21st Birthday by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

Today I’m pulling my usual trick by starting well into a series and reading an reviewing 21st Birthday by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro the, you guessed it, 21st book in the Women’s Murder Club series. Nothing like jumping straight in now is there, but I’m loving dipping my toe in and out of the James Patterson series. My thanks to publisher Century who sent me an advance copy for review. Here’s what the book is all about:

Source: Advance Review Copy
Release Date: 4 March 2021
Publisher: Century

About the Book

When a distraught mother pleads with San Francisco Chronicle reporter Cindy Thomas to investigate the disappearance of her daughter Tara and baby granddaughter Lorrie, Cindy immediately loops in SFPD Sergeant Lindsay Boxer. The prime suspect is Tara’s schoolteacher husband, Lucas Burke, but he tells a conflicting story that paints Tara as a wayward wife, not a missing person.

While the city’s chief medical examiner, Claire Washburn, harbours theories that run counter to the police investigation of the Burke case, Assistant District Attorney Yuki Castellano sizes up Lucas as a textbook domestic offender – until he puts forward a theory of his own that could connect the dots on a constellation of killings.

As the case grows into something far bigger than any of them could have imagined, the four friends will need each other to help unpick the truth from a web of lies.

My Thoughts

Well if you are looking for a suspense filled, action packed, female led series then I think this is definitely going to be the one for you. With not just one, but a team of strong female protagonists leading the way, the Women’s Murder Club series seems to have. everything I love in a book – action, mystery, tension – all written in an assured and confident style which kept me glued to the story from start to finish.

The story surrounds the reported disappearance of a young woman and her daughter by her very concerned mother. The mother claims that her daughter’s marriage was strained, her son in law abusive, and yet the police have thus far failed to take her disappearance seriously, especially as the very same husband says it is no entirely out of character. The case is brought to the attention of reporter Cindy Thomas and through her, to SFPD Detective Lindsay Boxer, but I doubt any of them were prepared for what they were about to uncover. I know I wasn’t and with a mixture of emotion and apprehension we join the team as they search for a brutal killer.

I really enjoyed getting into this series and getting to know and understand a little of the dynamic between the four lead characters. It’s unusual to find a series in which the women really do rule the roost, and with a Detective, a Medical examiner, a Reporter and an ADA in the mix, all major investigative ‘food groups’ are covered. This is not simply a case of being inundated with girl power though – there is an equal presence of men who respect and are respected by the the ladies of the hour. Neither are dependant on the other, but both acknowledge the strength they gain from one another – possibly because half of the team seem married or partnered with the other half in some way. But I liked the women, liked the fact that as a group they meet up to discuss the case, as far as they legally can, and to set each other on a path towards the ultimate truth, as troubling as it may be.

This is a very twisted tale with two potential perpetrators, each casting the blame for the murders at the other’s door. As the team investigates, the more we learn about the main suspects, the harder it is to see where the true guilt lies. Enough doubt is raised, contrasting with the evidence presented, so much so that until the dying pages, we still do not really know the truth. We can suspect, we are driven down many roads towards many potential leads, but the reveal, when it comes, is both shocking and satisfying if ultimately tragic.

This is a story of a psychopath, or psychopaths – who knows. It is full of tension, dramatic action and enough suspense to keep me totally engrossed in the story right to the very end. I got a real sense of place be it in the heart of San Francisco or the remote locations that Boxer and her partner are led to, and I also got all the edge of the seat moments I love. Did I get the resolution I wanted? Maybe, maybe not. Did the end fit the story. Totally. Will I be reading more? You bet I will. Loved this. Just a little angry that it’s taken me until book twenty-one to dive in. Still – plenty to be catching up with isn’t there? I can’t wait.

About the Author

JAMES PATTERSON is one of the best-known and biggest-selling writers of all time. His books have sold in excess of 375 million copies worldwide. He is the author of some of the most popular series of the past two decades – the Alex Cross, Women’s Murder Club, Detective Michael Bennett and Private novels – and he has written many other number one bestsellers including romance novels and stand-alone thrillers.

James is passionate about encouraging children to read. Inspired by his own son who was a reluctant reader, he also writes a range of books for young readers including the Middle School, I Funny, Treasure Hunters, Dog Diaries and Max Einstein series. James has donated millions in grants to independent bookshops and has been the most borrowed author of adult fiction in UK libraries for the past eleven years in a row. He lives in Florida with his wife and son.

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