This was my first James Patterson novel. It will, in all likelyhood, be my last.
I expected a breezy, exciting thriller with a fun female detective protagonist. What I got was an utterly predictable, flacid story speckled with 'surprises' that I had spotted hundreds of pages before. Mr. Patterson seems more interested in trying to pull the rug out from under his readers than in trying to develop characters or tell a compelling story.
The protagonist, a homocide detective for the San Francisco PD is supposed to be smart and hardworking. So are the other members of her "Women's Murder Club." There is a sort of "Sisters are Doing it for Themselves" bravura that Mr. Patterson tries to tap into that unfortunately comes across as if he'd been watching too many episodes of Moonlighting and Remington Steel, with a pinch of 9 to 5 thrown in. Very early eighties. The four women who make up the 'club'--which is a widly unethical mix of law enforcement, legal and press--are essentially indistinguishable, except for the African-American medical examiner, who occasionally sprinkles her dialogue with sentences ending in 'Honey.' Then there's the kinky writer who comes across like a two-dimensional character out of de Sade--I found myself wondering if Patterson was describing himself, which I at least had fun imagining.
The plot is full of holes. My favorite turns on one of the major reversals--Patterson sells you on the idea that only one character could have misdirected the investigation in a particular way. He then spends eighty pages or so driving that point home, until the NEXT reversal, at which point the misdirection is totally forgotten--at least by Mr. Patterson. I found myself wondering what the heck was going on.
Patterson shows no more depth of understanding his setting--the San Francisco Bay Area--than of his characters. It reads as if he'd picked up a somewhat out of date Fodor's guide to use for his research. He spends a lot of time dropping neighborhood names, but no time giving a sense of what makes those places different from each other--and San Francisco's neighborhoods abound in local color to work from.
The nearly two hundred chapters average three pages in length--it made me jumpy just shifting from scene to scene. I wanted to yell out, "Cut back on the caffeine, dude! Or take some Ritalin!"
During the course of this terrible book, ten people die grusome, aweful deaths, and I was hard pressed to care about a single one.
At one point the protagonist lists a series of writers who create compelling, exctiting mysteries starring women--Sue Grafton, Elizabeth George and Patricia Cornwell. All three write novels books that I've read with great pleasure--suspenseful, surprising novels with interesting characters and a wonderful wealth of detail. This book was a paste imitation--go buy the real thing.