How can three women vanish without a trace? That’s what Sgt. Lindsay Boxer has to figure out in “The 18th Abduction” by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro.
The Women’s Murder Club has a real puzzle on their hands. Three school teachers – friends and co-workers – go out on the town one night and disappear. They were well-liked by everyone at work, no enemies, and seemingly had uncomplicated private lives. How could all three turn up missing at the same time? Boxer and Inspector Richie Conklin, her partner in the San Francisco Police Department, have no ideas and no evidence. The mystery only deepens after a body is found at a seedy hotel.
Meanwhile, FBI agent Joe Molinari is wrapped up in a case involving a traumatized Bosnian war survivor who thinks she’s spotted a convicted war criminal in San Francisco. One catch: the man’s supposed to be dead. Can Joe trust Anna saw what she thinks she saw? And if she is right, how can they bring him to justice?
Boxer and Molinari compare notes, but still can’t make headway on either case, which frustrates both of them no end. When another person disappears, they realize they’ve run out of time and need to take desperate measures before more dead bodies turn up.
Patterson and Paetro started The Women’s Murder Club with “1st to Die” in 2001 and haven’t lost the knack for fast-paced, tense thrillers that keep you turning pages. A lot of times, when authors are this far into a series, it gets more and more difficult to keep the stories fresh and the characters compelling. This duo hits the ground running and never lets up on the accelerator.
“The 18th Abduction” starts in the present with Boxer and Molinari traveling to The Netherlands, then goes back five years to the original case. Going back in time when the reader already knows some of what’s happened to the characters is tricky because it can spoil suspense. Patterson and Paetro never let that happen. They keep the suspense level high and throw in some surprises as Boxer and Conklin work the local kidnapping and Molinari plays cat and mouse with a dangerous man while investigating a horrific war on the other side of the globe. I have to warn you, the details on the war crimes are brutal, and may be too much for some readers.
I’ve always liked the characters in this series: Lindsay the detective; Claire the medical examiner; Yuki the lawyer; and Cindy the newspaper reporter, along with the assorted men in their lives. Their lives and jobs wind around each other and illustrate how solving these cases is a team job, not the work of just the main character.
I do like how Patterson and Paetro show the jobs these women and men do from the inside. Claire’s medical knowledge often points Lindsay in the right direction to catch a killer. Yuki takes all Lindsay and Claire’s evidence and uses it to prosecute the guilty parties. Having said that, I was surprised and disappointed with how small a role Yuki has in this one. She’s a fun, effervescent character and gives energy to every page she’s on. I hope she has a bigger role in the next book.
One of the things I really like seeing is the relationship between Lindsay the cop and Cindy the reporter. Personally, they get along quite well. Professionally, it can be tricky when Lindsay wants to discuss the case with her friends and get feedback, but both she and Cindy realize that for the investigation’s sake, Cindy can’t print any of it yet. Sometimes Lindsay uses Cindy’s job to get information out to the public and sometimes Cindy gets tips from the public she passes along to Lindsay, which help move the case along. I like that Patterson and Paetro have done their homework into what reporters can and cannot do.
It’s also nice to know Patterson and Paetro pay attention to current news events and keep their fiction timely.
All the elements work together for a good read that will keep you up at night and give you something to think about after the last page is read.
For more information, visit jamespatterson.com and read about all the books he’s created over his lengthy career, including the next one in The Women’s Murder Club, “The 19th Christmas,” which will come out in October.