The Women's Murder Club pits four San Francisco women professionals against a serial killer who's stalking and murdering newlyweds in bestselling author James Patterson's newest thriller. Lindsay Boxer is a homicide inspector who's just gotten some very bad news. She deals with it by immersing herself in her newest case and soliciting the personal as well as professional support of her closest friend, who happens to be the city's medical examiner. The two women, along with an ambitious and sympathetic reporter and an assistant DA, form an unlikely alliance, pooling their information and bypassing the chain of command in an engaging, suspenseful story whose gruesome setup is vintage Patterson.
"What is the worst thing anyone has ever done?" the killer muses to himself early in the narrative. "Am I capable of doing it? Do I have what it takes?" Answering his own question, he embarks on a murderous spree that takes him from the bridal suite in a Nob Hill hotel to a honeymoon destination in the Napa Valley and thence to a wedding reception at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, Ohio. Dispatching his victims on the happiest day of their lives, he purposefully leaves enough clues for his distaff trackers to discover his identity and put him behind bars. But just when the women think they've got the case all wrapped up, the killer turns the tables on them in a bloody denouement that even the most discerning reader won't see coming.
2nd Chance reconvenes the Women's Murder Club, four friends (a detective, a reporter, an assistant district attorney, and a medical examiner) who used their networking skills, feminine intuition, and professional wiles to solve a baffling series of murders in 1st to Die. This time, the murders of two African Americans, a little girl and an old woman, bear all the signs of a serial killer for Lindsay Boxer, newly promoted to lieutenant of San Francisco's homicide squad. But there's an odd detail she finds even more disturbing: both victims were related to city cops. A symbol glimpsed at both murder scenes leads to a racist hate group, but the taunting killer strikes again and again, leaving deliberate clues and eluding the police ever more cleverly. In the meantime, each of the women has a personal stake at risk--and the killer knows who they are.
San Francisco Homicide lieutenant Lindsay Boxer, who narrates most of the action, is jogging with assistant DA Jill Barnhardt when Lindsay notices two things: first, bruises on Jill's shoulder; then the explosion of a nearby townhouse, into which Lindsay rushes to save a child. The townhouse, home to a greedy CEO and his family, was destroyed by members of a terrorist group calling itself "August Spies"; Lindsay's chase after the group, which commits further killings, brings her into close proximity to what promises to be a new series regular, Joe Molinari, deputy director of the Office of Homeland Security. Love blooms for Lindsay but, meanwhile, love has curdled at Jill's house, where Jill's husband is abusing her.
In a late-night showdown after a near-fatal car chase, San Francisco police lieutenant Lindsay Boxer has to make an instantaneous decision: in self-defense, she fires her weapon -- and sets off a chain of events that leaves a police force disgraced, an entire city divided, and a family destroyed. Now everything she's worked her entire life for hinges on the decision of twelve jurors.
To escape scrutiny during breaks from her trial, Lindsay retreats to the picturesque town of Half Moon Bay. But soon after her arrival, a string of grisly murders punches through the peaceful community. There are no witnesses and there is no discernible pattern. But a key detail recalls a case Lindsay worked on as a rookie years before -- an unsolved murder that has haunted her ever since. As summer comes into full swing, Lindsay and her friends in the Women's Murder Club battle for her life on two fronts: before a judge and jury as her trial comes to a climax, and facing unknown adversaries who will do anything to keep her from the truth about the killings -- including killing again.
The hero is a 12-year-old runaway whose sharp mind and straitlaced moral sense make him fit to survive the lurid jungles of Hollywood. One night hiding in Griffith Park, Billy witnesses the butchering of Lisa Ramsey, the cokehead ex-wife of Cart Ramsey, a crummy actor-golfer once busted for pummeling Lisa. Did Cart knife Lisa, or was it his pathetic old football sidekick Greg Balch?
Psychologist Dr. Delaware has a bit part here, but the heroine is Detective Petra Connor, his distaff equivalent.
Something isn't quite right with Philadelphia bluebloods Neddy and Tea Roederer, benefactors of the Philadelphia Prep School library. Philly Prep teacher and amateur sleuth Amanda Pepper sees the first signs in the Roederers' son's glum manner. Then a more urgent problem appears: the crusade of the Reverend Harvey Spiers' book-burning Moral Ecologists--the same Reverend Spiers whose stepson, Jake, is best friends with the Roederers' son. As Amanda talks with both boys, she realizes there are much deeper problems, and when the crusading Reverend Spiers is murdered, she knows things have spun out of control. Amanda finds no shortage of suspects: Spiers' Moral Ecologist rival and erstwhile lover, his hysterical wife, his hulking stepson, even Neddy and Tea.
