Lessons From Lucy, by Dave Barry

The Simple Joys of an Old Happy Dog

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Dave Barry is 70 years old, the same age in dog years as Lucy his 10 year old dog, so he has started thinking more about how much time he, Dave, has left. He said: “If our lives were movie credits, we’d be way down at the bottom, past the assistant gerbil wrangler. If our lives were Cheez-It bags we’d be at the stage where you hold the bag up and tilt it into your mouth to get the last crumbs. In other words: the end Is in sight.” Stephen King said of the book “If you have grown old along with Dave, who is now seventy, you will want to read this book.”  King is also in his seventies and a good friend of Dave, but his advice is still good.

The first of the seven life lessons he learns is the to “Pay Attention to the People You Love (Not Later. Right Now.).” Lucy lives in the moment. She does have moods and even gets mad. When the garbageman comes, she “objects vociferously—she cannot believe we allow this to happen—he is taking our garbage,” but as soon as he leaves, Lucy has forgotten him and moves on to the next moment in her life. Barry tries to apply this lesson but finds it hard to be present, rather than looking at his phone.  

Another lesson he learns from Lucy is “Don’t Lie Unless You Have a Really Good Reason, Which You Probably Don’t.” Lucy doesn’t lie as we learn when she knocked down the Christmas tree. She greeted the family when they came home “whimpering and flattening herself on the floor in the yoga position known as Pancake Dog.” Barry takes a lesson from this but thinks he is doing ok with this lesson.

The last lesson in the book was an add on inserted after the epilogue and tells a touching story of the Barry families recent near tragedy. It adds some meaningful depth to the book.  

The book is one of Barry’s best.

Quotes

"Never be afraid to try something new. Remember that a lone amateur built the Ark. A large group of professionals built the Titanic."

"Everyone has a right to be stupid. Some just abuse the privilege.”

"Your hand and your mouth agreed many years ago that, as far as chocolate is concerned, there is no need to involve your brain."

"Proofread carefully to see if you any words out."

"The Democrats seem to be basically nicer people, but they have demonstrated time and again that they have the management skills of celery. They're the kind of people who'd stop to help you change a flat, but would somehow manage to set your car on fire. I would be reluctant to entrust them with a Cuisinart, let alone the economy. The Republicans, on the other hand, would know how to fix your tire, but they wouldn't bother to stop because they'd want to be on time for Ugly Pants Night at the country club"

"I had no shoes and I pitied myself. Then I met a man who had no feet, so I took his shoes.

"Although golf was originally restricted to wealthy, overweight Protestants, today it's open to anybody who owns hideous clothing."

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The Postcard Killers by James Patterson & Liza Marklund

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Jacob Kanon, a New York City police investigator travels to Europe to hunt down the murderer of his daughter Kimmy who has killed young couples in Paris, Copenhagen, Frankfurt, and Stockholm. In Sweden Kanon joins up with journalist Dessie Larsson who has gotten a postcard from the killers.  For each of the murders a postcard has been sent to the local newspaper.

The two young attractive killers stalk other young couples almost following a script and coaching their victims back to their hotel room to kill them.

The plot twists and turns and holds you but slows down a little at the end.

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James Patterson Quotes

"Imagine life is a game in which you are juggling five balls. The balls are called work, family, health, friends, and integrity. And you're keeping all of them in the air. But one day you finally come to understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. The other four balls...are made of glass. If you drop one of these, it will be irrevocably scuffed, nicked, perhaps even shattered."

"Your mind creates your reality. If you expect nothing, you open up the universe to give you options. If you expect the worst, you usually get it."

"Stop trying to write sentences and start trying to write stories."

"You see, one of the best things about reading is that you'll always have something to think about when you're not reading."

"For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin -- real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life."

 

Bad Luck and Trouble, A Jack Reacher Novel, by Lee Child

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Bad Luck and Trouble is what Jack Reacher finds when he starts hearing about the death of old friends. One with two broken legs is pushed out of a helicopter 3000 feet over the California desert in the middle of the night. Others on the former elite ex-army investigators are also being hunted down when Reacher is tracked down to help.

