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The 5th Horseman    by James Patterson & Maxine Paetro order for
5th Horseman
by James Patterson
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2006 (2006)
Hardcover, Audio, CD

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

This is the 5th (hence the title) in James Patterson's highly popular Women's Murder Club series, set in San Francisco. The club of four lost a member, assistant D.A. Jill Bernhardt, in 3rd Degree, and gained another - 'smart, passionate, and super-talented' attorney Yuki Castellano who defended Homicide Lieutenant Lindsay Boxer from a wrongful death lawsuit in 4th of July. The other two members of the club, Chronicle reporter Cindy Thomas and medical examiner Claire Washburn have mostly walk-on parts in The 5th Horseman, as does Lindsay's romantic interest, Homeland Security Deputy Director Joe Molinari.

It starts with a sinister scene at San Francisco Municipal Hospital, in which a young mother admitted with a broken leg is helped to 'cross over' well before her time. Coins, engraved with the symbol of the medical profession, are placed on her eyelids by the Night Walker. The story then segues into a dramatically different sequence, a lighthearted shopping expedition, in which Yuki introduces Lindsay to her beloved mother Keiko, who 'can charm the skin off a snake' and keeps them in gales of laughter over lunch. But then she collapses and is rushed to hospital - San Francisco Municipal Hospital, under the care of handsome, cold Dr. Dennis Garza. Yuki's emotions head on to a roller-coaster of anxiety and relief, as her mom's condition deteriorates or improves.

Yuki soon finds out that a malpractice lawsuit is underway against the hospital, led by celebrity attorney Maureen O'Mara. The hospital seems to have a surprisingly high number of patients who died when they shouldn't have, and the trial is 'the stuff of books and movies.' In the meantime, Lindsay's team (including Jacobi and his new, 'smart and dogged' partner Rich Conklin) works hard to track down serial killers, who burk beautiful young women and then pose them in luxury cars - the first is soon called 'Caddy Girl'. Clever police work solves this case, allowing Lindsay to concentrate on what's happening in the hospital, which is where James Patterson injects his trademark, twisty deviations into the plot - which is not at all what it seems on the surface.

As always, the Women's Murder Club can be counted on to entertain. James Patterson's trademark short chapters keep several plot strands in motion, while the women's very normal interactions and feelings keep the reader engaged in their lives. Yuki Castellano proves an appealing addition to the club, and with its help Lindsay brings villains of both sexes to justice. As Yuki tells her, she 'got the Fifth Horseman', Man who is 'the most dangerous of all.'

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