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Cross    by James Patterson order for
by James Patterson
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2006 (2006)
Hardcover, Audio, CD

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The front cover gives a preview, telling us that 'Alex Cross faces the deadliest psychopath of them all - his wife's killer'. Along the way, the beloved workaholic plays musical chairs with his career once more, reconnects with his family, and pursues a slowly simmering romance with Dr. Kayla - altogether a major treat for James Patterson's hordes of fans.

The Prologue creates immediate tension, as we see Alex admitted to the Berkshires Medical Center with multiple gunshot wounds, his life on the line. The author then segues back to a happier time, as Alex remembers his wife Maria, her goofy smile, and her habit of telling him - even on her deathbed - 'No one will ever love you the way I do' (this author sure knows how to tug on our heartstrings!) Next we meet Michael Sullivan, the self-styled Butcher of Sligo and ruthless mob hit man, who always takes a bow after each execution. He and his callous sidekick, Jimmy Hats, do their job and then seek recreation - a rape and terrifying threats to the victim for Sullivan, while Hats, as always, guards his back. We soon suspect that this crime ties in to social worker Maria Cross's murder, but Alex does not discover the connection until over a decade later.

Present day events begin with hate mail for Alex from psychopath Kyle Craig in his maximum security padded prison cell. After a family trip to upgrade the car is interrupted by the FBI and Alex puts himself at unnecessary risk yet again, Nana Mama puts her foot down and marches out the door, leading our hero to re-think his life. He resigns from the FBI and hangs his shingle as a consulting psychologist once more, feeling a huge weight ease off his shoulders. As a murderous feud escalates between Sullivan and Mafia boss Maggione, Alex's best friend Sampson pulls him into an investigation of serial rapes, where the victims have been so intimidated by the perpetrator that they will not speak. Alex persuades one of them to describe her rapist, bringing Sullivan back to his vicinity, as clues begin to surface linking the Butcher of Sligo to Maria's murder. Alex, with Sampson at his back, is out for revenge and closure.

In Cross, James Patterson combines a poignant replay of the events leading up to Maria Cross's death and Alex's continuing grief and inability to move on, with a psychopath's perspective on events, regular surprises, and touches of humor (you have to laugh at the assassination auction) into his usual winning combination. This episode - which solved a cold case that has haunted the series from the beginning - is sure to delight fans and leave them wondering what's up with the call from a killer that leaves us - and Alex - hanging at the end.

Audiobook Reviewed by Lyn Seippel (Rating:3):

Alex Cross retires from the FBI and sets up practice as a therapist. He and his family are content that he will be working in a profession with normal hours, leaving evenings free to spend with Nana Mama, Jannie, Damon and little Alex.

His nine to five life doesn't last long. His former partner John Sampson, a detective with the D.C. Police Department, asks Alex to consult on a serial rape case, where the victims are terrified of revealing anything that might identify their attacker. Similar rapes were happening when his wife Maria was murdered ten years ago. The possibility of finding her murderer pulls him back into the game of tracking rapists and murderers. He's not sure whether he's looking for vengeance, closure on their life together, or an end to the rapes and murders that he knows are still happening.

Peter Jay Fernandez tells reads Alex's first person story. His performance shows that he understands both Alex the Dragon Slayer and Alex the father and family man.

Jay O. Sanders portrays Michael 'the Butcher of Sligo' Sullivan as the cold psychopath who may have murdered Maria, and has made more contract hits than he can remember without the photos he keeps as souvenirs. First rate performances for Patterson's first rate thriller.

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