Returning home from school, Amanda finds a friend has been murdered in her living room. Always in the right place at the right time (later, she happens upon a second body in much the same way), Amanda is up to the task, and ultimately solves the mystery with a few clever deductions. She also conveniently solves the problem of her personal life by falling in love with a charming detective with a Southern accent and a solid background in English Lit, who has been assigned to the case.
Stephanie Plum, Trenton's favorite bondswoman, is having a career crisis, from dry cleaner to factory worker. Most of them don't last a full working day, so it plunges Stephanie back into the always seedy, often dangerous, and always colorful world of fugitives who'd rather flee than face their day in court. She may be tired of having her life threatened, her cars torched or blown up, and her apartment broken into, but one thing she can say about her job is that it's never boring... and neither is she. Despite her intentions of going straight at a job with a little more security and a bit less excitement, an old client won't let her--he keeps leaving her threatening notes, stalking and scaring her, and making sure she needs the protection of the two men in her life--Joe Morelli, the sexy cop who's been bedding her since high school, and Ranger, the even sexier tough guy who can take down the meanest fugitive around but has a tender spot in his heart for the plucky Ms. Plum.
Stephanie Plum, the trash-talking New Jersey bail bondswoman of this popular series, is tracking Maxine Nowicki, who's wanted for skipping out on a car-theft charge lodged by her ex-boyfriend. Now the ex-boyfriend's very interested in getting back the love letters he supposedly wrote to Maxine. But what he's really looking for is the secret on which Evanovich hangs her screwball cast of colorful minor characters, including Sally Sweet, a cross-dressing drag queen; Lula, the 250-pound ex-hooker who works for Steph's boss; Cousin Vinnie, the bail bondsman; Grandma Mazur, who packs a Glock and is always looking for a little action; and Joyce, a wannabe bounty hunter who's been cramping Steph's style since she played pass the salami with Steph's ex-husband. The action doesn't get much farther from Trenton than the Jersey Shore, but when Steph's apartment and car are blown up by the others on Maxine's trail and she moves in with Joe Morelli, the handsome, arrogant cop she's been hung up on since high school, it gets hotter than the craps table in Atlantic City.
Former reporter Irene Kelly, now working in public relations, is shocked when her friend O'Connor is killed by a bomb hidden in a package. The only clue Irene can unearth is O'Connor's obsession with a long-unsolved crime involving an unidentified female body discovered in Las Piernas years before. Rehired by the Las Piernas Express , Irene teams up with ex-lover and homicide cop Frank Harriman to crack the case.
Stephanie Plum picks up a case a little nastier than anything the wisecracking bounty hunter's seen before. Evelyn Soder and her young daughter have gone on the run, leaving an angry ex-husband who's planning to collect on a child custody bond that will leave Evelyn's grandmother homeless. Stephanie's first clue that there's more to it than that comes in the form of Eddie Abruzzi, a shady local businessman who warns her to butt out of the case. Stephanie doesn't scare easily, but when Abruzzi's henchmen leave a bag of snakes on her doorknob and tarantulas in her car, she has no choice but to call Ranger, the hunky man of mystery whom she already owes too many favors. Steph knows that Ranger will soon be calling in his marker, but with her ex- fiancé Joe Morelli out of the picture, that should be OK--shouldn't it? In the meantime, she's got other fugitives to catch, aided by the usual band of misfits, plus a bumbling correspondence-school lawyer who's developed the hots for Stephanie's sister, Valerie. And Steph's in for a surprise from her mother, who proves she's not above wielding a dangerous weapon to save her daughter's life.
"Uncle Fred was someone I saw at weddings and funerals and once in a while at Giovichinni's Meat Market, ordering a quarter pound of olive loaf. Eddie Such, the butcher, would have the olive loaf on the scale and Uncle Fred would say, 'You've got the olive loaf on a piece of waxed paper. How much does that piece of waxed paper weigh? You're not gonna charge me for that waxed paper, are you? I want some money off for the waxed paper.'"
The speaker is Stephanie Plum, the glamorous if slightly ditzy bounty hunter from Trenton, New Jersey.
Stephanie's problems are many and varied. She's not making enough money picking up FTAs (Failures to Appear) for her cousin Vinnie, of Vincent Plum Bail Bonds; her red-hot love affair with Detective Joe Morelli has cooled off; and her giant extended family is no help at all. For instance, Uncle Fred the cheapskate has disappeared, leaving behind some suspicious photographs of body parts in garbage bags and links to some really dangerous people.
When Stephanie turns to her friend and mentor, Ranger, for financial advice, he gets her involved in a gang of toughs doing instant evictions for landlords. (She complains to Ranger about the job and its dangers, prompting one of the hired thug to say, "Man, you don't like to get shot. You don't like to get arrested. You don't know how to have fun at all.")
