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Cross Country    by James Patterson order for
Cross Country
by James Patterson
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2008 (2008)

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Alex Cross goes cross country - and gets regularly pummelled by all and sundry - in this latest in James Patterson's uber-popular chiller series. But this time the action takes Cross further than before, all the way to Africa, where he locks horns with both corrupt officialdom and CIA agents. Though a complete family man, Alex, as always, puts his commitment to (obsession with?) the job first, risking everything to get to the truth.

After his stint in the FBI and a sabbatical in private practice, Alex returned to the police department in Double Cross. Now he's partnered with his lover, Detective Brianna Stone - Bree is a big hit with Alex's family too. The action opens with a Home Invasion by a gang of vicious boys led by a 'six-foot-six, two-hundred-fifty-pound killer known as "The Tiger"'. They slaughter an entire family of five. When Bree calls Alex to the scene, he's shocked to find he knows one of the victims, the mother Eleanor, who was his first love when they were students together at Georgetown.

The Tiger doesn't stop with one family - as more massacres go down, Alex learns from an informant that the killers are from Africa. He also discovers that Ellie had recently been in Lagos, Nigeria writing a book on Crime as a Way of Life in Central Africa. When Alex consults the CIA, they are not forthcoming with information but clearly know something. After failing to catch his tiger in Virginia, Alex boards a plane for Africa, despite Nana's strong objections to his putting himself at such risk, and Bree's reaction that he's 'taking this too far'.

In Africa, Alex is in serious trouble right off the plane. A pattern emerges, of unpleasant and painful encounters with corrupt officials throughout his visit to Nigeria and Darfur, punctuated by unhelpful meetings with the CIA. He's helped by a priest, an old man named Moses, and by Adanne Tansi, a beautiful (naturally - which of Alex's ladies is not?) reporter. Alex bounces from one crisis to another in Africa, a swathe of bodies in his wake. As he's deported, he muses that no-one wants him there and 'Nobody wants to hear the truth either.'

Back in Washington, the roles are reversed and the Tiger is on Alex's trail, hunting him close to home. Through all this, the Dragon Slayer holds on to what he knows - he takes down, not only the tiger, but the dragon behind him too. This episode ends with a sinister communication from Alex's archenemy Kyle Craig, setting the scene nicely for what comes next. Though Cross Country is not as smooth as some of Alex's previous quests, James Patterson's countless fans will appreciate the new African connection and will be glued to its pages.

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