4 stars out of 5
I'm still on the fence when it comes to the concept of BookShots, the project spearheaded by very prolific author James Patterson. The intent, I've read, is to produce thrillers that sell for around $4.99 and are no longer than 150 pages. Some are standalones, while others are rooted in some of Patterson's popular series including Alex Cross and, like this one, the Women's Murder Club.
My mugwump attitude isn't because I want to see the concept fail; in fact, as authors struggle to make anywhere near decent amounts for their writing efforts, I think it's a clever idea that has merit. The books are affordable and perfect, I'd think, for something to do while waiting in the doctor's office or catching a red-eye flight. But I've never been much of a short story fan - and when stripped down to the nitty gritty, that's pretty much what these are - so my personal enthusiasm isn't very high.
For the record, I read one, a standalone titled The Witnesses, back in July (it earned 4 stars from me as well). After I finished and had a better idea of how these books would play out, I first said that for me it would be one and done; later, I changed my mind and decided to someday try one involving my personal favorites just to test those waters. A few months later, I spotted this one, and away I went.
As I already knew, it's way too short for my liking - I polished it off in just under an hour (actually, just 85% of the book is the actual story; the remainder is a four-chapter "special excerpt" of another BookShots entry featuring Detective Alex Cross). Besides that, any sort of balance among the four Women's Murder Club members (San Francisco Medical Examiner Claire, attorney Yuki, hot-shot crime reporter Cindy and Detective Lindsay) is pretty much nonexistent. While Lindsay usually takes the center front stage, the others typically get fairly strong supporting roles; but here, not so much - hardly at all, in fact.
On the other hand, as short stories go, I have to say it's pretty good. As regular series readers already know, Lindsay and her husband Joe have separated, although they still love each other and share a love for their young daughter Julie. When club members gather for one of their regular restaurant meetups, Lindsay gets a phone call from her partner Rich, who tells her the notorious Mexican gangster dubbed the Kingfisher is back in town. That's especially disturbing since, as far as the police are concerned, he's dead.
But surprise - he's not only very much alive, but apparently has committed two murders. He's then charged and is awaiting trial - a process that quickly goes to hell in a handbasket, turning the entire city upside down.
Because it's so short, there's little more I can say without giving away too much (except that unlike a few other reviewers, I thought the ending was great). So for those who like a shorter format and Patterson's work, I'd say this one is worth a try. As for me, though, it's over and out.
The Trial: A BookShot: A Women's Murder Club Story by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro (BookShots, July 2016); 144 pp.