James Patterson,
with Andrew Gross,
3rd Degree
(Time Warner, 2004)

One thing I like about author James Patterson is that he keeps multiple storylines running concurrently. I have yet to tire of his characters because he has not allowed me, as a reader, to burn out due to narrow focus.

Patterson is perhaps best known for the Alex Cross series (which, in my opinion, are his best books). He also released several books about winged children (stories that are disappointing to read after the caliber of the Cross tales). A third series, which Patterson is writing with co-author Andrew Gross, revolves around the four characters who make up the Women's Murder Club.

For those of you unfamiliar with the WMC, this organization resides in San Francisco. All four women are high-profile personalities in their chosen fields. Lt. Lindsay Boxer is a homicide detective and the main character in 3rd Degree. The group is rounded out by reporter Cindy Thomas who works for The Chronicle, assistant D.A. Jill Bernhardt and medical examiner Claire Washburn. The group was first introduced in 1st to Die and later returned in 2nd Chance.

3rd Degree begins with Lindsay out jogging. Right in front of her eyes, the townhouse of an Internet millionaire is demolished by what is later determined to be a bomb. The story becomes intriguing when this crime is linked to the brutal murder of a high-ranking healthcare professional. It seems that a terrorist organization calling itself August Spies has chosen San Francisco as its playground. They promise to kill a new victim every three days unless their demands are met. So far, they have kept their word.

If you are a fan of the WMC, this book will be a must read for you simply because August Spies is going after one of these four women. The reason is personal. You never know when your past will come back to haunt you.

The audiobook version of 3rd Degree is read by Carolyn McCormick. I think most of us would recognize her as Dr. Olivit from the television show Law & Order. While it took me most of the first CD to warm up to her reading style, in the end I felt Carolyn did a convincing performance as Lindsay, Jill, Claire, Cindy and the rest of the characters. Some minor characters sounded a little too similar, but for the most part, each character had a distinct enough voice.

If you enjoy murder mysteries, can appreciate a decent audiobook and have 6.5 hours to be entertained, then 3rd Degree by Patterson and Gross is a worthwhile purchase. Patterson has released better material -- most recently, The Big Bad Wolf -- but 3rd Degree is not a bad offering. Even if you are unfamiliar with the Women's Murder Club, you can enjoy this novel. While it is part of a series, it has the ability to stand on its own.

- Rambles
written by Wil Owen
published 30 October 2004

Buy it from Amazon.com.