Finding him is no small feat as he has nothing but the cloths on his back and a ATM card and no address constantly wandering.  Frances Neagley who served with him in the old elite team finds him by putting an anonymous deposit to his bank account which Reacher automatically analyses the amount. The deposit of $1030 which Reacher recognizes as their old army code, 10–30, for urgent help needed.

Reacher and Neagley find that 3 of the old team of 5 are missing but the others work together to find out what has happened. The team trusts each other but the twists and turns of the plot keep us on the edge of our seats to the very end.

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Quotes

“You do not mess with the special investigators.”

“Slippery slope. I carry a spare shirt, pretty soon I'm carrying spare pants. Then I'd need a suitcase. Next thing I know, I've got a house and a car and a savings plan and I'm filling out all kinds of forms.”

“Now they broke my toothbrush, I don't own anything.”

“We investigate, we prepare, we execute. We find them, we take them down, and then we piss on their ancestors’ graves.”

“Facts were to be faced, not fought.”

“You tell a lot of lies, Ms. Berenson,” he said. Berenson said nothing. Neagley said, “She’s Human Resources. It’s what they do.”

Yondering, by Louis L'amour

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Yondering is a collection of short stories by Louis L'Amour, published in 1980. Unlike his traditional Old West subject matter, Yondering contains a mix of adventure and character studies, primarily set in the first half of the 20th century.

The best way to understand why L’Amour would write the type of stories in Yondering is to read his book The Education of a Wandering Man that starts with him dropping out of school at age 15 becoming a wandering young man. He first became a hobo on the Southern Pacific Railroad, then a Cattle Skinner in Texas. He even became a world traveler, merchant seaman, based in Singapore. He made a living anyway he could. He worked as a hired hand, cowboy, and even as a prize fighter. He traveled the rails, lived in hobo camps, and learned while listening to men around the fires in the evening teaching him to be a natural storyteller.

Yondering tells stories that likely had there setting in early travels before L’Amour settled on western plots. It contains two stories that are set in the World War 11 time period and others in oceans and cities and mountains throughout the world

L’Amour said about the stories: “I have collected some of these in Yondering. They are glimpses of what my own life was like during the early years. Those were the rough years; often I was hungry, out of work and facing situations such as I have since written about.”

The stories are interesting. They bring the time and places into real focus and represent some of his best work. Your left wishing, he had written an entire book rather than just a short story.



Quote by Louis L’Amour

"When I die, remember that what you knew of me is with you always. What is buried is only the shell of what was. Do not regret the shell, but remember the man. Remember the father."

"Up to a point a person’s life is shaped by environment, heredity, and changes in the world about them. Then there comes a time when it lies within their grasp to shape the clay of their life into the sort of thing they wish it to be. Only the weak blame parents, their race, their times, lack of good fortune or the quirks of fate. Everyone has the power to say, "This I am today. That I shall be tomorrow."

"There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning."

"There are good men everywhere. I only wish they had louder voices."

"The trail is the thing, not the end of the trail. Travel too fast, and you miss all you are traveling for."

"Victory is won not in miles but in inches. Win a little now, hold your ground, and later, win a little more."

Long Road To Mercy, by David Baldacci

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FBI special agent Pine’s twin sister, Mercy, was taken from the room they shared as young children.  “It’s seared into Atlee Pine’s memory; the kidnapper’s chilling rhyme as he choase between six-year-old Atlee and her twin sister, Mercy. Mercy was taken, Atlee was spared.” The story starts with Agent Pine going to visit the killer in the supermax prison ADX in Florence Colorado, but her home base is in the remote parts of the Southwest.

Atlee has never stopped searching for her sisters’ body and the survivor’s guilt has led her to spent her life hunting down those who hurt others.  She has just been assigned to investigate a case in the Grand Canyon when a mule is found dead with strange carvings on its body, and its rider missing.

