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Mary, Mary    by James Patterson order for
Mary, Mary
by James Patterson
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2005 (2005)
Hardcover, Audio, CD

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

FBI agent Alex Cross is taking a rare (California) Disneyland vacation with his family, including Alex Junior (who now insists that he should be called Ali), visiting from Seattle. Alex's warm love for this little guy and a heartbreaking custody struggle with Ali's mom Christine create a solid backdrop of Cross family caring (Nana Mama centering them as always) and a strong contrast with the horror of serial killings. Of course, the vacation is interrupted, sending Alex's relationships with both Jamilla Hughes (who met him in California for a too brief liaison) and Christine spiraling downwards.

As always, Patterson introduces us to his villain early on - this time he has a tantalizing moniker, 'The Storyteller'. We see the killer practicing his techniques in New York, after which he relocates to Hollywood, where he targets A-list celebrities (mostly mothers of small children), one by one, shooting them in the face. We learn from his musings how much he resents them for past slights. He seems to be acting 'For Mary, Mary quite contrary' and scripts his killings in e-mails to an L.A. Times reporter, signed 'Mary Smith'. Patterson regularly shows us a real Mary Smith, a loving and competent (though stressed) mother of three small children in Los Angeles. What, if anything, do she and The Storyteller have in common?

Alex has been dubbed 'America's Sherlock Holmes' by the media, and doesn't like it. He's followed everywhere by investigative journalist James Truscott and likes that even less. He works closely with attractive LAPD detective Jeanne Galletta (another developing romantic interest in addition to Doctor Kayla?) As murder victims multiply, Alex copes with guilt over being an absentee father, as well as police and FBI politics, and is alone in questioning whether the killer is a woman. When an arrest is made, it's 'End of story.' Or is it? As always, James Patterson twists his plot, surprising us in both Alex's personal and professional lives, and building to a crescendo of an ending.

I enjoyed Mary, Mary much more than the last few in the series, finding it as well crafted and entertaining as any of the early Alex Cross adventures. James Patterson delivers a spooky psychopath, plot and motivation puzzlers, a warm-hearted everyman hero, and several big surprises to tie it all up. What more can a reader ask?

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