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Detective Lindsay Boxer is jogging along a beautiful San Francisco street as a ferocious blast rips through the neighbourhood. A townhouse owned by an internet magnate explodes into flames, three people die and a sinister note signed 'August Spies' is found at the scene. A wave of violence is sweeping through the city - and it seems that whoever is behind it is intent on killing someone every three days.
Even more terrifying, the four friends who call themselves the Women's Murder Club discover that the killer has targeted one of them. And Lindsay learns that a member of the club is hiding a secret so dangerous and unbelievable that it could destroy them all.
From the start, Patterson's Women's Murder Club series (1st to Die; Second Chance) has felt like high-concept TV with a smart edge, featuring an appealing and reliable cast of four female crime busters (a cop, a prosecutor, a medical examiner, a reporter) who race along byzantine plot lines humming with blood and sex, romance and heartbreak. But Patterson is an author who will detonate readers' presumptions for the sake of story, and in the series' third installment, the prolific author, working with frequent collaborator Gross (The Jester, etc.), defies expectations in a shocking way. Readers will love him for it. San Francisco Homicide lieutenant Lindsay Boxer, who narrates most of the action, is jogging with assistant DA Jill Barnhardt when Lindsay notices two things: first, bruises on Jill's shoulder; then the explosion of a nearby townhouse, into which Lindsay rushes to save a child. With the juxtaposition of these two plotlines, Patterson jumpstarts this enjoyably convoluted tale. The townhouse, home to a greedy CEO and his family, was destroyed by members of a terrorist group calling itself "August Spies"; Lindsay's chase after the group, which commits further killings, brings her into close proximity to what promises to be a new series regular, Joe Molinari, deputy director of the Office of Homeland Security. Love blooms for Lindsay but, meanwhile, love has curdled at Jill's house, where Jill's husband is abusing her. Then comes the big surprise, and the story's remainder plays out at high emotion and warp speed. There's a calculated feel to all that happens, but clever manipulation of an audience serves Patterson as well as it served Hitchcock: his fans will only clamor for more. (One-day laydown Mar. 1)