The search for the missing rider takes her across country and involves a plot that is a threat to the entire world by a monster she had never considered.

This is the first book in David Baldacci’s new Atlee Pine thriller series. A good start.

Quotes

“Justice. It wasn’t about the greater good. It was about what was right and wrong on an individual basis. Person by person. Because if you neglected the people, the idea of a greater good was a pipe dream created by those whose idea of the “greater good” almost always tended to favor themselves and people like them.”

“For me, the Canyon isn’t just a tourist destination. It’s a living, breathing place. It has a dozen plants that live nowhere else.

“She’d heard that the author Margaret Mitchell had never lived in a place with more than one bedroom for a simple reason: She had never wanted houseguests.”

“narcissist. People often discounted narcissism as relatively harmless because the term sometimes conjured the clichéd image of a vain man staring longingly at his reflection in a pool of water or a mirror. However, Pine knew that narcissism was probably one of the most dangerous traits someone could possess for one critical reason: The narcissist could not feel empathy toward others. Which meant that the lives of others held no value to a narcissist. Killing could even be like a hit of fentanyl: instant euphoria from the domination and destruction of another. That was why virtually every serial murderer was also a narcissist.”

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The Husband, by Dean Koontz

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"We have your wife. You can get her back for two million cash".

“Landscaper Mitchell Rafferty thinks it must be some kind of joke. He was in the middle of planting impatiens in the yard of one of his clients when his cell phone rang. Now he’s standing in a normal suburban neighborhood on a bright summer day, having a phone conversation out of his darkest nightmare.”

The caller is the kidnapper and tells him to look across the street just at a man walking his dog just as the man gets shot in the head. The murder tell Mitch the kidnappers are serious and that he is being watched.

The police come when the police is called about the murder, but Mitch is afraid to tell them anything and then has to speak with detective Sandy Taggart and finds that he is being treated like a suspect. When he gets home, he sees that the house has been staged to look like there was a fight and can see that he is being framed for killing his wife.

The plot twists and turns and is another masterpiece of plotting by Dean Koontz.

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Quotes

“A man begins dying at the moment of his birth. Most People live in denial of Death's patient courtship until, late in life and deep in sickness, they become aware of him sitting bedside.”

“She can put her life in Mitch's strong hands and fall at once into a dreamless sleep. In a sense, that is what marriage is about-a good marriage-a total trusting with your heart, your mind, your life.”

“The secret is not to think, we think in words. And what lies beyond the reality we see is a truth that words can't contain, the secret is to feel.”

“Love scrubs the worst stains clean. Anyway, there can be no retreat in the face of evil, only resistance. And commitment.”

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The Husband: A Novel
By Dean Koontz
 

Reading Like a Writer, by Franc.ine Prose

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Francine Prose’s book Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them, presents mostly a good case for the value of reading.  She also raises a question: “Can creative writing be taught?” Even if she had not come right and said no it cannot, there is no real evidence presented that suggest that it can be taught.

Prose has nothing kind to say about writing workshops but doesn’t hesitate to mention that she has taught them and suggests that today’s students are different, asking us to imagine “Kafka enduring the seminar in which his classmates inform him that, frankly, they just don’t believe the part about the guy waking up one morning to find he’s a giant bug.”

Prose may have felt this example suggested something about the importance of being believable, but when Kafka really did write about waking up as a bug it was interesting and insightful.

The had eleven chapters. 1. Close Reading, 2. Words, 3. Sentences, 4. Paragraphs, 5. Narration, 6. Character, 7. Dialogue, 8. Details, 9. Gesture, 10, Learning from Chekhov, 11. Reading for Courage.

I did not like the book and felt the author was not really “entertaining and edifying” as some reviews suggest. I read this because I try to read books on how to write occasionally to make sure that I am gaining everything I can from what I read but this book did nothing for me in reaching that goal. I did like the quotes the author has used shown below and they put across much of what she must have intended for this book.

