4th of July by James Patterson

January 23, 2010

4th-of-july-patterson Plot summary (with spoilers): It seems that things in Lieutenant Lindsay Boxer’s life simply can’t go smoothly for very long. With crime on the rise in San Francisco, everyone on the police force is putting in extra hours, yet they’re still woefully understaffed. As a result, Boxer herself partners up with Warren Jacobi again in response to a new murder. The investigators catch a break when an eyewitness gives them a partial license plate and vehicle description.

A couple days later, Jacobi phones Lindsay to say that the car has been spotted. He then picks Lindsay up, the two of them tail the car — and end up getting in a high-speed chase with the occupants, who turn out to be a 15-year-old and a 13-year-old. The kids have guns, and open fire on Jacobi and Lindsay, hitting both. Lindsay has no choice but to shoot back. She kills the girl, and injures the boy, leaving him wheelchair bound for the rest of his life. Incredibly, the children’s parents decide to sue Lindsay for police brutality and use of excessive force. So she’s off active duty for most of the novel while the trial takes place.

Lindsay decides that it would be best to get out of the city for a while, so she uses her vacation time to stay at her sister Cat’s place at Half Moon Bay. While there, she learns that a series of gruesome murders have taken place over the years, something like 9 in all. All the victims had their throats cut and were whipped with a leather belt. Lindsay is intrigued by the case, and begins investigating on her own. Grudgingly, the sheriff of Half Moon Bay asks for her help, as his team is getting nowhere.

From there, the book follows both plot lines, switching back and forth from the court case to the murder investigation. Along the way, Claire and Cindy, the two other surviving members of the Women’s Murder Club, make cursory appearances, and Lindsay’s new lawyer Yuki Castellano looks like she may end up joining the group. Lindsay actually ends up cracking this case without the help of her friends, though, so calling this the fourth installment of the Women’s Murder Club series is a bit misleading.

Liked:

  • I liked the fact that the authors actually threw some red herrings into the story. Usually, they don’t bother hiding the identity of the killer(s), but this time, there was a definite attempt at misleading the reader (fairly) with all the Dennis Agnew stuff.
  • The change of scene to Half Moon Bay was an interesting choice. I know in the previous book, part of the investigation took Lindsay to Portland, OR, but this was the first time that she was on a case that didn’t originate in SF. It’s nice to get some different descriptions for a change.
  • There was plenty of Sweet Martha in the book! I know it’s silly, but I like the scenes involving Lindsay bonding with her dog.
  • I like the Yuki Castellano character thus far, and would be perfectly ok if she joined the club.

Disliked:

  • If Lindsay was on leave pending the outcome of the civil trial, wouldn’t she have had to turn in her badge and service weapon? I’m not sure here, just asking. Maybe it’s different for civil versus criminal trials. But anyway, the fact that she still carried these things around seemed like a plot hole to me and served as a distraction.
  • Once again, the other ladies in the Women’s Murder Club barely showed up and didn’t help with Lindsay’s investigation at all. What’s the point of having this premise if the authors aren’t even going to use it?
  • There was very little character development in this book. When a series is involved, I want to see the main character show some growth and change, but Lindsay is pretty much the same as she was in the second book. She claims to have been devastated by Jill’s death, but nothing substantial changed because of the loss. She was just continuing on her merry way here.
  • I wish the authors had focused on the connection between the murder victims a lot more than they did. Isn’t this one of the first things cops check for in serial killer cases anyway? Connections between the victims? Like if they ate at the same restaurants or got their auto insurance quote from the same agents? It would have made things far more interesting to the reader to learn early on that the victims were in truth bad people and that the killers were exacting vigilante justice. This would have provided for some conflicting feelings, such as perhaps wanting the killers to get away with their crimes. As it was, however, the killers were just presented as sadistic murderers with no clear motive. What a missed opportunity!
  • Lindsay was shot again? Seriously, how many times has that been now? Two? Three? And we’re just in the fourth book. Wow.

Rating:

I thought 4th of July by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro was a decent read. It was fast, the murder plot was ok, and Lindsay is still a likable character. Plus, I’ve learned to lower my expectations for this series after realizing that the excellent first installment was likely a fluke. As a result, I’m not expecting much more than a quick weekend escape when I sit down with one of these titles and am therefore not disappointed to get average fare. I give this book 3 stars out of 5.

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