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3rd Degree

The #1 bestselling new mystery series of the past decade comes roaring back with 3rd Degree, a shockingly suspenseful thriller featuring the Women's Murder Club.

One of James Patterson's best loved heroines is about to die. Detective Lindsay Boxer is jogging along a beautiful San Francisco street when a fiery explosion rips through the neighborhood. A town house owned by an Internet millionaire is immediately engulfed in flames, and when Lindsay plunges inside to search for survivors, she finds three people dead. An infant who lived in the house cannot be found - and a mysterious message at the scene leaves Lindsay and the San Francisco Police Department completely baffled.

Then a prominent businessman is found murdered under bizarre circumstances, with another mysterious message left behind by the killer. Lindsay asks her friends Claire Washburn of the medical examiner's office, Assistant D.A. Jill Bernhardt, and Chronicle reporter Cindy Thomas to help her figure out who is committing these murders-and why they are intent on killing someone every three days.

Even more terrifying, the killer has targeted one of the four friends who call themselves the Women's Murder Club.

Which one will it be?

While the investigation rages furiously, Lindsay works very closely with a federal officer assigned to the case. At the same time, she learns that one member of the Women's Murder Club is hiding a secret so dangerous and unbelievable that it could destroy them all.

Chapter 2

"OH, MY GOD!" I gasped as a flash of heat and debris nearly knocked me to the ground.

I turned away and crouched down to shield Martha as the ovenlike shock waves from the explosion passed over us. A few seconds later, I turned to pull myself up. Mother of God...I couldn't believe my eyes. The town house I had just admired was now a shell. Fire ripped through the second floor.

In that instant I realized that people could still be inside. I tied Martha to a lamppost. Flames gusted just fifty feet away. I ran across the street to the blazing home. The second floor was gone. Anyone up there didn't have a chance. I fumbled through my fanny pack for the cell phone.

Frantically, I punched in 911. "This is Lieutenant Lindsay Boxer, San Francisco Police Department, Shield two-seven-two- one. There's been an explosion at the corner of Alhambra and Pierce. A residence. Casualties likely. Need full medical and fire support. Get them moving!"

I cut off the dispatcher. Procedure told me to wait, but if anyone was in there, there was no time. I ripped off my sweatshirt and wrapped it loosely around my face. "Oh, Jesus Christ, Lindsay," I said, and held my breath. Then I pushed my way into the burning house.

"Is anyone there?" I shouted, choking immediately on the gray, raspy smoke. The intense heat bit at my eyes and face, and it hurt just to peek out from the protective cloth. A wall of burning Sheetrock and plaster hung above me. "Police!" I shouted again. "Is anyone there?"

The smoke felt like sharp razors slicing into my lungs. It was impossible to hear above the roar of the flames. I suddenly understood how people trapped in fires on high floors would leap to their death rather than bear the intolerable heat. I shielded my eyes, pushing my way through the billow-ing smoke. I hollered a last time, "Is anyone alive in here?" I couldn't go any farther. My eyebrows were singed. I realized I could die in there.

I turned and headed for the light and cool that I knew were behind me. Suddenly, I spotted two shapes, the bodies of a woman and a man. Clearly dead, their clothes on fire. I stopped, feeling my stomach turn. But there was nothing I could do for them.

Then I heard a muffled noise. I didn't know if it was real. I stopped, tried to listen above the rumble of the fire. I could hardly bear the pain of the blistering heat on my face. There it was again. It was real, all right. Someone was crying.

Copyright © 2004 by James Patterson

Read by Carolyn McCormick
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