Wednesday, October 21, 2020

“2nd Chance” by James Patterson and Andrew Gross – Victim of a Miracle

2nd Chance by James Patterson and Andrew Gross (Book cover)
James Patterson and Andrew Gross are without doubt two of the best and most prominent murder mystery writers, and for everyone's pleasure they decided to collaborate on 2nd Chance, the second entry into the Women's Murder Club series. 

The story follows an investigation centred around a curious public shooting outside a San Francisco church, where miraculously only a single specific victim was killed.

James Patterson and Andrew Gross Unleash the Chimera

I remember sometime around twenty years ago, public shootings were tragic and unusual news capable of sweeping an entire country with grief and compassion. Today, they seem like a routine part of American life, to the point where they tend to get lost with the rest of the useless items in any news cycle. For the killer in 2nd Chance by James Patterson and Andrew Gross, it's just a brutal means to an end.

The second book in the Women's Murder Club series headed by Patterson opens with a crime which overtly seems miraculous in its nature. Someone opens fire on a crowd of boys leaving church choir practice, and despite the chaotic nature of the shooting, only a single victim was felled. For most people, it's a sign of providence. However, there are some minds in the city who know much better.

Once again we meet up with Lindsay Boxer, a homicide inspector who has a few people to back her up, including the medical examiner Claire, the assistant D. A. Jill, and Cindy the Chronicle reporter. Her instincts and experience on the force do tell her there is much more to this story than first meets the eye, and so the Women's Murder Club embarks on another thrilling and twisted investigation.

As if the shooting itself wasn't enough, an elderly black woman is also found hung shortly after, raising a climate of fear and paranoia in San Francisco. The four women roll up their sleeves to dig deeper and deeper, bound to uncover ties and links despicable enough to have repercussions on the entire nation.

Taking us across the state lines in search of a killer with an unthinkable motivation and an even more impressive ability to stay ten steps ahead of the law, Lindsay Boxer has her work cut out for her, facing off against a foe more cunning than she could have ever imagined.

The Patterson Structure in 2nd Chance

While I often do praise novels for attempts and ingenuity and breaking away from recognizable structures, I also think there is very much a place for books which offer a certain amount of predictable and familiar elements, just enough to reassure the reader they'll be getting what they expect.

This was applicable to the Hercule Poirot series by Agatha Christie, one of my all-time favourites, and I think it's also quite applicable to the Women's murder Club. While I can't say I've read the entirety of his bibliography (which can be difficult with his quick turnarounds), the structure we see in 2nd Chance is what cements itself as the standard for the rest of the series.

Essentially, the premise for the novels in this series is very simple, and might I say, quite gratifying when it's what you're looking for. It always begins with some sort of horrible criminal on the loose after having committed a puzzling crime, prompting the club girls to get together and discuss everything they know, as well as everything they don't.

From there on out, they follow the clues, eventually unmask the murderer and his or her motivation, Lindsay Boxer does her job and the world keeps on turning just like it did before. It's quite a simple structure with nothing fancy, but I think it's quite effective in delivering a straightforward investigative thriller without any superfluous padding which I think few of us can stand at this point.

Additionally, with this being said, just because the structure is simple doesn't mean the case itself cannot be complex or enthralling. On the contrary, it gives Patterson quite a bit of room to work his imagination, and even though I can only imagine how difficult it can be to write a truly original and unique thriller nowadays, he does manage to include unexpected elements and effective twists.

A Romp through the San Francisco Darkness

With good endings all but guaranteed in the Women's Murder Club series, it's a little too easy to imagine the adventures of Lindsay and her cohorts as being more of a lighthearted nature. However, while there are a few comedic moments here and there, the brunt of the story feels dark in its nature, and there is quite a good bit of mature content to be found.

Patterson and Gross don't try to keep their ladies safe and away from the action, consistently plunging them into various types of peril, and with this I do have a small gripe. Lindsay Boxer finds her life threatened on several occasions, but her plot armour becomes a little too apparent after a certain point, and I think Patterson and Gross could have asked us to suspend our disbelief less than they did.

Nevertheless, the few moments of questionable writing decisions can easily be overcome, I believe, thanks to the quick and thrilling nature of the investigation, taking us through not only the dark nooks and crannies of San Francisco, but also across different states as well. The investigation rarely slows down in its pace, and there are a good amount of well-written action scenes thrown in for good measure.

2nd Chance by James Patterson and Andrew Gross (Book cover)
I've never been to the city myself (and current climate taken into account, I doubt I'll see it anytime soon), but the authors do a good at job at describing it with the kinds of small details you won't find in history books, really breathing life into the place. I think the varied and vibrant cultural elements make it a setting with a good amount of potential, as far as murder mysteries are concerned.

The Final Verdict

2nd Chance by James Patterson and Andrew Gross is a very welcome continuation to the Women's Murder Club Series, presenting us with an interesting and far-reaching investigation conducted by characters we can certainly get behind, taking place in a lively San Francisco filled with secrets.

If you've enjoyed the first novel in the series and are looking for more, or just searching for a quality murder mystery for a bit of fun, then I do recommend you read this novel, and have a look at the rest of the series as well.

James B. Patterson (Author)

James B. Patterson

Personal site

James Patterson is an American writer who has dedicated a large part of his literary career to writing murder-related thrillers, inventing in the process two memorable character-based series in Alex Cross and Michael Bennett.

His most prominent works include Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider.

Andrew Gross (Author)

Andrew Gross

Personal site

Andrew Gross is an American author who primarily specializes in thriller novels, four of which have become New York Times bestsellers, including Button Man and The Fifth Column.

He has also collaborated on a few novels with James Patterson, including 2nd Chance and 3rd Degree.

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