Lupica’s overstuffed third collaboration with Patterson (after 2023’s The House of Wolves) lays on the melodrama with a trowel. Jane Smith, a tough-as-nails defense lawyer who’s never lost a case, is diagnosed with terminal cancer just as she’s preparing to represent Hamptons real estate mogul Rob Jacobson in a murder trial. He’s been charged with slaughtering three members of a Suffolk County family, and Smith is far from convinced of his innocence, misgivings exacerbated when she learns midtrial that Jacobson has been lying to her about his relationship with the victims. Meanwhile, Smith agrees to help with an inquiry into a different triple homicide being funded by the victims’ family, and embarks on a romance with a veterinarian. As the cases wear on, she begins receiving threatening notes that urge her to drop her defense of Jacobson—or die. Flaccid prose and far-fetched courtroom scenes sink the action, and Smith feels more like a series of hardened-attorney clichés than a flesh and blood character. Fans of Lupica’s superior standalone crime novels will be disappointed. Agent: Robert Barnett, Williams & Connolly. (Sept.)
James Patterson and Mike Lupica
Jane Smith is the best character we’re ever created. Bar none.”
A Long Island attorney locked in the most crucial trial of her career learns that she has—well, you know.
All things considered, things have been going pretty well for Jane Smith. Sure, she’s twice divorced; she’s not all that close to her sister, Brigid, who also has cancer; and Rob Jacobson, the client accused of killing Mitch and Kathy Gates and their teenage daughter, Laurel, is a lying piece of trash. But Jane and her investigator, tavern owner Jimmy Cunniff, have just been asked to look again into the high-profile Carson case, involving another family of three who were shot dead some years ago. Although she’s far from certain that Jacobson is innocent, Jane’s never yet lost a case, and she doesn’t intend to lose this one. She responds to the mountain of forensic evidence presented by Suffolk County D.A. Kevin Ahearn, who’s also never lost a case, by crowing that there’s no motive, until suddenly she’s confronted with a compelling motive and a whole new collection of lies that bring her up against crooked ex-cop Joe Champi, who may not have killed himself after all, and get Jimmy shot twice and beaten once, as if there were nothing else for him to be doing. Patterson seems entirely absent from this collaboration, which reads a lot more like Lupica, and not top-drawer Lupica. The overstuffed plot never seems any more believable than Jane’s damn-the-torpedoes response to her worsening symptoms. But it’s hard not to sympathize with an overstressed attorney who insists on performing herself daily because “crazy is kind of my thing.”
As fast-moving and forgettable as that fly you keep swatting in vain.