Most of Stephanie's charm, of course, comes from her attitude--a combination of the brazen bravado that turns a failed lingerie model into a bounty hunter in the first place and the normal fears of a person in over her head.
In 1887, in the excitement of Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee, fourteen-year-old Caroline Tressidor blurts out a secret. Though it is a secret she does not understand, her punishment is swift: Her beautiful mother disappears; her father banishes Caroline to a family estate in Cornwall. There, puzzled and lonely, she begins a search for understanding that takes her back to London and to heartbreak; sends her to the South of France and a romantic reunion with the man she has learned to love and fear; returns her to Cornwall, to tragedy and a desperate murderer; and ends ten years after its beginnings as she watches the plain little Queen celebrate her Diamond Jubilee.
Spunky New Jersey prosecutor, Kerry McGrath, is the heroine in danger. Kerry has taken an interest in a 10-year-old murder case, in which Skip Reardon had been found guilty of slaying his beautiful wife, Suzanne, and has since been pleading his innocence from his jail cell. When Kerry's small daughter, Robin, goes to a New York plastic surgeon after a car crash, it is apparent that Dr. Smith, who was Suzanne's father, is weird. He seems to be fashioning the faces of young women to resemble his dead daughter and it was his testimony that sent Skip to jail. Kerry's interest in the case (and her parallel interest in Skip's good-guy lawyer) may harm her chances of a judgeship, and it also draws the ominous attention of another possible suspect, James Weeks, a wealthy real-estate magnate with rumored mob connections. Then there's elegant, tasteful art burglar Jason Arnott, who had also known Suzanne.
Investigator Archy McNally agrees to handle a burglary case involving the theft of four valuable stamps for a Palm Beach society matron; from there he is led into a web of lies, sex, and blackmail. Murder is also involved, and Archy, who narrates the tale, has to sort out the scandal from the truth. A subplot involving Archy's affair with a beautiful antiques dealer may indicate his playboy days are over; he is suave and jaded but still capable of dropping names and bits of humor.
When quiet Ellen Lang enters Elvis Cole's Disney-Deco office, she's lost something very valuable -- her husband and her young son. The case seems simple enough, but Elvis isn't thrilled. Neither is his enigmatic partner and firepower, Joe Pike. Their search down the seamy side of Hollywood's studio lots and sculptured lawns soon leads them deep into a nasty netherworld of drugs and sex -- and murder. Now the case is getting interesting, but it's also turned ugly. Because everybody, from cops to starlets to crooks, has declared war on Ellen and Elvis. For Ellen, it isn't Funtown anymore. For Elvis, it's just a living. He hopes.
Philadelphia's New Year's Day Mummers' Parade, a splashy, fiercely competitive affair, turns murderous in yet another funny Philly puzzler for schoolteacher Amanda Pepper. Amanda watches as a costumed Pierrot collapses in the middle of the parade - shot dead. Vincent Devaney, a Mummer who teaches with Amanda at Philly Prep, is prime suspect. An old friend of the dead man, Vincent had also been his rival for the leadership of their "Fancy Club," one of the organizations in the secretive world of Mummerdom. Complicating matters is the fact that Vincent falsely claims he was with Amanda during the shooting. Amanda's significant other, homicide detective K.C. Mackenzie, trusts her sufficiently to ask her to chat with Vincent to find out "what's really going down." But after a gun surfaces in Amanda's voluminous purse, and the corpse of another Mummer turns up in an abandoned factory, even Mackenzie's dinner conversation crosses the line from chit-chat to interrogation. Roberts effectively balances the subject of pride, Philadelphia's local color and Amanda's mounting problems.
Stephanie Plum is so smart, so honest, and so funny that her narrative charm could drive a documentary on termites. But this tough gal from New Jersey, an unemployed discount lingerie buyer, has a much more interesting story to tell: She has to say that her Miata has been repossessed and that she's so poor at the moment that she just drank her last bottle of beer for breakfast. She has to say that her only chance out of her present rut is her repugnant cousin Vinnie and his bail-bond business. She has to say that she blackmailed Vinnie into giving her a bail-bond recovery job worth $10,000 (for a murder suspect), even though she doesn't own a gun and has never apprehended a person in her life. And she has to say that the guy she has to get, Joe Morelli, is the same creep who charmed away her teenage virginity behind the pastry case in the Trenton bakery where she worked after school. If that hard-luck story doesn't sound compelling enough, Stephanie's several unsuccessful attempts at pulling in Joe make a downright hilarious and suspenseful tale of murder and deceit. Along the way, several more outlandish (but unrelentingly real) characters join the story, including Benito Ramirez, a champion boxer who seems to be following Stephanie Plum wherever she goes.