'Til Death Do Us Part

The first outing by James Patterson's new dragonslayer fails to impress.

After a string of hits with his Alex Cross series, James Patterson seems to have decided that the time is ripe for a new character - and in "1st to Die", he introduces us all to Lindsay Boxer, a detective inspector with the San Francisco Police Department's Homicide unit. As the novel opens, Lindsay is called upon to investigate a mysterious spree of killings; apparently, a vicious serial killer is on the loose in the city by the Bay, slaughtering newlyweds within forty-eight hours of their wedding.

As the death toll mounts, Lindsay turns to her three best friends - a medical examiner, a reporter and a DA - for help. Together, the four women form a loose alliance, the Women's Murder Club, to identifya nd apprehend the killer. Working outside the usual chains of command, they succeed...only to have the entire case suddenly turn upside-down...

From this point onwards, "1st To Die" becomes a roller-coaster ride of thrills, with the four ladies doing their best to stay ahead of a killer who seems to have thought out all the angles. Fighting a baying press corps, internal office politics, a deadly blood disease, and her feelings for her handsome new assistant, Lindsay has her work cut out for her - and Patterson makes sure that the twists will keep you flipping the pages well into the night.

Despite the numerous threads running through the story, however, "1st To Die" fails to impress. Patterson's less adept at describing the female of the species than the male - his descriptions of Lindsay's emotions and thoughts often seem a little off-center, as is his description of the so-called Women's Murder Club. While the first half of the novel is impressive, the second half, with its audience-pleasing twists and turns and contrived ending, is disappointing, and left me completely cold. Not worth the sticker price, unless you're a die-hard Patterson fan!

This article was first published on24 May 2001.