Hard-boiled whodunit keeps things fresh with varying POVs

Annie Yoskoski, Staff Writer

In James Patterson’s “First to Die,” Detective Lindsay Boxer of the San Francisco Police Department has a large problem on her hands: a serial killer intent on ending the lives of newly betrothed wealthy couples.

Even though Lindsay is a decorated police officer, she and her partner, Warren Jacobi, cannot crack this case alone. When the case stalls and the FBI is called in to help the homicide department, Lindsay feels that the investigation is going in the wrong direction. She wants take matters into her own hands. Lindsay gets by, however, with a little help from her friends.

Claire Washburn is Lindsay’s best friend, and the chief medical examiner. Cindy Thomas joins these two women following the story of the “Bride and Groom” murders, hoping to make the front page as the senior writer at the San Francisco Chronicle crime desk. Finally thrown into the mix is assistant district attorney Jill Bernhardt, the prosecutor who needs all the evidence that she can get. These four women make a group of talented, powerful individuals and form what they call “The Women’s Murder Club”, taking on the case from different perspectives and utilizing all the resources they can.

The first novel in a series, Patterson alternates viewpoints from each short chapter to the next, writing from the perspective of all four women and the killer. The constant switching of characters is not as confusing as one might think, because every piece fits together. This isn’t Patterson’s typical hard-boiled detective novel, but it’s also not the clumsy amateur-finds-out-a-big secret cozy mystery either. It’s rare to find a detective novel with multiple heroes, but Patterson juggles all four women, the killer, and their separate lives with ease, even giving Lindsay Boxer a love interest. Everything intertwines at the end.

One would think with so much detail that Patterson would make it easy to find out “whodunit.” Think again. One of the best parts of this novel is the ending, which comes as a complete surprise to the reader. Just when the book seems to close and everything is nice and tidy, another twist is thrown in in the epilogue. The ability of Patterson to constantly keep his readers on edge and still make everything plausible and interesting is a rare talent in writers today.

If you like detective shows on television like “Law and Order,” “Castle,” “NCIS,” or any of the others you will love reading “First to Die.”

5 stars out of 5