Monday, January 16, 2012

Book Review: The 9th Judgment

This book should have taken me three hours to read.

Instead, it took me three days.

Now, most of you know that this in and of itself is unusual. More unusual was the fact that I seriously considered not finishing it at all.

I've enjoyed the Women's Murder Club series for quite a while. It's been entertaining enough, and while I know that I've been behind, per usual, I finally got a copy of this and borrowed my grandmother's copy of 10th Anniversary and have been meaning to read them both for a while.

So what's the problem? This book commits the cardinal literary sin. It is boring as hell.

Let's start here: we know who the villains are in the first ten pages. We know exactly who they are, and within twenty-five pages, we know how the two cases are intricately connected in one of the most idiotic plots ever. Pete, a Iraq vet with some serious problems, is married to Heidi and has two kids. Pete is killing women and their babies because he can. Heidi is carrying on a lesbian relationship with Sarah, who is a teacher living a second life as a jewel thief and who is similarly married to an abusive husband. She breaks into a house and and the husband, Marcus, an actor, uses the opportunity to kill his wife (who is a friend of Heidi's, oddly enough).

Don't yell at me for spoilers. Almost all of this is outlined in the first twenty pages of the book. Only Pete's seeming 'reason' is held back, and it's contrived beyond belief, as is the ending, where Heidi goes into witness protection and is allowed to take Sarah with her (Sarah, who then mails all the jewels she's stolen back to Boxer, partly because she now has an out from her abusive marriage and partly because she doesn't want to take the rap for the murder of Marcus' wife).

Then there's the problems with the shift in perspective. We keep going from third person limited in Pete and Sarah's POVs, to Lindsey Boxer's first person point of view. It's enough to make your head spin.

It has more white space than type--chapters should last longer than two or three hundred words. A two or three hundred word chapter isn't artistic. It's lazy.

Things only pick up at the end of the book in the last two sections--after the case has wrapped up--when Boxer thinks Joe's been killed in a plane crash. Only he hasn't. So then they take some time off, and it turns out that she may have just inadvertently passed up her opportunity at promotion by being incommunicado. What happens next? You'll have to read 10th Anniversary to find out!

Uh, no. I won't. I'm sorry, but even though there is a little piece of me wanting to peek at the opening pages of 10th Anniversary to see what happened, I refuse. I simply refuse. The only reason I finished this book was pure stubbornness.

The odd thing is, I've liked James Patterson before. I remember liking the previous installments of the Women's Murder Club. I've only read the first two Alex Cross books--sorry, serial killers tend to prey on young women, which I still am, so I think I'll pass--but they also struck me as being well-written, despite the incongruity of James Patterson writing a black man. I don't know if the problem is Patterson or Maxine Paetro, the co-writer of the WMC books (and, who I suspect, is the main force behind them at this point, given Patterson's penchant for farming books out to co-writers, much the way that Clive Cussler has done). And perhaps it's me--it's been quite a while since I've read a WMC book, and it's possible that my taste has changed, but The 9th Judgment is not a good read.

Final Grade: D+

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