Tuesday, April 28, 2009

“Cross Country”, by James Patterson (Century)


Alex Cross returns in his 14th thriller.

A brutal gang of killers is sowing despair and death by wiping out entire families. No one knows why, or whether the deaths are connected in some way. After a friend and her family are butchered by the pack of killers, Alex Cross becomes obsessed with finding and bringing down those responsible, following his prey – the psychotic “Tiger” – all the way to the Niger Delta in Africa.

There’s something comfortably predictable about each new Alex Cross novel from Mr. Patterson (who I think is now officially the most prolific author, perhaps ever). You know that the plotting and pacing of the novel are going to be hovering around warp-speed for the entire duration of the novel. You know the antagonists will be horrific in their brutality. You know that the novel will be richly detailed (even when you’d rather it wasn’t). You know that Alex Cross will save the day. And you know that the brutality of whatever investigation forms the plot will be balanced by the Hallmark-esque family life of our hero.

So much better than his ever-growing co-authored output, Cross Country fills all these criteria, and is an excellent addition to his flagship series. The scope is greater this time around, both in terms of sending our trusty protagonist abroad, but also weaving a number of issues and threads into the narrative, including: heroin trafficking, the international slave trade, and also the oil and gas trade.

For those who have become disillusioned by Patterson’s reliance on co-authored works, the return of Alex Cross should be welcomed and embraced. The schmaltz and overly-emotive elements of his other, shared works is largely absent (the saccharine-sweet Cross-family-life aside), and the series continues to be genuinely thrilling and gritty. Cross Country is proof that, when he puts his mind to it, the author still has it in him to pen thrillers of considerable quality. He will probably never again reach the quality of the first seven books in the series (see below), but this one is nonetheless a great read.

Recommended for any looking for a quick, entertaining thriller.

For Fans of: Andrew Grosse, Peter de Jonge, John Sandford, Robert Crais, Michael Connolly, Matthew Reilly, James Rollins, Lincoln Child & Douglas Preston

Series Chronology: Along Came A Spider (1993), Kiss The Girls (1995), Jack & Jill (1996), Cat & Mouse (1997), Pop Goes The Weasel (1999), Roses Are Red (2000), Violets Are Blue (2001), Four Blind Mice (2002), The Big Bad Wolf (2003), London Bridges (2004), Mary, Mary (2005), Cross (2006), Double Cross (2007), Cross Country (2008), Alex Cross’s Trial (10/09/2009 – in UK)

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