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The Big Bad Wolf    by James Patterson order for
Big Bad Wolf
by James Patterson
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2003 (2003)
Hardcover, Audio, CD
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

A new Alex Cross book is always a treat, perfect entertainment for a rainy day's read. In The Big Bad Wolf, Alex has finally bit the bullet and joined the FBI. The question is, will he ever get to finish his new-agent training, which is regularly interrupted by urgent case consultations? And will he ever be able to enjoy the extra family time, that was one of his objectives in the career move?

The bad guy (at least one of them) of the story is a Russian Mafia type called the Wolf, who's been operating 'white slave rings' in the U.S. for some time. He's well connected - with law enforcement and also into the prison system, where he's played chess with Cross's old nemesis, Kyle Craig. By the way, have you noticed how Patterson villains never seem to die? They only fade away in jail cells, where they continue to stage manage events.

It seems that the Wolf is behind the abduction of 'upscale', attractive, blonde, 'lovable' women (and some young men), who are being specifically targeted by name (or by type) and are never seen again. They are being 'purchased' to satisfy the perverted desires of rich men, participants in a secure chat room, 'the Wolf's Den'. Alex attempts to track villains and victims, while learning (reluctantly) to deal with the cumbersome bureaucracy and internal politics of the Bureau.

As usual, the story alternates between horrific scenes of kidnapping and torture, and Alex's everyday family life with Nana, kids and cat Rosie, and his developing relationship with West Coast detective Jamilla Hughes. All of this comes under pressure with the return of Christine Johnson, who initiates a legal battle for custody of Little Alex, the center and the joy of the Cross family. And, as always, James Patterson springs more than one surprise on both readers and protagonist, as the Wolf bites back in a cliffhanger of an ending.

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