53 pages 1 hour read

James Patterson

1st to Die

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2001

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Summary and Study Guide


1st to Die (2001), by bestselling author James Patterson, is the first novel in The Women’s Murder Club series. The club features four friends—San Francisco homicide detective Lindsay Boxer, medical examiner Claire Washburn, crime reporter Cindy Thomas, and assistant district attorney Jill Bernhardt—who work together, both professionally and personally, to solve crimes. In this first novel, the club works to solve the Honeymoon Murders, the killing of three couples just after their weddings. 1st to Die was adapted into a made for television movie in 2003 starring Tracy Pollen.

This guide refers to the 2001 paperback version of the novel published by Grand Central Publishing in arrangement with Little, Brown and Company.

Please note: This novel features descriptions of domestic abuse, sexual assault, and other forms of violence. It also features descriptions of suicidality and suicidal ideation. If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts or a crisis, please reach out immediately to the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.

Plot Summary

Inspector Lindsay Boxer is diagnosed with aplastic anemia, a rare and potentially fatal blood disorder, on the same morning she is called to a double homicide. The victims are newlyweds David and Melanie Brandt. Lindsay inspects the crime scene and becomes uncharacteristically emotional. As she is leaving, she meets reporter Cindy Thomas, who offers Lindsay her business card.

Captain Chris Raleigh takes charge of the case for the mayor’s office. Lindsay and Chris clash over the first steps in the investigation after Dr. Claire Washburn, the medical examiner, informs them that the tuxedo jacket found at the scene does not belong to the male victim. Lindsay wants to interview all the wedding guests, but Chris wants to tread lightly since many of the guests are high profile people.

The first week of the investigation does not turn up many leads. The following Sunday, Chris calls Lindsay to let her know another newlywed couple, Michael and Becky DeGeorge, has disappeared in Napa Valley after an odd anonymous phone call to their hotel. As Lindsay and Chris speak to the Napa detective, Cindy shows up and confesses to having followed Lindsay all weekend. Lindsay decides to invite Cindy and Clair to dinner. The three women hit it off and discuss the case. Lindsay shares inside information with them in hopes they can help her find new avenues to explore.

The bodies of the DeGeorges are discovered. Both are missing their wedding rings, just like the Brandts. Claire performs the postmortems and discovers that, like Melanie Brandt, Becky DeGeorge was sexually assaulted, and that the killer left behind a beard hair. Lindsay determines that Melanie Brandt and Becky DeGeorge got their dresses from the bridal department at Saks 5th Avenue, which had its bridal information stolen a month ago, possibly providing the connection between the two couples.

As Lindsay investigates these crimes, she finds herself drawn to Chris. However, she is afraid to get involved because of her diagnosis.

A new lead takes them to Cincinnati, Ohio, where a third couple, James and Kathy Voskuhl, were killed during their wedding reception at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Once again, the victims are missing their wedding rings. Lindsay searches for a connection between the Voskuhls and the other couples and learns that Kathy once lived in San Francisco but left to escape an abusive boyfriend. Lindsay believes that Kathy’s ex, bestselling novelist Nicholas Jenks, is the killer.

Lindsay and Chris interview Nicholas but cannot get him to admit to knowing Kathy. With the help of Cindy, Claire, and Jill Bernhardt, an assistant district attorney, Lindsay finds a copy of Nicholas’s first novel, Always a Bridesmaid, which features scenes that match two of the murders. Lindsay and Chris arrest Nicholas, but he insists he is being set up. Lindsay reviews the evidence and focuses on Joanna Wade, Nicholas’s ex-wife; however, after Nicholas escapes from jail, Lindsay finds Joanna dead.

Chris chases Nicholas into the Palace of Fine Art. Lindsay arrives to find Chris shot and Nicholas arguing with his current wife Chessy. Chessy confesses to the murders and tries to have Nicholas swallow the wedding rings. She then attempts to kill Nicholas, but Lindsay kills her first. Chris dies, leaving Lindsay devastated.

Weeks after everything is over, Nicholas shows up at Lindsay’s apartment and tells her he was the mastermind behind the murders—Chessy was only doing what he told her to do. He tries to kill Lindsay, but she kills him first.