News, text messages, errands, family, and friends. Honestly, life can feel overwhelming sometimes. For me, reading is my escape. My favorite recent book is 22 Seconds. It’s the latest installment in James Patterson’s #1 bestselling Women’s Murder Club (WMC) series. Patterson is one of my favorite writers, so it’s no surprise that it took just 22 seconds of reading for me to be 100 percent sold on it.
If you’re not familiar with WMC books, they’re a series of crime novels with interesting female characters who kick some serious you-know-what. They’re all spectacular, and thankfully, Patterson writes about one per year, so I never have to wait too long to find out what’s happening in the lives of story’s main characters. During winter, I read a couple of chapters before bed. In the summer, I take them with me on vacation. So far, 22 Seconds has been my favorite book in the series. (I’m lucky that, as a writer, publishers sometimes send me books to review in advance! This book’s publisher is giving away five free copies through May 18, so… maybe lucky for you, too? You can enter to win here.)
The female characters are women you know and love.
The first thing to know about 22 Seconds is that, like all of the books in the WMC collection, female characters are at the center of its plot. They have serious professional skills, often outrunning, outthinking, and outworking their male counterparts. (As I read 22 Seconds, I kept thinking of the word, “outmanned” and wondering if it should be changed to “outWOmanned.”) The women are also fully fleshed out, with personal lives and families and struggles and joys. Basically, it’s realistic but also an escape: When it seems like life is kicking my own you-know-what, the characters make me feel like I can conquer anything.
Take Lindsay Boxer, the San Francisco Police Department Sergeant at the heart of 22 Seconds’ story, as an example. When she’s confronted with obstacles, she puts her nose down and plows through. She is resilient and has respect for her victims. She’s got her problems, sure. But she’s the kind of person you want in your corner (and the kind of person I’d like to think I would be—that is, if I spent my life chasing murderers).
I wonder what I would do if I were, say, pursuing a killer across a drawbridge when it started to raise, leaving me on one side and the killer on the other side? Would I make a jump for it? Call for backup? Find the bridge tender? In my dreams, I do all three—at the same time, of course! However, it’s more likely that I would cry or yell or kick myself for not running faster—again at the same time, of course! Lindsay Boxer doesn’t do any of these. She just gets on with it, and I love her for it. (And don’t worry. This isn’t a spoiler. There are no drawbridges in 22 Seconds.)
Why we love it:
- Strong female characters
- Thrilling plot
- Ideal “escape” beach read
The modern plot will make you think.
The second thing about 22 Seconds is how exciting and multi-faceted the plot is. I simply could not put it down. This is no wonder. As the master of the crime-mystery-thriller genre, Patterson knows how to write a fast-paced page-turner. In his 45-year career, he has written more than 200 books, and his debut novel won the Edgar Award for the best first mystery novel.
The early pages in 22 Seconds focus on a criminal gun trafficking cartel and their murdering overlords. There’s word of a last-ditch shipment of drugs and weapons crossing the Mexican border amidst new laws that restrict civilian ownership of firearms. As you can imagine, not everyone is happy about the new laws, including many SFPD members. Sargeant Boxer is tasked with finding the gun lords, seizing their illegal weapons, and putting them behind bars. The book starts off with a bang—gun pun intended.
However, the book’s plot shifts when a tip from Boxer’s informant leads her to a case that hits close to home. It includes professional hits, former cops—many of whom are Boxer’s good friends—and an ominous warning scrawled on the bodies of the case’s murder victims: You talk, you die. Boxer becomes deeply involved in the murders, risking both her badge and her life, and she’s forced to make impossible decisions with equally unpleasant outcomes. I was enthralled by the story from start to finish. (Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.)
James Patterson breaks the rules—and so do his characters.
In a 2016 interview for the Washington Post, Patterson said, “I don’t care about rules per se.” I think the same could be said about the female crime-solvers at the center of his action-packed books. Nothing about the Women’s Murder Club books is obvious or boring, and 22 Seconds is, in this humble writer’s opinion, the best of them all.
If you’re looking for a really good read, pick up this book. After all, it will be summertime soon, which means sunshine, escape, and relaxing with a good book. See you at the beach!