The latest entry in James Patterson’s Women’s Murder Club Series, The 5th Horseman promises a dark and thrilling ride from the outset. The musical score is ominous with strings, cello and a piano playing as the story opens up in San Francisco Municipal Hospital. It’s raining, and thirty-year-old Jessie Falk is lulled into a relaxed sense of calm by some Percocet. But that serene feeling ends abruptly when Jessie starts feeling intense pain in her chest. She tries her best to push the call button when she sees a dark figure. She thinks this is help – but it isn’t. The dark figure enjoys watching as Jessie gasps for breath, telling her, “It’s beautiful to watch you cross over.”
The story then cuts to San Francisco Police Department Lt. Lindsay Boxer. She goes to have lunch with the newest member of the Women’s Murder Club member, attorney Yuki Castellano, and her mother. Yuki’s mother suddenly falls ill, and Boxer and Castellano spend the night in the emergency room. Once Boxer and Castellano get the news that everything will be fine, Boxer goes home, is greeted by her dog, and gets ready for the next day at work.
Soon all the members of the club becoming involved as Lt. Boxer gets the case of a beautiful young women found dead in a Cadillac. Medical Examiner Clare shows up at the crime scene, and the case of “Caddy girl” gets rolling. The story bounces back and forth between Lindsay Boxer’s investigation of “Caddy girl” and another similar murder, and Maureen’s case against San Francisco Municipal Hospital for medical malpractice. The other members are tied in, too: Yuki and her mother, reporter Cindy and pathologist Clare doing their respective jobs.
Boxer’s investigation is easily the most interesting storyline with Maureen’s case a close second. But the story meanders, trying to give each member enough time in the spotlight and falling into a glut where for long stretches it is overly mushy - when the forced emotion just seems so Lifetime network. Carolyn McCormick (best known for her recurring role as Dr. Elizabeth Olivet on TV’s Law and Order) gives a solid performance throughout, but the dialogue runs into bouts of infantile silliness, for lack of a better term, making it seem as if McCormick were reading a children’s book to a five-year-old. When these segments come up, it takes the listener out of an otherwise compelling story. Maybe my perception is colored from too many episodes of CSI, but the story could have benefited by sticking to Boxer’s point-of-view (I did not find the court case aspect as interesting) and not being afraid to stay gritty when appropriate. That said, The 5th Horseman is still a fairly good audio book presentation that fans of the Women’s Murder Club and James Patterson will enjoy.