"Murder," he wrote. And four actresses are glad he did.
"He" is James Patterson, the best-selling author of "Kiss the Girls," "Along Came a Spider" and several mysteries about four professional women who band together to solve San Francisco homicides. Patterson also is an executive producer as a very attractive cast makes "Women's Murder Club" an ABC drama series starting Friday, Oct. 12.
The central figure in the well-paced pilot episode is Lindsay Boxer, a police detective struggling with her ex-husband's (Rob Estes, "Melrose Place") promotion to lieutenant, making him her boss. First portrayed by Tracy Pollan in a 2003 NBC movie based on Patterson's book "1st to Die," Lindsay is now played by "Law & Order" alumna Angie Harmon.
For emotional reasons as well as professional ones, Lindsay sure can use her closest girlfriends: prosecutor Jill Bernhardt (Laura Harris, "24"), medical examiner Claire Washburn (Paula Newsome, "Little Miss Sunshine") and newspaper reporter Cindy Thomas (Aubrey Dollar, "Point Pleasant").
The four women get together regularly, not just to dish on their personal lives but also to compare notes on cases that might be impossible to crack otherwise. If ethics seem stretched a bit -- or more -- by such sharing, Patterson claims it's entirely within the realm of possibility.
"I think that frequently, women solve problems differently than men do," he reasons. "When they come in and there's a problem, they'll go, 'What do you think?' Men just kind of come in and blurt out, 'Well, here is the answer.' I grew up with a lot of women, and I like this notion. Also, in the books, all of these women are frustrated by their bosses. In the series, at least one of the bosses will be a woman, which I think is a good idea, too."
Now a parent of two girls with her husband, New York Giants player-turned-FOX football commentator Jason Sehorn, Harmon also is happy "Women's Murder Club" promotes female bonding.
"It takes the dynamic of what women actually have," she says, "the way we relate with each other. When women get together, they talk about anything, whether it be politics or religion or their shoes. Then you always veer off to who is seeing who or, 'How is that relationship going?' That is what makes it fun for me."
Recalling her previous series job, Harmon notes "Law & Order" is "very procedural. There are no back stories, nothing you are able to expand upon as characters. As an actor, you become frustrated because there are muscles that you don't ever exercise.
"In this, as much procedural is there, it is equally character-driven. All of these women are intelligent, witty, talented and driven, then they're also completely flawed. That's an actor's dream. There was no question when they asked if I would do this; they've really brought forth a lot of fantastic characters."
Co-star Dollar agrees, though she admits she hasn't spent much time in newsrooms to prepare for her part.
"I feel like I probably have done the least amount of research, because I don't work in an office" in the show, she says, "but I've researched reporters' relationships with police officers. I've also read the books, which I love and am a big fan of."
Harris reports she has been brushing up on legalese by "going to court in Orange County with a D.A. friend of mine there, and to a local Los Angeles court as well. I've been reading a lot about gender study, the history of San Francisco, a ton of stuff."
And Newsome says she's dealing with the Los Angeles County coroner's office. "I am in constant communication about the fascination of how to solve crimes with a body without a pulse," she says.
Among the other cast members are two veterans of "Commander in Chief," Ever Carradine as the fiancee of Lindsay's ex, and Kyle Secor as a lawyer linked to Jill. Tyrees Allen ("Alias") plays Lindsay's more experienced police partner, and Linda Park ("Star Trek: Enterprise") is featured as the aforementioned female boss, who oversees Jill at the district attorney's office.
Among the producers of "Women's Murder Club" are filmmaker Brett Ratner ("Rush Hour") and Joe Simpson, father of music stars Jessica and Ashlee. Simpson explains his involvement is due to Patterson, since he has "read every book James has written, so I'm a longtime fan and we became friends. We started talking about the way things were done in Hollywood, and the obstacles to that, and we became partners."
Simpson says he suggested turning the "Women's Murder Club" books into a television series since "to have these professions crossing over each other, I was just really excited about them."
The novelist agreed and has been looking over the scripts as they come in. "I think the show is going to be better than the books," Patterson says. "It's really, really well-done. I couldn't be happier with it."
The same goes for Harmon, who's enjoying her camaraderie with the show's other female leads.
"The four of us don't find a weakness and pounce on it," she says. "We lift each other up and support each other. I think there is the typical, 'Oh, it's women working together, this could get scary,' and it's not like that at all here. We have a deep respect for each other. I mean, the talent that's here speaks for itself."
All Genders Welcome in 'Women's Murder Club'
The cast of 'Women's Murder Club'