The Women's Murder Club used to be about four friends in different, yet related lines of work, who used their unique perspectives to solve challenging police cases. Now, the stories are less about a great plot and more about finding a narrative to fit the number. I'm not even sure they had twenty victims in the The 20th Victim, and worse, I'm not sure I even care any more.

'The 20th Victim' is a lost set of disparate stories hoping to be found and woven into one. Its hope did not come true. There no longer seems to be crime solving, just appearing at crime scenes. Lindsey and Conklin held meetings and opened doors for each other. Joe was presented with a death his best pal convinced him was a crime, which was solved out of thin air. Cindy whined about a fellow journalist she didn't trust, Yuki was conflicted about a case and Claire inexplicably made decisions that included neither her girl gang, nor her husband. Amazingly it was all resolved: a badly wrapped present with a pretty little bow. The 20th Victim has become less crime fiction and more soap opera, with two of the four women married to men who work with a third.

The writing of 'The 20th Victim', at best, is as choppy as a gaggle of school girls playing hopscotch, each on separate set of squares, down the block from each other. One moment Joe and Lindsey were falling asleep after moments of love and the next time Joe appears, the next morning, is four chapters later, when he is waking up in Napa at his friends house after surprise! a "late-night call". Really? Is that the best the authors can do? I think not. In the early partnership between the authors the narrative was so seamless it was impossible to detect there were co-authors. Now it feel as if there are a dozen, none of them talking to any others and certainly not edited.

An often asked question of series books is do they need to be read in order. The answer for The Women's Murder Club used to be no. But, no one can pick up 'The 20th Victim' and understand the dynamics, verve and intelligence that were exemplified in the early books.

Several years ago, I pared down my Patterson must read lists a very few series that I still truly enjoyed. The Women's Murder Club is now teetering on the precipice of never being revisited.

2 Stars

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