Cross Justice
A novel by James Patterson
Book review by Jules Brenner
Little, Brown, released 11/23/15, 448 pp., $29.00
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Having read a number of James Patterson thrillers, the style of this Alex Cross mystery jarred me. With Alex Cross, who is the author's personal hero, we seem to be getting back to the author's basics and a less, well, dynamic pace and plot than his co-written stream of books. Alex Cross novels have always had a high content of family issues and this may exceed them all for how much he integrates his household into his work on a case and creates a whole subset of emotional threads that often pre-occupies our six foot three hero.

It's been 35 years since he saw his home town of Starksville, North Carolina, but when Alex hears that his cousin Stefan is about to be tried for the gruesome torture/murder of a thirteen-year old boy, he rounds up his clan for a trip home: wife Bree (Brianna), Nana Mama, Jannie and Ali.

Ready to do battle to find the real killer, his return to his childhood home swamps him with sore memories of his drunken father and troubled mother, a dismal community that's seen better days, and sullen people who say little as though protecting their secrets while frozen in fear. It isn't long before he learns from the local judge that the laws in Starkville are strictly local and have little in common with the nation's Constitution.

His quest brings him to Florida and there he finds something going on that Patterson has been telling us about from the prologue: a string of killings of affluent socialites; women with fabulous wardrobes being ripped off and slaughtered in terrible ways. When the local cops discover Alex in their midst, they plead for his help in finding and stopping the psychotic barbarism of this butcher.

This person may be one of the more unique villains in mystery literature and makes for a character invention that, while stretching plausibility, commands our attention to a vicious, gender-challenged, highly deranged murderer as deplorable as any Batman creep.

Patterson has been devoted to the young reader ("Public School Superhero") and one might interpret the inclusion of family in a complex murder thriller to be to maintain his young adult audience from his "Teenreads" series and continue their engagement with his adult fiction -- although this is no children's game.

If you don't yet own Cross Justice and would like to purchase it (usually at a sizable discount), click here.