Quotes

“Words are the raw material from which literature is crafted.”

I have always found that the better the book I’m reading, the smarter I feel, or at least, the more able I am to imagine that I might someday be smarter.

Like most - maybe all writers-, I learned to write by writing, and by example, and by reading books.”

“Language is the medium we use in much the same way a composer uses notes, the way a painter uses paint.”

Start With Why, by Simon Sinek

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In "Start With Why", by Simon Sinek we are told people make decisions as represented by a golden circle. The core of the circle is why, the next layer is how, and the outer layer is what. He said that in our decisions to buy something we don’t buy what a company does we buy why they do it. 

This means that the traditional approach of starting with “what” is communication from the outside in, compared to starting with “why”. Sinek says that the core of our decision making process is where we ask ‘why” we do things.

He also suggests that this is also a metaphor for leadership saying, “There are two types of leaders: those who decide to manipulate to get to the end result, and those who start with the end result in mind and let everything else naturally fall into place.”

This book sat in a “to read pile” for a long time, so long that I had to ask myself why I hadn’t read it? After finishing it I realized why. It was because the very question presented by the book seem to suggest reading to find a success formula which didn’t motivate me.

Probably for about 10 years after I got out of collage I read all the positive thinking success books available at that time. Dale Carnage's book "How to Win Friends and Influence People and Napoleon Hill's Think and Grow Rich were good ones but mostly all of these type of books seemed to be the same.

This book had a few different ways of looking at things but was not one where I could find the “why” for recommending it.

The President Is Missing, by Bill Clinton and James Patterson

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President Jonathan Lincoln Duncan is an Iraq War Vet, former POW, governor of a Southern State and Speaker of the House Lester Rhodes wants to impeach him.   

Congress is upset with Duncan because he put in a phone call directly to the world’s most wanted terrorist, Suliman Cindoruk. The book is narrated by the President and takes place over a 5-day span starting when he goes incognito losing his Secret Service cover to meet with two terrorists who have had second thoughts about a virus they planted that will shut down every computer in America.  If they succeed it will take us back to the Dark Ages, which becomes the code word for the threat.

We learn of a traitor in the White House when we learn about Dark Ages and were guessing to the very end as to who it is.

Does Jonathan Lincoln Duncan have a message that Bill Clinton might wanted delivered in the backdrop of todays political world?  Of course he does, and he does it well.

If you don’t usually like books by James Patterson and some other author, then you will be surprised by how good this Patterson-Clinton book is.

“That’s the permanent mission our Founding Fathers left us—moving toward the “more perfect union.”

“Participation in our democracy seems to be driven by the instant-gratification worlds of Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook, and the twenty-four-hour news cycle.”

“Gerald Ford once said that an impeachable offense is whatever a majority of the House of Representatives says it is.”

Sometimes the “them” strategy is just a narcotic to feed the beast in all of us.”

“At the end of the Constitutional Convention, a citizen asked Benjamin Franklin what kind of government our founders had given us. He replied, "A republic, if you can keep it." That's a job no president can do alone. It's up to all of us to keep it. And to make the most of it.”

Quotes

 

Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination, by Toni Morrison

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“Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination is an adaptation of three lectures that Toni Morrison delivered at the Massey Lectures at Harvard University in 1990. She turned the three-part series into a ninety-one-page book, published in 1992 by Harvard University Press. The lectures concern issues of race in American literature and the ways that literary whiteness and literary blackness are actively constructed within literature. She considers how these racial issues affect literature as a whole.”

Morrison seeks to expand the scope of American literature and use gender roles, sexualization, and racial prejudice as her subject matter. Race is a metaphorically tool in her approach and her goal seems to be that a Black increasingly necessary in American-ness comparing historical views. Morrison defends writing about race in literature saying to do so would rob fiction of it’s power.

