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A Review of James Patterson's "The 5th Horseman"

Updated on August 17, 2013

The 5th Horseman

The 5th Horseman is the fifth installment of James Patterson's "Women's Murder Club" series, which follows the adventures and investigations of four women in San Francisco. These four women come together and use their individual expertise to stay ahead of criminals and solve some of San Francisco's most heinous homicides. The main character is Lindsay Boxer, a Sergeant with the San Francisco Police Department. As the unofficial team head, Lindsay brings together the other members of the Women's Murder Club and utilizes their experience and expertise to help her catch criminals. The other members of the team are: Claire Washburne, Chief Medical Examiner; Cindy Thomas, crime reporter with the San Francisco Chronicle; Jill Bernhardt, Assistant District Attorney, until her death in 3rd Degree; and Yuki Castellano, an Assistant District Attorney who joins the team in 4th of July.

Front cover of "The 5th Horseman," by James Patterson.
Front cover of "The 5th Horseman," by James Patterson.

Plot Synopsis

The 5th Horseman starts off with the death of a hospital patient named Jessie, who is killed by a mysterious figure called "the Night Walker." Jessie's death will eventually be included in the main plot line of the story, which involves a malpractice suit against San Francisco Municipal Hospital. Soon after we follow Lindsay Boxer as she goes to lunch with Yuki Castellano and her mother, Keiko. Keiko suffers a mini-stroke and is checked into the emergency room at San Francisco Municipal under the care of Dr. Dennis Garza, the main doctor being sued in the malpractice suit. Keiko eventually dies, we can assume , at the Night Walker's hands, though the Night Walker's identity remains a mystery. All four of the Women's Murder Club follow the malpractice suit avidly.

At the same time, Lindsay Boxer is investigating a series of murders of call girls who are stuffed into fancy cars after they've been killed. Lindsay eventually finds the duo of killers, a man named Louie and his girlfriend Cherry (who is actually a man named Kenneth). The murders are technically the secondary story but takes up the majority of page space throughout the first half.

The malpractice suit against San Francisco Municipal is spearheaded by hot shot attorney Maureen O'Mara, with Lawrence Kramer for the defense. It is eventually revealed that O'Mara and Garza, the ER doctor, engineered the whole suit so that they could both profit, with O'Mara giving Garza a cut of her winnings. Though Garza is arrested for murder, he is not the Night Walker responsible for the deaths at San Francisco Municpal: the Night Walker is finally revealed to be a nurse named Luz Santiago (formerly Marie St. Germaine during her time at San Francisco Municipal) in a hospital in Georgia.

What's your favorite Women's Murder Club novel?

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Cast of "The Women's Murder Club," an ABC crime drama, with Angie Harmon (Rizzoli and Isles) as Lindsay Boxer.
Cast of "The Women's Murder Club," an ABC crime drama, with Angie Harmon (Rizzoli and Isles) as Lindsay Boxer.

The High Points

James Patterson's ability to create believable, relatable characters has always been one of the reasons I come back to his books again and again. The relationship between Yuki and her mother, Keiko, was especially well-done, despite it's being short and tragic. Yuki and Keiko embody the typical relationship between an immigrant parent and her American born daughter, though the relationship is decidedly more loving and lighthearted than others have depicted it (as opposed to, say, Amy Tan's The Bonesetter's Daughter). The love between Keiko and Yuki is palpable, and Yuki's impressions of her mother's manner of speech are funny and endearing.

Lindsay Boxer also shines as a complex character, struggling with her recent promotion to Lieutenant and her desire to be a street cop, to investigate on the ground where her skills are most useful and get her hands dirty. Lindsay is decidedly cut out for leadership: she's smart, resourceful, intuitive, with a compassionate heart and an easy-going manner that makes her easy to befriend. Her desire to stay on the streets rather than be trapped behind a desk, however, makes her easy for readers to relate to.

Who's your favorite Women's Murder Club character/

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The Low Points

The 5th Horseman is, in my opinion, the most disappointing books of the Women's Murder Club series so far. I found it difficult to decide which of he ongoing investigations were the most important: were we supposed to follow the malpractice suit avidly? Or, were the Car Girl Murders supposed to be the main focus, as it seemed they were throughout the first half of the novel?

In any case, all three converging plot lines left much to be desired. The Car Girl Murders were fascinating, and I had many questions about them. What drove Louie and Kenneth/Cherry to commit these murders? What was their relationship like? Mostly, what made Louie fall in love with a transgender person? Why target call girls? These murders could have filled a novel themselves.

The shady relationship between O'Mara and Garza was less interesting to me than the Night Walker. If those murders were to be the focal point of the novel, then why did they receive so little attention? Why did the court case and O'Mara and Garza's sexual relationship take precedence? Why did the Night Walker commit these murders? What drove her to it?

All in all, what saved this book for me was the depth of the main characters, and the relationships they build and hold with each other. I would give it 2 of 5 stars.

Favorite Quotes

1: "I used to go shopping with her after school and race around the clothing racks. She would say "Yuki-eh, you must learn to be a lady.' I don't think I ever quite learned to do that...I liked my music loud. My skirts short- I know, Mommy, even this one is too short! She wanted me to marry a lawyer- instead I became one."- Yuki Castellano at her mother's funeral.

2: "It had been a spectacular six months for the two of us. We'd bridged the geographical distance between us with phone calls and e-mails. Then, once or twice a month. we'd have a magical weekend like this one.

And then it would be over, which seemed so cruel and wrong."-Lindsay Boxer, on her weekend with Joe.

3: "Sometimes a bad wind blows."-Dr. Dennis Garza

4: "Luz Santiago had also been Marie St. Germaine, and before that, Yamilde Ruiz, and way before that, she'd been born and raised LaRaine Johnson of Pensacola, Florida.

It was truly a gift to have this power over life and death, and to be invisible to everyone."

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"Along Came a Spider," the first of James Patterson's widely acclaimed Alex Cross novels.
"Along Came a Spider," the first of James Patterson's widely acclaimed Alex Cross novels.

Other Series by James Patterson

Alex Cross: Follow Detective Alex Cross as he chases down some of Washington, D.C.'s most deranged psychotic killers. Using his street sense and expertise from his psychology degree, Alex Cross tracks and captures all kinds of murderers, from the spree killers to the most deranged psychopaths.

Michael Bennett: New York City Cop Michael Bennett has his work cut out for him, juggling the job and his ten adopted children.

Private: Those whom the system has failed come to this private detective agency. They get the job done, and sometimes break a few rules to do it.

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    • epbooks profile image

      Elizabeth Parker 4 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      I love James Patterson. Great hub here and good review!