Extract: 12 Months to Live by James Patterson
James Patterson is the master of the crime thriller genre. His inventive plots keep us guessing and are always brimming with action. His new standalone novel, 12 Months to Live, is no exception.
His latest novel follows Jane Smith, a top criminal defence attorney in New York who is defending a high-profile man accused of a triple homicide. Smith goes above and beyond for her clients, often seeming like more of an investigator than a lawyer. It’s business as usual until the bombshell hits: she’s been diagnosed with a terminal illness and has just 12 months to live – unless one of her enemies kills her first.
Read below for an exclusive taste of James Patterson’s latest page-turner, which is out 28 September.
12 Months to Live
“For the last time,” my client says to me. “I. Did. Not. Kill. Those. People.”
He adds, “You have to believe me. I didn’t do it.”
The opposing counsel will refer to him as “the defendant.” It’s a way of putting him in a box, since opposing counsel absolutely believe he did kill all those people. The victims. The Gates family. Father. Mother. And teenage daughter. All shot in the head. Sometime in the middle of the last night of their lives. Whoever did it, and the state says my client did, had to have used a suppressor.
“Rob,” I say, “I might have mentioned this before: I. Don’t. Give. A. Shit.”
Rob is Rob Jacobson, heir to a legendary publishing house and also owner of the biggest real estate company in the Hamptons. Life was good for Rob until he ended up in jail, but that’s true for pretty much everybody, rich or poor. Guilty or innocent. I’ve defended both.
Me? I’m Jane. Jane Smith. It’s not an assumed name, even though I might be wishing it were by the end of this trial.
There was a time when I would have been trying to keep somebody like Rob Jacobson away from the needle, back when New York was still a death penalty state. Now it’s my job to help him beat a life sentence. Starting tomorrow. Suffolk County Court, Riverhead, New York. Maybe forty-five minutes from where Rob Jacobson stands accused of shooting the Gates family dead.
That’s forty-five minutes with no traffic. Good luck with that.
“I’ve told you this before,” he says. “It’s important to me that you believe me.”
No surprise there. He’s been conditioned his entire life to people telling him what he wants to hear. It’s another perk that’s come with being a Jacobson.
Until now, that is.
We are in one of the attorney rooms down the hall from the courtroom. My client and me. Long window at the other end of the room where the guard can keep an eye on us. Not for my safety, I tell myself. Rob Jacobson’s. Maybe the guard can tell from my body language that I occasionally feel the urge to strangle him.
He’s wearing his orange jumpsuit. I’m in the same dark-gray skirt and jacket I’ll be wearing tomorrow. What I think of as my sincerity suit.
“Important to you,” I say, “not to me. I need twelve people to believe you. And I’m not one of the twelve.”
“You have to know that I’m not capable of doing something like this.”
“Sure. Let’s go with that.”
“You sound sarcastic,” he says.
“No. I am sarcastic.”
This is our last pretrial meeting, one he’s asked for and that is a complete waste of time. Mine, not his. He looks for any excuse to get out of his cell at the Riverhead Correctional Facility for even an hour and has insisted on going over once more what he calls “our game plan.”
Our — I run into a lot of that.
I’ve tried to explain to him that any lawyer who allows his or her client to run the show ought to save everybody a lot of time and effort — and a boatload of the state’s money — and drive the client straight to Attica or Green Haven Correctional. But Rob Jacobson never listens. Lifelong affliction, as far as I can tell.
“Rob, you don’t just want me to believe you. You want me to like you.”
“Is there something so wrong with that?” he asks.
“This is a murder trial,” I tell him. “Not a dating app.”
Looks-wise he reminds me of George Clooney. But all goodlooking guys with salt-and-pepper hair remind me of George. If I had met him several years ago and could have gotten him to stay still long enough, I might have married him.
But only if I had been between marriages at the time.
“Stop me if you’ve heard me say this before, but I was set up.”
I sigh. It’s louder than I intended. “Okay. Stop.”
“I was,” he says. “Set up. Nothing else makes sense.”
“Now, you stop me if you’ve heard this one from me before. Set up by whom? And with your DNA and fingerprints sprinkled around that house like pixie dust?”
“That’s for you to find out,” he says. “One of the reasons I hired you is because I was told you’re as good a detective as you are a lawyer. You and your guy.”
Jimmy Cunniff. Ex-NYPD, the way I’m ex-NYPD, even if I only lasted a grand total of eight months as a street cop, before lasting barely longer than that as a licensed private investigator. It was why I’d served as my own investigator for the first few years after I’d gotten my law degree. Then I’d hired Jimmy, and finally started delegating, almost as a last resort.
“Not to put too fine a point on things,” I say to him, “we’re not just good. We happen to be the best. Which is why you hired both of us.”
“And why I’m counting on you to find the real killers eventually. So people will know I’m innocent.”
I lean forward and smile at him.
“Rob? Do me a favor and never talk about the real killers ever again.”
“I’m not O.J.,” he says.
“Well, yeah, he only killed two people.”
I see his face change now. See something in his eyes that I don’t much like. But then I don’t much like him. Something else I run into a lot.
He slowly regains his composure. And the rich-guy certainty that this is all some kind of big mistake. “Sometimes I wonder whose side you’re on.”
“So despite how much you like giving me a hard time, you do believe I’m telling you the truth.”
“Who said anything about the truth?” I ask.
What did you think of this extract? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below…