aboard for 2ND CHANCE as well as last year's THE JESTER. They work
quite well together, and the reader is the winner. The plain and
simple truth is that there is no way one can put down 3RD DEGREE
once it has been started; it is a book that begs to be finished,
and the reader is only too happy to oblige.

There are a number of reasons for this. The protagonists are women,
but again, these aren't girlie girl mysteries that we are dealing
with here. Fans of Patterson's Alex Cross books will find all of
the same elements in the Women's Murder Club novels. Patterson and
Gross also keep things moving at an incredible pace. There may well
be no better popular storyteller than Patterson right now. And
while his style may not make Cormac McCarthy break a sweat,
Patterson knows how to tell a story. If he talks likes he writes,
everyone is going to listen.

So we come to 3RD DEGREE. The setting is once again San Francisco,
which is the target of some 60s-style leftist terrorists. Their
targets appear to be somewhat random, with the only apparent
connection being that all of the victims are tools of the
establishment. Detective Lindsay Boxer literally stumbles into the
first incident --- the bombing of an Internet millionaire's
townhouse. A cryptic message is left at the scene, with a
mysterious group named "August Spies" claiming
responsibility.

Three days later a prominent local businessman is grotesquely
murdered, and another message is left. Boxer brings the rest of the
Women's Murder Club --- Washburn, San Francisco Assistant D.A. Jill
Bernhardt and San Francisco Chronicle reporter Cindy Thomas
--- into the mix. The nature of these crimes is such that the
Federal government also becomes quickly involved, with that
involvement in part manifested by the presence of Joe Molinari,
Deputy Director of the Department of Homeland Security. Boxer and
Molinari soon find themselves involved as well.

Patterson and Gross handle this aspect of the story quite well,
straddling the line between the male and female demographics of
their audience and making the courtship, romance and afterprom
credible from both viewpoints. They also do an exquisitely
restrained job of describing the flora and fauna of San Francisco.
They keep the city in the background, giving you just enough of a
description of the surroundings that there is no doubt where you
are, yet making sure that the scenery doesn't get in the way of the
story line.

And quite a story line it is, as August Spies continue their reign
of terror, aiming at one particularly surprising target. Longtime
readers of Patterson know that when they pick up one of his books,
they can expect the unexpected --- but what occurs here is over the
top, even for him. It is precisely this target, however, that leads
the Women's Murder Club to the motivation behind the dastardly acts
of August Spies --- and to the identities of the madmen behind
them.

Patterson, in spite of (or perhaps because of) his prodigious
output, never disappoints, and there is no doubt that 3RD DEGREE
will add new members to his already loyal legion of fans. If you
have yet to encounter Patterson or the Women's Murder Club, this is
the perfect introduction to both.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 20, 2011

3rd Degree
by James Patterson

  • Publication Date: January 1, 2005
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Mass Market Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • ISBN-10: 0446614831
  • ISBN-13: 9780446614832