The Medical Examiner

A Women's Murder Club Story


By James Patterson

By Maxine Paetro

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In James Patterson’s #1 New York Times bestseller, the Women’s Murder Club tracks down two bodies at the morgue-but one of them is still breathing . . .

A woman checks into a hotel room and entertains a man who is not her husband. A shooter blows away the lover and wounds a wealthy heiress, leaving her for dead. Is it the perfect case for the Women’s Murder Club . . . or just the most twisted?

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Inspector Richard Conklin was conducting what should have been a straightforward interview with a female victim. The woman was the only known witness to a homicide.

But Mrs. Joan Murphy, the subject, was not making Conklin’s job any easier. She was understandably distraught, traumatized, and possibly a bit squirrelly. As a result, she’d taken the interview straight off road, through the deep woods, and directly over a cliff.

She’d seen nothing. She couldn’t remember anything. And she didn’t understand why she was being interviewed by a cop in the first place.

“Why am I even here?”

The question made Conklin immediately wonder: What is she hiding?

They were in a hospital room at St. Francis Memorial. Mrs. Murphy was reclining in a bed with a sling around her right arm. She was in her mid-forties and was highly agitated. Her face was so tightly drawn that Conklin thought she might have had too much cosmetic surgery. Either that, or this was what the aftereffects of a near-death experience looked like.

Currently, Mrs. Murphy was shooting looks around the hospital room as if she were about to bolt through the window. It reminded Conklin of that viral video of the deer who’d wandered into a convenience store, then leapt over the cash register and the pretzel rack before finally crashing through the plate-glass windows.

“Mrs. Murphy,” he said.

“Call me Joan.”

A nurse came through the door, saying, “How are we feeling, Mrs. Murphy? Open up for me, please.” She stuck a thermometer under Mrs. Murphy’s tongue, and after a minute, she read the numbers and made a note on the chart.

“Everything’s normal,” she said, brightly.

Conklin thought, Easy for you to say.

He turned back to the woman in the bed and said, “Joan, it kills me to see you so upset. I fully comprehend that getting shot, especially under your conditions, would shake anyone up. That’s why I hope you understand that I have to find out what happened to you.”

Mrs. Murphy was not a suspect. She was not under arrest. Conklin had assured her that if she asked him to leave the room, he would do it. No problem.

But that wasn’t what he wanted. He wanted to understand the circumstances that had victimized this woman and had killed the man who had been found with her.

He had to figure out what kind of case it was so he could nab the culprit.

“Don’t worry. I’m not afraid of you, Richard,” Joan told him, looking past him and out the window. “It’s everything you’ve told me that’s upsetting me. I don’t remember having a dead body beside me. I don’t remember much of anything, but I do think I would remember that. Honestly, I don’t think it even happened.”

She shook her head desperately and the tears flew off her cheeks. She dropped her chin to her chest and her shoulders heaved with sobs.

Conklin reached for a box of tissues and offered them to his disconsolate subject, who was melting down in front of him.

He inched his chair closer to the bed and said, “Joan, please try to understand. It did happen. We have the body. Do you want to see him?”

She plucked a tissue from the box, patted her eyes, and blew her nose.

“Must I?”

Conklin said, “I think it would be best. It might jog your memory. Look, I’ll stay with you and you can lean on me.”

“And then you’ll drive me straight home?”

“I sure will. I’ll even put the sirens on.”


Chapter 1

Cindy Thomas, senior crime reporter at the San Francisco Chronicle, breezed through the front door of Susie’s Café. She threaded her way through the raucous crowd in the front room, past the steel drum band and the crowded bar, and headed down the corridor to the back room. It was packed to the walls with the Saturday-night dinner set.

She saw an empty booth and a recently vacated table, and asked a busboy for help as she shoved the table up against the booth.

“How many people are coming?” he asked her.

“Six,” she told him. “I hope the kitchen doesn’t run out of the mango chicken. That’s our favorite.”

Four of the six were herself and her closest friends in the Women’s Murder Club. The other members were Lindsay Boxer, Homicide, SFPD; Claire Washburn, chief medical examiner; and Yuki Castellano, assistant DA. Tonight, the two additional seats would be for Lindsay’s husband, Joe Molinari, and Cindy’s own beloved fiancé, Rich Conklin. Rich was also Lindsay’s partner on the job.

It had been a joke when Cindy dubbed the four of them the Women’s Murder Club years ago, but the name had stuck because they liked it. The girls regularly gathered at Susie’s, their clubhouse, in order to vent, brainstorm, and fill up on spicy Caribbean food and draft beer. It was nice to go with the “don’t worry, be happy” flow every once in a while.

Laughs were definitely on the menu tonight.

