Nursery-Rhyme Crime

More cat-and-mouse suspense, in the new Alex Cross thriller.

After the forgettable "Cradle And All", James Patterson returns with yet another thriller, this one featuring Alex Cross, the homicide detective we first met in "Along Came A Spider" and the star of five previous thrillers.

Still recovering from Christine's kidnapping and eventual recovery, Cross is working hard to keep his family together, and to persuade Christine not to end their relationship. Unfortunately, he's not getting much help from the criminal element - his newborn son's christening is rudely interrupted by Kyle Craig of the FBI, who requests Cross to work on a robbery/homicide investigation of a master criminal who calls himself the Mastermind. The Mastermind's modus operandi is unique: he robs banks by taking family members of bank employees hostage to force compliance with his instructions, and then cold-bloodedly kills them once the robbery is complete.

With little evidence to go on, Cross, and his new partner, FBI Agent Betsey Cavalierre, find themselves in a situation neither is comfortable with - reacting to the Mastermind's attacks as they occur. Faced with an enemy who seems to know what he's thinking, Cross has to use all his intelligence and experience to find the killer - before someone he loves dies.

Written in typical rapid-fire style, with many chapters spanning less than two pages, "Roses Are Red" marks a return to Patterson's familiar stomping grounds - the cat-and-mouse game played out between a ruthless criminal and the detective determined to track him down. While "Roses Are Red" is certainly not as good as the first few books in the Cross series, it is far better than Patterson's last effort, "Cradle And All", and does offer enough twists to keep the reader entertained.

Both Cross and his personal life are explored in detail in "Roses Are Red" - I thought that Patterson could have edited some of this material out, as it seemed to detract from the pace of the story while adding very little to the atmosphere. Cross is, as always, well-detailed, and Patterson throws us a curve ball in the form of Betsey Cavalierre, a female FBI agent who is just as dedicated, professional and intelligent as Cross. The best part of this story, though, is the last sentence - read it and you'll see what I mean!

This article was first published on 03 Jan 2001.