4 stars out of 5
Let me say this at the start: I don't like cliffhangers, mostly because by the time the next book in a series comes out I've totally forgotten how the previous one ended. In this case, it's even worse because I absolutely hate the circumstances (an emotion that is exacerbated, of course, because I can't reveal anything specific in a review without spoiling the book for others). That, and a plot that's a titch on the far-fetched side, puts my actual rating somewhere between 3.5 and 4 stars.
All in all, though, this is another relatively solid entry in the Women's Murder Club series; I've maintained for years that Maxine Paetro is my favorite in Patterson's stable of co-authors, and I'll give her another pat on the back for the better parts in this one.
For those who might be unfamiliar, the informal club is a group of four women, all good friends with successful careers that are different, but overlap: Lindsay Boxer (the centerpiece), a San Francisco Police Department detective; Claire Washburn, the San Francisco chief medical examiner; Yuki Castellano, an attorney who's married to Lindsay's boss Jackson Brady; and Cindy Thomas, a journalist for the San Francisco Chronicle. In all the books, some facet of the plot touches on all of them to some degree or another - and there's always at least one heart-to-heart get-together, usually at the table of a local pub.
Also usually, one of the four draws the short straw. In this one, Yuki pretty much gets lost in the shuffle, while Cindy, who is chasing down the story of multiple murders in a luxury hotel and a major disaster affecting hundreds of people, plays a larger role. Claire does her usual thing while conducting autopsies of the damage, and once again, there's a mention of assistant Dr. Germaniuk. The real one, for the record, is the long-time medical examiner and coroner of Trumbull County, Ohio, where I live; he's also a long-time consultant to Patterson on medical issues.
Lindsay, married to former cop Joe Molinari (with whom she has a baby daughter), is called to that hotel to investigate four murders: An Asian man, two young people occupying the room next door and a hotel maid. Judging from security tapes, the murders seem to involve a beautiful blond woman who has performed a disappearing act. Clues are elusive, and adding to the mystery is Joe, who seems to have gone missing as well. Not long thereafter, the city is hit with bombshell news and, as a result, another case that could well be tied to the hotel murders - and quite possibly Lindsay's missing husband.
And therein lies my biggest issue with this book: Given the circumstances, Lindsay understandably is worried about her missing husband. But calling his cell phone (to no avail) is about the only thing she does to track him down; surely a top-notch detective like her would do more. And as details about the two cases begin to unravel, so does Lindsay; her emotional roller roaster is really hard for me to take, especially when it threatens to run her marriage (to a guy she supposedly loves with all her heart) into the ground.
15th Affair by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro (Little, Brown and Co., May 2016); 351 pp.