Lindsay had been pulling double shifts at her high-stress job, and recently had been put on a harrowing assignment with the antiterrorism task force. Her husband, Joe Molinari, was still recovering from injuries he’d received in a terrorist bombing related to that very case.

That was probably why Lindsay’s sister offered to take their little girl, Julie, home with her and her own little girls for the week. Everything was all set. Lindsay and Joe were leaving in the morning for a well-earned vacation in Mendocino, a small-town escape 150 miles north of San Francisco.

Cindy was excited for them. She ordered beer and chips for the table and had settled into the banquette when Lindsay and Joe arrived. They all hugged, and then the tall blond cop and her hunky husband slid into the booth.

Lindsay said, “I think I’m going to fall asleep in the car and then stay in bed for the entire week. It’s inevitable.”

Joe put an arm around Lindsay, pulled her close, and said, “If that’s the case, there will be no complaints from me.”

“All righhhht,” said Cindy. Beer was poured into frosted mugs, and Cindy made the first toast. “To rain,” she said. “Gentle, pattering rain and no Wi-Fi reception.”

“Let’s drink to that,” said Lindsay.

Glass clinked, Lindsay gulped some beer, and after setting down her mug, she asked Cindy, “You sure you’re up to taking care of Martha? She’s used to being the boss, you know.”

Lindsay was referring to her family’s best dog friend, an aging border collie who had pulled a tendon and was under doctor’s orders for bed rest.

“I think I can handle it. After all, I, too, am used to being the boss,” Cindy said with a wink.

“You? Bossy? You must be joking,” said Lindsay.

Cindy was known to be more pit bull than pussycat. She and Lindsay were still snickering about it when Claire Washburn arrived.

Claire emphatically endorsed Lindsay’s upcoming week of R & R. She slid into the booth next to her, saying, “I know I’m going to miss you to death, but I’m not going to call you. And I mean, no way, no how, not for any reason. Seriously. This week, nothing but radio silence, okay?”

Before Lindsay could answer, Rich Conklin arrived tableside, stepping on Claire’s laugh line. He said hey to his friends and bent down to give Cindy a kiss as Yuki danced into the room, singing along with the Caribbean tune. Rich gave her the seat next to Cindy and pulled up a chair for himself.

Yuki ordered her first margarita of the evening, and the dinner orders went in after that. Even though the upbeat music was plinking loudly and laughter and applause made conversation challenging, Cindy felt a tremendous pleasure in this gathering of close friends. The gang was all here and the evening felt like a group hug. It was the kind of night out that she wanted to soak up and remember forever.

She wouldn’t change a thing.

Chapter 2

On Monday morning, Claire arrived at the medical examiner’s office—her office—at ten before eight.

As she walked through the reception room, she was still transitioning from her home to her work mindset. Her thoughts hopscotched from the pressure of back-to-school week with her youngest kiddo, her grumpy husband, who was looking toward early retirement, and the transmission fluid she needed for her car. Not to mention the strong coffee and donut she needed to help her shift her own gears.

She had just hung her coat behind her door when Dr. Harrison, the on-call ME handling the night shift, knocked on the door frame to her office.

“Morning, Bernard. What’s the latest?” she asked her number two.

“First, we had a bad accident on the freeway at around midnight last night,” he told her. “A car jumped the median and T-boned a family that was coming home from grandma’s house. There were three fatalities. One of the children is in the emergency room.”

“Oh, damn.”

“Fifteen minutes after we’d admitted the car crash victims, two more fatalities came in. It’s all in here,” he said, waggling a folder containing a sheaf of notes. “I was able to get through two of the freeway postmortems and left the rest for you.”

“So you’ve left three patients for me, you’re saying?”

“You don’t get paid the big bucks for the easy jobs.”

She smiled at their inside joke. There were no big bucks to be found in civil service, but Claire loved what she did. She wouldn’t have it any other way.

Dr. H. kept filling her in. “Bunny’s here, and so is Mallory. Greg is running late, and I have a headache the size of a beach ball.”

“Go home,” she told him. “Take an aspirin and get some sleep.”

“Don’t have to tell me twice, Doc,” he said. “Watch out for my vapor trail.”


On Sale
Aug 1, 2017
Page Count
144 pages

James Patterson

About the Author

James Patterson is the world’s bestselling author, best known for his many enduring fictional characters and series, including Alex Cross, the Women’s Murder Club, Michael Bennett, Maximum Ride, Middle School, I Funny, and Jacky Ha-Ha. Patterson’s writing career is characterized by a single mission: to prove to everyone, from children to adults, that there is no such thing as a person who “doesn’t like to read,” only people who haven’t found the right book. He’s given over a million books to schoolkids and over forty million dollars to support education, and endowed over five thousand college scholarships for teachers. He writes full-time and lives in Florida with his family.

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