Murder mystery written by numbers

2008-03-26 00:00

Listed on the flyleaf of this book are the complete works of James Patterson, 49 volumes, of which 16, like this one and most of its companions in the Women’s Murder Club series, have been written in collaboration with other people. The Club members, as befits city women of the 21st century, are all liberated professional women. Lindsay Boxer is a detective in the San Francisco Police Department, while Claire Washburn is a medical examiner, Yuki Castellano a district attorney, and Cindy Thomas a journalist who would never sacrifice her friends for a front-page scoop.

At the heart of the mystery is a string of fatal arson attacks on rich, successful married couples. Strangely linked to the attacks is the disappearance of Michael Campion, son of a popular governor and known for his fight against a rare and debilitating heart illness. With the help of her friends (all, of course, with personal and relationship problems that have to be overcome), Lindsay must move swiftly to stop the killings.

It’s smooth and competent, neatly written by numbers, with tiny, bite-sized chapters for those with very short attention spans. The shades of American girl detectives dating back to Nancy Drew seemed to hover over the pages as I read. For light relief I paused to imagine the sweatshop in which Patterson’s team of collaborators must toil to maintain their quotas and add lustre to his name. A potboiler. Negligible.

Stephanie Alexander

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