Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Feeble Fireworks

[Pic Courtesy James Patterson Website]

James Patterson collaborates with another author for 4th of July, his fourth book in the Women's Murder Club series, and it shows. The book has two major plotlines. One of them is typical Patterson and moves frantically with some surprising twists while the other is more emotional and romantic. Luckily, the two plotlines are almost completely separate, with the 'emotional' plotline being resolved completely before the 'thriller' plotline. The result is an uneven read that grabs our attention only in the last third of the book.

The book finds Lindsay Boxer, a cop, shooting and killing a young girl and injuring her even younger brother. The kids' father launches a case against her and her whole future is now in the hands of a jury. When she moves to her sister's house in Half Moon Bay for some quiet time, she comes across a string of killings, whose MO reminds her of her first case, an unsolved homicide of a kid. Naturally, she starts to involve herself in the investigation.

Unlike the earlier 3 entries in the Women's Murder Club series, this one is completely about Lindsay. The other 2 members of the club make only a few appearances and even then, it is only to provide moral support to Lindsay. While that doesn't really make a difference to how much we enjoy the book, more active involvement of the other two would have made it feel like a more legitimate entry in the series for longtime readers.

The books in this series have always dealt with one of the club members going through an emotional crisis. Here, a major portion of the book is devoted to Lindsay's trial. This is also the time when she gets to spend some lovey-dovey time with Joe, who she hooked up with in 3rd Degree. The court scenes are somewhat interesting but since the resolution of the trial is a foregone conclusion, this segment is never gripping or involving. The only thing that kept me from skipping a few pages was the scattered information about her other case.

But the book takes off once it wholeheartedly gets into the Half Moon Bay murders. With Lindsay's trial closed, there are no roadblocks as it moves forward and I read the entire third of the book in a single sitting. Sure Lindsay has a few leaps of intuition and things fall into her lap a little too easily. But it is a thrilling read with some knockout twists. Issues(like the link to her unsolved case) are resolved cleanly and there are no obvious loose ends.

4th of July is overall quite weak. If Patterson had stuck to the single plotline of the killings he would have ended up with a smaller but much more enjoyable book.


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