Quotes

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Mustang Man by Louis L'Amour

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Mustang Man is one of Louis L’Amour Nolan Sackett novels and on the first page we get some insight into this man.  “His eyes were shifting quickly like a weasel’s eyes, hunting for something to kill. My pistol was in my right hand and I was looking back over my left shoulder. There was no way I could move without giving him the first shot, so I just lay there hoping he wouldn’t see me.”

Nolan was having dinner in a Cantina at Borregos Plaza when he met Penelope Hume and her beauty immediately captured his attention. He is asked to escort Penelope and her small group across country and help he get to where her grandfather has hidden three hundred pounds of gold, something that also captures his attention.

Penelope doesn’t tell Nolan that others know about the gold and Sylvie, Ralph, and Andrew Karnes, are waiting for them along the trail planning to claim the gold for themselves. They and the others they attract to help them use ambush and murder and prove to be very dangerous.

The plot of this story is strong and we step into another time and place with L’Amour’s insight and writing skill.

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Louis L”Amour Quote

Up to a point a person’s life is shaped by environment, heredity, and changes in the world about them. Then there comes a time when it lies within their grasp to shape the clay of their life into the sort of thing they wish it to be. Only the weak blame parents, their race, their times, lack of good fortune or the quirks of fate. Everyone has the power to say, "This I am today. That I shall be tomorrow.

Fool Me Once, by Harlan Coben

 

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Maya Burkett is a combat veteran returned home from her deployment in the Middle East where her mission ended with the death of five innocent civilians. Whistle-blower Corey Rudzinski makes his living sensationalizing tragedy and he posted video footage of her airstrike on his website for all to see.

Maya plans an evening getaway from her memories and pressure with her husband Joe at a favorite spot in Central Park but they are surprised and her husband is shot by two masked muggers. She puts a Nanny Cam in her home to be able to see what the Nanny is doing while she is away on her job and is shocked when she sees her murdered husband on a picture. The Nanny, Isabella, claims she didn’t see anything when she is shown the picture but then she sprays pepper spray at Maya, takes the memory chip from the Nanny Cam and runs.

Maya’s sister Claire was previously killed in a home invasion while Maya was deployed in the Middle East and the same investigator, Roger Kierce, begins working on her husband’s murder and lets her know that the same gun was used to shoot both her husband and her sister.

Maya begins her own investigation even turning to Whistle-blower Rudzinsi to help and finds that both murders may be connected to the death more than 10 years ago of Joe’s brother Andrew.

The plot twists and you are left hanging and don’t know who did it until the very end. Well worth reading but not as good as “Run Away”

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Quotes


“Doctors kept stressing that mental disease was the same as physical disease. Telling someone who was clinically depressed, for example, to shake it off and get out of the house was tantamount to telling a man with two broken legs to sprint across the room. That was all well and good in theory, but in practice, the stigma continued. Maybe, to be more charitable, it was because you could hide a mental disease.”

“Things can always be said later, but things can never be unheard.”

“Telling someone who was clinically depressed, for example, to shake it off and get out of the house was tantamount to telling a man with two broken legs to sprint across the room. That was all well and good in theory, but in practice, the stigma continued.”

“War is never a meritocracy for the casualties.”

“When you can see the stakes, when you realize the true purpose of your mission, it motivates you. It makes you focus. It makes you push away the distractions. You gain clarity of purpose. You gain strength.”

“But life changes people. It smothers that kind of larger-than-life woman. Time quiets them down. That firecracker girl you knew in high school—where is she now? It didn’t happen to men as much. Those boys often grew up to be masters of the universe. The super successful girls? They seemed to die of slow societal suffocation. So”

“They say you never know how someone will react when the grenade is thrown.”

First Family, by David Baldacci

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“Birthday Balloons and submachine guns. Elegant forks, digging into creamy goodies which toughened fingers coiled around curved metal trigger guards. Gleeful laughter as gifts were unwrapped floated into the air alongside the menacing thump-thump of an arriving chopper’s downward prop wash.”

