cover image 12 Months to Live

12 Months to Live

James Patterson and Mike Lupica. Little, Brown, $30 (400p) ISBN 978-0-316-40569-0

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.)