James Patterson has set many records in book sales. One of every 17 books sold in America is a James Patterson novel. He had nineteen books in a row in the New York Times Best Seller list. He is the first writer to sell one million e-books, a feat gaining him a Guinness World Book record. He has a number of series based on recurring protagonists including the Women's Murder Club series, the Alex Cross series and the Maximum Ride series. His hardcopy books have sold more than 300 million copies. As of 2015, ten of his books have been made into movies.
In addition to his success as an author, he has been an equal success as philanthropist. He has established a number of scholarships funds, a program to inspire childhood reading, and he spoke out against the closing of book stores and libraries by taking out, at his own cost, oppositional advertisements in Publishers Weekly and The New York Times Book Review.
On the negative side, Patterson is criticized for two things. It is said his writing skill is insufficient, and his methods are called into question since he uses coauthors. Three of Patterson's coauthors are 2nd Chance coauthor Andrew Gross as well as Michael Ledwidge and Maxine Paetro. When criticized, Patterson answers that his strength is in plot ideas and plot development while his weakness is in "crafting sentence after sentence."
2nd Chance, coauthored by Patterson and Andrew Gross, is the second book of the Women's Murder Club series. The protagonist is homicide detective Lindsay Boxer. Her aides in homicide solving are best friends crime desk reporter Cindy Thomas, medical examiner Claire Washburn, and assistant district attorney Jill Bernhardt. When 2nd Chance opens, Lindsay is only recently recovering from the death of her partner in 1st to Die but has returned to the homicide desk back at the police Hall. Subplots to the murder mystery revolve around Lindsay's long-lost father, Martin Boxer, returning and currying her favor and forgiveness; Cindy's newly budding romance with the La Salle Heights Church pastor, Aaron Winslow; Claire's brush with being the morgue's next murder victim; and Jill's doubt-raising pregnancy. The point of view changes with chapters as Lindsay, Jill, Claire, Cindy and the murderer take turns projecting their personas as the plot and subplots develop.
2nd Chance -- A Summary
Lindsay is called in to investigate a homicide. It is peculiar for two reasons. First reason: The victims of the attack were a group of young people exiting church with their pastor, Aaron Winslow, after choir practice. One girl alone in the attack--out of all the hailstorm of bullets--was hit and killed. Her name was Tasha Catchings. Second reason: Forensic evidence showed that the shooting was not random, that the shooter was not wildly letting dozens of bullets fly in a random pattern. The shooter was a trained sharp-shooter. He unleashed a carefully controlled pattern of bullets, and he hit his one, singled out, intentional victim, the eleven-year-old girl, Tasha Catchings. Tasha's uncle was a black cop, now dead, too. A witness, a small boy, identified the get-away vehicle as having a strange decal that reminded him of Mufasa, a lion, from The Lion King.
At the next murder Lindsay investigates, that of a black woman who is the wife widow of deceased policeman Officer Chipman, she finds at the crime scene a drawing left way down on the wall of a lion with a goat's body and a serpent-like tail. Each of the murders, Tasha and her uncle; police sergeant Art Davidson, who was called to a domestic disturbance; and the chief of police, who was on a walk homeward, has some connection to this symbol.
Lindsay gathers the girls together to say she needs their help to solve the crimes [this touch is superfluous to the plot because solving the murders is the job of the medical examiner and the assistant district attorney, while closely following and reporting the story is the job of the third, and getting an exclusive on the murder story is a job boon].
Two new clues emerges from the 911 call that led Sergeant Davidson to his death by a single shot from a sniper's rifle at the alleged domestic disturbance scene. The voice in the 911 recording identified himself as "Billy Reffon." Now Lindsay has a voice and a name, though probably a false name. In a meeting with the Mayor, Lindsay reveals that the first theory, that the homicides are the work of a group committing racial hate crimes, has been replaced by the theory that the murders are all the work of one person and that the theorized motive is personal vendetta.
In one of the chapters revealing subplots for Cindy and Jill, we learn that, while Cindy is interested in doing a feature story on Reverend Aaron Winslow's life, she also is interested in finding out more about the man. Happily, such personal interest is reciprocated as well as welcome, and Cindy and Aaron make a date to go to a live jazz club.
