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1st to Die

1st to Die is a dazzlingly powerful new thriller by master suspense novelist James Patterson, the #1 bestselling author of Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider.

Four women-four friends-share a determination to stop a killer who has been stalking newlyweds in San Francisco. Each one holds a piece of the puzzle: 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.

But the usual procedures aren't bringing them any closer to stopping the killings. So these women form a Women's Murder Club to collaborate outside the box and pursue the case by sidestepping their bosses and giving one another a hand.

The four women develop intense bonds as they pursue a killer whose crimes have stunned an entire city. Working together, they track down the most terrifying and unexpected killer they have ever encountered-before a shocking conclusion in which everything they knew turns out to be devastatingly wrong.

Full of the breathtaking drama and unforgettable emotions for which James Patterson is famous, 1st to Die is the start of a blazingly fast-paced and sensationally entertaining new series of crime thrillers.

Prologue

INSPECTOR
LINDSAY BOXER

IT IS AN UNUSUALLY WARM NIGHT in July, but I'm shivering badly as I stand on the substantial gray stone terrace outside my apartment. I'm looking out over glorious San Francisco and I have my service revolver pressed against the side of my temple.

"Goddamn you, God!" I whisper. Quite a sentiment, but appropriate and just, I think.

I hear Sweet Martha whimpering. I turn and see she is watching me through the glass doors that lead to the terrace. She knows that something is wrong. "It's okay," I call to her through the door. "I'm okay. Go lie down, girl."

Martha won't leave, though, won't look away. She's a good, loyal friend who's been nuzzling me good-night every single night for the past six years.

As I stare into the Border collie's eyes, I think that maybe I should go inside and call the girls. Claire, Cindy, and Jill would be here almost before I hung up the phone. They would hold me, hug me, say all the right things. You're special, Lindsay. Everybody loves you, Lindsay.

Only I'm pretty sure that I'd be back out here tomorrow night, or the night after. I just don't see a way out of this mess. I have thought it all through a hundred times. I can be as logical as hell, but I am also highly emotional, obviously. That was my strength as an inspector with the San Francisco Police Department. It is a rare combination, and I think it is why I was more successful than any of the males in Homicide. Of course, none of them are up here getting ready to blow their brains out with their own guns.

I lightly brush the barrel of the revolver down my cheek and then up to my temple again. Oh God, oh God, oh God. I am reminded of soft hands, of Chris, and that starts me crying.

Lots of images are coming way too fast for me to handle.

The terrible, indelible honeymoon murders that terrified our city, mixed with close-ups of my mom and even a few flashes of my father. My best girls — Claire, Cindy, and Jill — our crazy club. I can even see myself, the way I used to be, anyway. Nobody ever, ever thought that I looked like an inspector, the only woman homicide inspector in the entire SFPD. My friends always said I was more like Helen Hunt married to Paul Reiser in Mad About You. I was married once. I was no Helen Hunt; he sure was no Paul Reiser.

This is so hard, so bad, so wrong. It's so unlike me. I keep seeing David and Melanie Brandt, the first couple who were killed, in the Mandarin Suite of the Grand Hyatt. I see that horrifying hotel room, where they died senselessly and needlessly.

That was the beginning.

Copyright © 2001 by James Patterson

Read by Suzanne Toren (unabridged) & Melissa Leo and Dylan Baker (abridged)
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