 David Baldacci’s First Family is the fourth in a series featuring private detectives, ex-Secret Service agents, Sean King and Michelle Maxwell and the action begins on the first page.  Willa, the niece of the First Lady, is kidnapped and she calls Sean to help. Sean has known both the First Lady and the President for years and is trusted by them so despite or maybe because of the involvement of the FBI and the Secret Service he is asked to help.

 The mastermind of the kidnapping plot is Sam Quarry who is ruthless and fanatical in his own pursuit of justice for his daughter who has been in a coma for 13 years.  It seems clear, at least in the beginning, who the bad guys and the good guys are but as the story evolves that changes and captures and holds our attention.

 Sidekick Michelle Maxwell has her own mystery unfold when her mother is killed and she has to leave to be with the family.  Every chapter seems to have a challenge to be faced.

 Published in 2009. Good character and a well-crafted plot.

Quotes

“Everybody’s got somewhere to go. Just takes some folks longer to figure out where to.” 

“I guess it comes down to greed. You don’t pay folks, you make more money. That and thinking one race wasn’t as good as another.” 

“What’s a quick fling in the sack compared to decades of indifference?” 

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The Rainmaker, by John Grishman

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Rudy signs has two clients of his own, his elderly landlady, who needs a revised will and a poor family, Dot and Buddy Black, whose insurance bad faith case could be worth several million dollars in damages.

He nets Deck Shifflet, a former insurance assessor who received a law degree but doesn't practice law, having failed to pass the bar exam six times. Bruiser Stones firm is in trouble with the FBI so Rudy and Deck form their own firm. With the Black case Rudy really could be the rainmaker for this new firm.

The Black’s leukemia-stricken son, Donny Ray, could have been saved by a bone marrow transplant procedure that should have been covered and paid for by their insurance carrier but the claim was instead denied.

Donny Ray dies just before the case goes to trial and when the trial ends Rudy has a plaintiff's judgment of $50.2 million but the insurance company quickly declares itself bankrupt, thus allowing it to avoid paying the judgment.

The plot isn’t the big draw for this book but the characters, especially Rudy, seem to grow on you. Grisham brings a cynicism for the legal profession that is convincing in the plot. Every law firm has it’s rainmakers but Grishman shows that the right case is a rainmaker.

Quotes

“Don't compromise yourself - you're all you have.” 

“Some people have more guts than brains”

“I'm alone and outgunned, scared and inexperienced, but I'm right.” 

“Please give me fifty more years of work and fun, then an instant death when I'm sleeping.” 

 

1st To Die, by James Patterson

In this, the first of 18 books in the series, inspector Lindsay Boxer is overcome with emotion when she sees the young corpses of newlywed David and Melanie Brandt. She tries to calm herself down in the ladies' room moments but runs in again to an upstart reporter, Cindy Thomas, who offers some sympathy.  

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Soon the facts of the case involve not just Lindsay and Cindy but two others women and they forming the “Women’s Murder Club” determined to find the killer of newlyweds.

Lindsay Boxer is a homicide inspector in the San Francisco Police Department, Claire Washburn is a medical examiner, Jill Bernhardt is an assistant D.A., and Cindy Thomas just started working the crime desk of the San Francisco Chronicle.

Each member of the club seems to be able to solve a key piece of the puzzle and The club becomes the beginning of a long successful series by Patterson, of course.

The side stories make the bonds that the women form with each other seem real. The crimes have stunned everyone and the identity of the killer is unexpected right up to the shocking conclusion.

Books in the Series

1st to Die, 2nd Chance, 3rd Degree, 4th of July, The 5th Horseman, The 6th Target, The 7th Heaven, The 8th Confession, The 9th Judgement, The 10th Anniversary, The 11th Hour, The 12th of Never, Unlucky 13, 14th Deadly Sin, 15th Affair, 16th Seduction, 17th Suspect & the 18th Abduction.

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