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The 11th Hour Whizzes By

  • Glenn McCarty Contributing Writer
  • 2012 24 May
<i>The 11th Hour</i> Whizzes By

Author: James Patterson & Maxine Paetro

Title: The 11th Hour

Publisher: Little, Brown, and Co.

James Patterson's Women's Murder Club series of novels have been one of several wildly successful ventures for the thriller kingpin. Begun in 2001, the series has spawned 10 sequels, video games, and even a short-lived network television spinoff. A read through the latest installment in this series, The 11th Hour - all the entries find a clever way to work the series number into the title - finds more of the same surface-skimming page turning at work in a palatable, if not very memorable, mystery.

This edition finds Detective Lindsay Boxer - the narrator and protagonist of the series - pregnant and burdened by two baffling cases. The big ticket case involves a murder at the home of movie star Harry Chandler at the famous Ellsworth home, a massive historical compound in San Francisco. A row of skulls is discovered in Chandler's backyard, a fact made dubious due to the fact that Chandler beat a murder rap on the suspicious disappearance of his wife several years earlier. The riddle of this case, which involves mysterious numbers and the bizarre staging of the skulls, makes for a tasty puzzle.

The other case finds Boxer on the heels of a vigilante cop - dubbed "Revenge" by the authorities - who is knocking off high profile drug dealers. Boxer dives into both, along with her partner Conklin, growing more attached to the Revenge case when suspicions fall on her former partner, Warren Jacobi. Boxer is torn between her professional obligations and her loyalty to Jacobi, as she wonders, "Do you ever really know someone?"

The authors bounce back and forth between the two cases skillfully, even finding time for a subplot involving Boxer suspecting her husband Joe of infidelity after a shady newspaper reporter snaps photos of the two of them canoodling outside a restaurant. Unfortunately, this subplot doesn't do much for the story, except allow Boxer to perform the standard bury-herself-in-work routine until Joe clears his name by the end of the novel.

Despite being a part of the Women's Murder Club series, precious little time in the book is devoted to meetings of the Club. In addition to being one the series' calling cards, this trope has the potential to build character and add some unique elements to an otherwise straightforwardly-played crime procedural. Instead Boxer meets only a few times with her other three cohorts in the "Club," instead working solo or in the company of her partner.

All in all, 11th Hour is a quick, enjoyable crime procedural. It's not any more riveting or ingeniously devised than what you might see on this week's episode of Criminal Minds or Castle, which is both a strength and a weakness. Patterson and Paetro certainly have this genre down to a science by now, and 11th Hour whizzes along at a stellar clip, weaving between suspect interviews, crime scene casings, stakeouts, and cop banter with a practiced hand. In that respect, it's no wonder the Women's Murder Club has shot to the top of the bestseller list. But in another sense, shouldn't there be more to a novel than simply a fleshed-out spec script?

In the way of insight into human psychology, or at the very least, delicious escapism, this installment seems a bit half-hearted. That could be what happens when a series crosses into its second decade of life. But for future installments, Patterson and Paetro would do well to inject a little more verve into their offerings.

*This Review First Published 5/24/2012