"Maybe my soul has been aching, Cindy thought as she finally drove away from the church door."
Later Lindsay learns from Jill that, while Jill and Steve (her husband) are happy about Jill's pregnancy, Jill feels an intensifying of the feeling that she is always alone: "How is it I feel so alone?"
In a chapter revealing the murderer's thoughts, we learn that the as yet unidentified man in the black Lincoln is the cause for murderer's unhappiness; he is the reason that the antagonist lives in the past every day. The man in black Lincoln somehow stole the murderer's life: "You stole my life. Now I'm going to take yours." The shooter's next murder is of the man in the black Lincoln Town Car, the chief of police, Chief Mercer. When Lindsay interviews Mercer's widow, she gives Lindsay a book she found in Mercer's coat, a book on mythology. Thinking it odd that he would have this book on a topic he had no interest in, she mentions the fact to Lindsay. In the book, Lindsay finds the myth of Bellraphon and the chimera: Bellerophon kills the chimera. Lindsay makes connections between the shooter, the 911 false name "Billy Reffon" and the prison hate group Chimera.
In another subplot, one that complicates the central murder mystery plot, Lindsay's long-lost father reappears--after tailing her home and nearly getting himself shot by his daughter--and tries to ingratiate himself with her, hoping that bygones will be bygones and that the future will hold forgiveness and connection. While Lindsay is preoccupied by her uncomfortable relationship with her dad, a new clue turns up connecting traces of white powder in shoe prints found at crime scenes to chalk. Now they have confirmation of the "one shooter" theory, which cancels out the racial hate group theory.
Cindy turns up a new lead connecting the chimera with an exposé written by Pelican Bay inmate Antoine James exposing the atrocities of prison life and calling the most vicious prisoner group Chimera. She holds a "Deep Throat" conference with Lindsay and reports to her about James and the Pelican Bay Prison Chimera, a pro-Aryan group of vicious criminals. After a dangerous interview with the current leader of the Pelican Bay Chimera group, Lindsay's father begs her forgiveness over a bottle of 1965 Chateau Latour wine, a bottle he had been saving to mark the year, 1965, she was born.
Claire gets more into the action than a medical examiner usually faces when Chimera phones her, then pelts her home with bullets: "Claire spun just as the first bullet splintered through the glass. A second shot shattered the study window." Chimera wanted Claire to die as part of the revenge he was carrying out: Lindsay was hunting him, so he'd hunt someone close to Lindsay: "Claire Washburn had to die. He sat in the cover of the dark street."
While the Claire subplot is drawn into the main murder mystery plot, Jill has had a miscarriage and lost her baby. Lindsay now has more distraction as she hunts down the serial killer. Chimera's attempt against Claire is the first time this sharp-shooter has failed and missed his target, perhaps because this was an impulse attack instead of a planned attack as the others had been. Lindsay also uncovers another clue to the shooter's identity: Chimera has green eyes.
Lindsay later finds out from Warden Warren that ex-policeman Frank Coombs had been an inmate of Pelican Bay Prison and was a charter member of Chimera. Coombs had been sent to prison because, when an officer, he had choked a child at the La Salle Heights housing project, which was later renamed, when rebuilt, as the Whitney Young project. Whitney Young is where the little boy lived who witnessed the get-away van with the chimera decal. Coombs had said that, when he got out, he'd blow the whole case wide open again concerning the roles of Davidson and Mercer. At the time of the Coombs child-choking event, Officer Chipman was the representative of Officers for Justice, the OFJ, consequently associated closely in the affair with Davidson and Mercer.
