James Patterson

1st to Die

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1st to Die Summary

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The first book in the Women’s Murder Club series, James Patterson’s crime novel, 1st to Die (2005), follows a female detective investigating a grizzly double murder homicide. Critics praise the book for its complex subplots and characterization. An award-winning, internationally bestselling author, Patterson writes crime, mystery, and thriller novels for adults and children. He is the first author to ever hold the number one spot on the New York Times adult and children bestseller lists simultaneously.

Protagonist Inspector Lindsay Boxer is a homicide inspector at the San Francisco Police Department. Suffering from depression, she is planning to commit suicide when the novel opens. Doctors recently diagnosed her with a deadly blood disease called Negli’s aplastic anemia, which causes severe fatigue, weakness, and heart failure. If Lindsay can’t continue working with the police, she won’t have anything left to live for.

While Lindsay contemplates her future, she is called to a crime scene. Newlyweds have been brutally and fatally stabbed at a nearby luxury hotel, and the police need Lindsay’s expertise at the scene. The woman’s wedding dress is covered in blood, and Lindsay finds the scene distressing.

Lindsay knows she cannot solve the murders on her own, especially not in her fragile mental state. She turns to her female friends in other police departments for support. They give her the strength she needs to carry on with the investigation. Realizing that this could be her last case, Lindsay plans to give it her best shot.

Meanwhile, only Lindsay’s closest friends know about her diagnosis. Her superior allocates her a new partner, Chris Raleigh, to work with on the case. Chris specializes in high profile cases; murdered newlyweds will undoubtedly attract unwanted media attention. Chris takes over the investigation while Lindsay is demoted. Lindsay hates Chris immediately because she feels that he is taking her case away from her, though deep down, she knows he has the expertise to manage the case better than she does.

Chris makes it clear that he doesn’t care about making friends. He is only interested in finding the killer and returning to his usual cop work. This works for Lindsay; she doesn’t want to get close to anyone in case she dies. Together, Chris and Lindsay investigate the couple’s friends, family, and employers, but they can’t find any motive for the murders.

Meanwhile, Lindsay starts treatment for her disease. The treatment makes her feel unwell and exhausted, but she doesn’t tell Chris about it. She does not want anyone to think that she is weak. In the meantime, there is another double homicide, and Lindsay must investigate the case. Someone is obviously targeting newlyweds, but there is no clear motive. Even Chris struggles to find leads.

Lindsay turns once again to her female colleagues for support. Although she trusts Chris, he isn’t her friend. Lindsay and her friends decide to form the Women’s Murder Club. Lindsay is a detective, Claire is a coroner, Jill is a district attorney, and Cindy is a reporter. They will pool information and share resources because they often feel overlooked in this a male-dominated field.

As the cases go cold, Lindsay loses hope. However, she soon discovers that the wedding dresses hold a vital clue. Both brides bought their dresses from Saks in San Francisco. Lindsay visits the store and takes witness statements, but before she makes progress, there is a third double homicide in Cleveland.

Chris and Lindsay fly out to Cleveland. They speak with the bride’s family who shows them wedding videos. Lindsay identifies a possible suspect in one of the videos. She discovers the man is Nicholas Jenks, a bestselling author living in San Francisco. There is no obvious motive, and Chris doubts he is the killer, but Lindsay is sure of it.

Chris agrees to pursue Jenks, but only if they find concrete evidence. Jenks is famous and pursuing him could attract unwanted media attention, jeopardizing the case if they’re wrong. Lindsay throws herself into the case because her medical treatment isn’t working. The doctors worry that she will die. Lindsay vows to solve these horrible murders if it is the last thing she does.

Lindsay checks out Jenks’s books because they might contain clues. One of Jenks’s early books involves murdered newlyweds. Studying the book, Lindsay realizes that the fictional crime scene resembles the real murder scenes. Chris takes over and orders Jenks’s arrest, but the case doesn’t end there.

Jenks’s ex-wife, Joanna, is the real killer, but she set up Jenks. Lindsay pursues Joanna with Chris. She loses track of Chris who takes down Joanna alone. Joanna shoots Chris and he dies. Lindsay shoots Joanna before she can kill anyone else, and the murders are solved. Meanwhile, doctors see that Lindsay is responding to treatment after all.

Just as Lindsay is celebrating her prognosis, another twist strikes. Jenks catches up with her. He wants to talk about the case. Lindsay doesn’t want to think about it anymore, because she feels responsible for Chris’s death. Jenks, however, has news for Lindsay—he is the real killer, after all. He framed Joanna. Lindsay kills Jenks before he can kill her.