There is a special place in my heart and on my desk for the Women’s Murder Club series. Should the books comprising this canon be considered classic literature? No, but each installment of this now long-running series by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro is as reliably entertaining and engrossing as any book you are likely to find. That statement goes double for 12th OF NEVER, the latest and best installment to date.
What really puts this book over the top for me is that the solution to one of the several mysteries propelling the story totally caught me by surprise. The case in chief, if you will, involves a serial killer operating in San Francisco whose crimes are seemingly predicted by a somewhat eccentric English professor. Dr. Perry Judd initially presents to the San Francisco Police Department a vivid account of a murder that came to him in a dream. The crime, almost as described by Judd, then occurs a day or so later. Suspicion, of course, falls upon Judd, but his alibi is iron strong. The same thing happens a second time, and the police become even more suspicious of Judd, alibi or not. A third murder occurs under circumstances that make it quite clear that Judd is most definitely not the doer.
"What really puts this book over the top for me is that the solution to one of the several mysteries propelling the story totally caught me by surprise."
Homicide investigator Lindsay Boxer and her partner, Rich Conklin, are perplexed, to say the least. Plus, the series of murders could not be occurring at a worse time. Lindsay has a new daughter named Julie who was born under very interesting circumstances, but all is not well. The baby is not thriving; when an anxious Lindsay and her husband, newly unemployed Joe Molinari, take her in for an evaluation, they receive the worst news a parent can get. To make matters even worse, an incarcerated serial killer whom Lindsay had previously apprehended now wants to make a chilling deal, but will negotiate only with Lindsay. The question is whether he is toying with the police and with Lindsay, or is instead truly sincere. The answer is an explosive one and not what you might expect.
Lest you think from the above that this is the Lindsay Boxer series, the other members of the Women’s Murder Club are knee deep in difficulties as well. Assistant D.A. Yuki Castellano is trying the murder case of her career. She is prosecuting a notorious disbarred attorney named Keith Herman for the murder of his wife by dismemberment and the disappearance and presumed death of his young daughter. The trial is a difficult one, but Yuki is up to it, until a series of explosive revelations disrupt the proceedings. If you love courtroom thrillers, or even if you don’t, you will never forget the Herman trial.
Patterson and Paetro always give readers their money’s worth, and 12th OF NEVER is the gold standard for that proposition. And if two books in one is not enough for you, please consider this. The girlfriend of a talented football superstar is found murdered. Naturally, her significant other is a prime suspect, though he vociferously denies that he had anything to do with her death and has a witness to back him up. Dr. Claire Washburn, San Francisco’s chief medical examiner and Women’s Murder Club member, is set to perform the autopsy on the unfortunate victim when her body disappears from the morgue. It happens on Claire’s watch, of course, and results in deep trouble on several levels. Then there is Cindy Thomas. At the beginning of the book, Cindy is the fourth member of the Women’s Murder Club, a newspaper reporter, and Rich Conklin’s fiancee. By the end of the book, at least one of those elements will no longer be true.
It does not matter whether you are a casual reader or a hardcore fan of the Women’s Murder Club, or even if you have somehow missed out on the series completely. 12th OF NEVER is a book you should read; you’ll find it moving and compelling from beginning to end and, yes, beyond. Furthermore, as a bonus, there is a preview of SECOND HONEYMOON, written by Patterson and Howard Roughan, which from its opening pages looks to be an addictive read as well. Start reading, and you won’t stop.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on May 3, 2013