Because of the warden's information about Coombs, the official determination is that they need to find Frank Coombs. An all out effort to track down Coombs begins. Jacobi, Lindsay's partner, interviews Coombs's ex-wife, who has had and wants no contact from Frank Coombs, and asks if Frank has tried to contact their son, Rusty. Later, in a dramatic circumstance, Lindsay comes face to face with Frank Coombs. Lindsay is down and Frank has a gun pointing at her head. Suddenly a shot breaks out, and Frank is hit in the shoulder. Under cover of the shots that follow, Lindsay escapes to the back of a nearby Bonneville where she finds a surprise she could never have expected: her father is shooting at Frank Coombs. She collapses into her father's arms signifying their inevitable reconciliation. As the investigation progresses, the son is interviewed. Rusty is a red-haired football player for Standford University whose face lacks all the belligerence apparent in Frank Coombs's expression. When asked if he has any contact with his father, Rusty denies any kinship to Frank at all while claiming his mother's second husband as his father:
"He's not my father. ... My father's name is Theodore Bell, ...."
"When was the last time you heard from Frank Coombs?"
"What's he done, anyway? My mother says you guys are from homicide."
After having been saved by her father, Lindsay finds an uneasy connection between her father, Marty Boxer, and the murder of the child that took place twenty years earlier in La Salle Heights. Jill dug up records in the district attorney's office identifying Marty Boxer as a witness to the murder. Jill was haunted by questions about Marty's motives for being there; about his involvement; about what he knew and whom he knew.
[A]nd all these questions that wouldn't go away. How much had my father known? What had he kept silent about? And finally, what was his connection to Chimera?
After Frank Coombs dies, Lindsay has a realization. During crime scene forensics, Claire had discovered tattooed pigment under the nails of at least one victim. Frank Coombs, she now knew, did not have a tattoo. There was a discrepancy in the evidence. There must be someone else. First, the killer certainly had a tattoo and, second, Frank Coombs had "barely grazed" Lindsay when he shot at her the second time they met in confrontation on the steps of the police Hall:
We had been certain that Chimera had a tattoo. But Coombs didn't have one. Then he barely grazed me on the steps of the Hall from point-blank range.
Third, Cindy and Reverend Winslow are attacked by Chimera while on an at-home date together.
[The] first shot shattered the dining room window. Several more shots followed in quick succession. ... Chrimera was here. He was coming for them now.
"He's shooting at Aaron and me!" [Cindy] screamed over the phone. "Chimera is here and he's still shooting!"
Evidence and events confirm Lindsay's realization that Chimera is still out there. An APB (all-points bulletin) goes out for Rusty Coombs, the green-eyed, red-haired football player at Stanford. Jacobi and a full force of officers is searching for Rusty on campus, but he can't be found. A SWAT team has been called out to campus. Rusty has climbed Hoover Bell Tower with a duffel bag in his grip. At the top, he unzips the duffel, then assembles the PSG-1 sniper rifle held in it. Shots ring out. He hits a black woman. Lindsay arrives on the scene. She yells for everyone to stay down. Lindsay fixes Rusty's position and advances up the Tower, by the safest way up, in pursuit of Rusty, questioning her decision to pursue at every step. At the top, she hears more shooting. Two more students are hit.
In a life-and-death moment when Lindsay seems to be at Rusty's mercy, the Tower bells sound out loud and close by. With the bells seemingly on her side and Rusty curled in a protective posture because of the loudness of the tolling bells, Lindsay shoots Rusty Coombs, whose motive has been revenge against the men who took his father away from him: "This time the newspapers had it right. The Chimera was dead."
The Epilogue cuts away to the beginning place: the choir of the La Salle Heights church is singing. Cindy has continued dating Reverend Aaron Winslow. Winslow unveils the new stained glass window replacing the one shattered by the gunman's bullets at the beginning of Coombs's rage of revenge. The scene is one of forgiveness, which is the antithesis of revenge. It shows Jesus and disciples, one of whom is reaching out to a child who looks recognizably like Tasha Catchings.
In the second part of the Epilogue, Lindsay receives a letter from her father bearing a foreign postmark and with a photo enclosed. In it, he acknowledges his past mistakes but disclaims any knowledge of or connection with Chimera. He says he has bought a boat and has named it after her, for a second chance to be happy. The photo shows him standing in front of a boat in dry dock and in sad repair. Lindsay scoffs thinking how like her dad this overly optimistic outlook is. Then she peers deeper into the background of the photo and finds a freshly painted boat, newly named Buttercup, his nickname for her.