3rd Degree: The Women's Murder Club, book 3

3rd Degree: The Women’s Murder Club, book 3

Author’s Note: This review contains discussion of a major plot spoiler.




In my typical book reviews I tend not to discuss spoilers very much. In this case, however, I will be delving into a big spoiler, but will hide it behind a button, in case you don’t wish to read it.


Detective Lindsay Boxer is jogging along a beautiful San Francisco street when a fiery explosion rips through the neighborhood. A town house owned by an Internet millionaire is immediately engulfed in flames, and when Lindsay plunges inside to search for survivors, she finds three people dead. An infant who lived in the house cannot be found; and a mysterious message at the scene leaves Lindsay and the San Francisco Police Department completely baffled.
Then a prominent businessman is found murdered under bizarre circumstances, with another mysterious message left behind by the killer. Lindsay asks her friends Claire Washburn of the medical examiner’s office, Assistant D.A. Jill Bernhardt, and Chronicle reporter Cindy Thomas to help her figure out who is committing these murders, and why they are intent on killing someone every three days.
Even more terrifying, the killer has targeted one of the four friends who call themselves the Women’s Murder Club.
©2004 James Patterson. All rights reserved; (P)2004 Time Warner Audiobooks, a division of the Time Warner Book Group


The story of ‘3rd Degree’, as it begins, is what Lindsay Boxer describes as the worst week of her entire life. It starts on a Sunday jog with her dog Martha and Assistant District Attorney Jill Bernhard. Lindsay notices that Jill has some bruising on her chest and does not buy her explanation about having hit a door.
Then she happens to be in the area when a nearby house explodes. Everyone inside the house, except the child that Lindsay is able to rescue, is killed. A baby girl and her nanny were not present at the time.
When another high profile executive is poisoned while attending a conference in San Francisco, there are clues that lead Lindsay and her squad to determine that these crimes are related. It all comes to a head when the group known as August Spies threatens the upcoming G8 Summit which is going to be held in San Francisco.
The other major development for Lindsay centers around her love life. Still grieving over the death of her lover in ‘1st to Die’, Lindsay is introduced to Deputy Director of Homeland Security Joe Molinari, with whom she eventually develops a relationship.
When one of the Women’s Murder Club members becomes a target for the group, clues are revealed that point the women towards those really behind the action. While for some, the motivation for these attacks is to right perceived wrongs committed by the powerful, for others it goes much deeper and further back.
I have to discuss one aspect of the plot which is a definite spoiler. I will hide that information behind a button, so if you don’t want to know, then don’t click the button!
Assistant District Attorney Jill Bernhard is killed off in the novel. Early in the book, it’s discovered that she’s the victim of spousal abuse from her husband who’s still upset with her over a miscarriage that occurred in the previous novel. However, it is not her husband Steve who is responsible for her death but instead the domestic terrorist group known as August Spies.
This is an interesting plot development because it accomplishes a couple of things. The first is that it proves that any of the main characters is vulnerable. Just when you start to get comfortable with Jill as a character, she is taken away, which means any of the other characters could be put in danger as well.
The second thing is that it gets rid of the weakest character in the group. Jill was never as developed as well as the other characters, and was never given as much to do. We never saw her in action as a prosecutor, and if she had never existed in the first two novels, not much of the story would have been lost. Nobody really had a handle on who she was, not even the narrators. So I think she was killed off to allow Patterson to correct a mistake in her character development and to raise the stakes for other characters in the future. She never really did have much of a moment of glory; she threw her husband out of the house after getting fed up with the abuse and then was killed later that day.
‘3rd Degree’ is a very important book in the Women’s Murder Club series. It features some major plot points that will shape a new direction for the series in the next few novels to come. I can’t say that this book does justice to all of the women in the murder club, but it does succeed as a table setter, getting things ready for better stories to come.


Patterson and Gross took the series in a couple of pretty bold directions in this novel as well as ‘2nd Chance’, addressing such topics as miscarriages and spousal abuse. The big spoiler mentioned above was a bold move, and yet I found it necessary for reasons already explained.
There are a couple of continuity issues here. In a couple of the early chapters, Claire’s husband is called Edgar before reverting back to his original name of Edmond. I’m also not sure that the timeline of events quite makes sense. At one point, it’s suggested that it has been 18 months since the events of 1st to Die , yet ‘2nd Chance’ took place three months after that, and it’s stated that this is just a few months after that. So ‘2nd Chance’ would have had to play out over nearly a year, and there is no indication that is the case. It just seems like more thought should have gone into this, but it’s a minor criticism that someone who does not obsess about continuity as much as I do will have no problem overlooking.


This is Carolyn McCormick’s debut as narrator of the series, and she will be our narrator through the tenth book in the series’ ’10th Anniversary’. I’ve already listened to several of the books in the series, and it is clear that in ‘3rd Degree’ she is still trying to find the voice for each of the characters.
The performance isn’t bad, but it isn’t a particularly memorable one either. There’s no great scene which I can call up in my head and just hear it without actually having to go back and play it. Those are pretty rare, honestly, but for a character like Cindy, as an example, I still hear Suzanne Toren’s vocal characteristics when I think of that character. And she only read the first novel.


You should know what you’re getting by now with these tracks – a few sound effects sprinkled throughout the book to help set the atmosphere or convey a big moment and some opening and closing music. Audio chapter stops are placed about every twenty or so book chapters instead of matching up with each book’s chapter. This track sounded so much better than what I heard on ‘2nd Chance’.


Some big things happen in ‘3rd Degree,’ some of them are covered in the spoiler section above. This is also the last of the novels to really feature a single plot that involves all of the members of the Women’s Murder Club. There is an upcoming shift in story structure starting with Book 4, and in general it is a change for the positive.
This is easily the most eventful of the three books in the series so far. It shuffles the deck nicely for what is to come in the future, and in that sense I think this is not a book that can easily be skipped.


Title Author Narrator Publisher Genre Release Date Running Time Score
3rd Degree: Women’s Murder Club, Book 3 James Patterson, Andrew Gross Carolyn McCormick Hachette Audio Mystery & Thriller 02/26/2004 6 hours, 47 minutes 7.75/10


A copy of ‘3RD DEGREE: WOMEN’S MURDER CLUB, BOOK 3’ was purchased from Audible for review.