1st to Die by James Patterson

July 3, 2009

1st_to_die Plot summary (with spoilers): The novel opens with Lindsay Boxer, a homicide detective in the San Francisco PD, standing on her balcony pointing her service pistol to her head. She wants to pull the trigger, but thinks of the people she’ll leave behind — specifically, her girlfriends and her dog Sweet Martha. Lindsay then starts to recall the events that have driven her to this point, beginning with a gruesome murder of two newlyweds on their wedding night.

The case, dubbed by the press as the Honeymoon Murders, didn’t make any sense to Lindsay or partner Warren Jacobi at all. The husband was quickly stabbed to death upon opening the door to the suite, while the wife was made to suffer — and was sexually assaulted before the killer left. There seemed to be no motive, as both the bride and groom were genuinely nice people with no enemies.

The sensational nature of the case leads the SFPD chief to assign Lindsay a new partner. His name is Chris Raleigh, and he’s from the mayor’s office. He’s not even really an investigator; just more of a marketing guy brought in to contain the situation and handle the press. Though Lindsay initially dislikes Raleigh because of his slick appearance, she soon realizes that he’s trustworthy. They’ll make a good team after all.

The few clues left at the crime scene lead nowhere, and when a second murder of a newlywed couple is committed, albeit under vastly different circumstances, Lindsay feels it’s time to approach the case in an unorthodox manner. She assembles a group of women who are all connected with the case in some way: Claire Washburn, the M.E. and Lindsay’s oldest friend; Cindy Thomas, an up-and-coming crime reporter covering the story; and Jill Barnhart, the would-be prosecutor for the case. The women, working unofficially, combine their information and eventually come up with the solution.

Liked:

  • Incredibly, this was the first James Patterson book I’ve ever read! I say incredibly because I actually like this crime/thriller genre, so you’d think I’d have picked up one of his titles before. Anyway, I was suitably impressed by 1st to Die and will definitely be reading more — much more!
  • The pacing of this novel was very good. Things didn’t unfold at breakneck speed, nor did the plot unwind at a snail’s pace. Instead, everything came in good time, and there were no boring parts at all. Really, I can’t recall a single part where I thought, “Oh, hurry up and get back to the good stuff already!”.
  • All the women in the Murder Club seem pretty interesting. They all have quite distinct characteristics, and they mesh well together. The only one I don’t really have a feel for yet is Jill, but that’s probably because she was a late-comer.
  • Usually I can’t stand love scenes in crime/thrillers, but I thought Patterson handled the ones in this book very well. I mean, seriously, Michael Connelly needs to take some lessons from this because his Harry Bosch love scenes are eye-rolling crap, comparatively speaking!
  • The mystery itself was very intriguing. I had a feeling that it wasn’t going to be Nichoals Jenks because he was the first and only suspect they keyed in on. Usually in these books, the solution is never that straightforward. That was a good twist at the end, which I didn’t call. And when I did start putting the pieces together, I focused on the ex-wife instead of the current one. Oops!

Disliked:

  • There wasn’t much to dislike in this book, but I have to admit that I didn’t particularly care for the extra twist in the epilogue, where Jenks comes after Lindsay in her apartment. That seemed tacked on, and served to somewhat dampen the shock of Chessy being the killer. Having the crime spree be a collaborative effort between Chessy and Nicholas, be some sort of sick sexual role play for them, just didn’t feel as right as having Chessy alone be the killer.

Rating:

I was very pleasantly surprised by 1st to Die, and am now kicking myself for not having picked up James Patterson a long time ago. This was a well-paced thriller with solid characters and an engrossing plot that had me guessing at the killer’s identity until the very end. I give it 4 stars out of 5.

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