The toughest cases hit closest to home.
Alex Cross left his hometown, and some awful family tragedies, for a better life with Nana Mama in Washington, DC. He hasn’t looked back.
Now his cousin Stefan has been accused of a horrible, unthinkable murder, and Cross drives south with Bree, Nana Mama, Jannie, and Ali to Starksville, North Carolina, for the first time in thirty-five years. Back home, he discovers a once proud community down on its luck, and local residents who don’t welcome him with open arms. As Cross steps into his family home, the horrors of his childhood flood back–and he learns that they’re not really over. He brings all his skill to finding out the truth about his cousin’s case. But truth is hard to come by in a town where no one feels safe to speak.
Chasing his ghosts takes Cross all the way down to the sugarcane fields of Florida, where he gets pulled into a case that has local cops needing his kind of expertise: a string of socialite murders with ever more grisly settings. He’s chasing too many loose ends–a brutal killer, the truth about his own past, and justice for his cousin–and any one of the answers might be fatal.
When it comes to an Alex Cross book, there are a few things you can always count on. One, nothing truly bad ever happens to his family. They can be kidnapped, have a tumor, etc. and they still will come out of the whole ordeal unscathed. Two, Alex has either a fairy godmother or a magic wand, because there will be at least one time during the book, when he will magically put something together with no proof or evidence.
So, this book wasn’t as awful as I thought it may be. There have been some serious low points in the Alex Cross series (example: Cross Country, Jack & Jill), but for the most part, the series is currently on an upswing. That being said this was one of the hardest books in the series for me to become interested in or focus on. The pacing was so slow, I thought I was going crazy trying to finish it. The pacing almost made me give up on the book, because after several days, I wasn’t even halfway through. And then by magic (maybe Patterson’s ghostwriter borrowed the magic wand), the pacing picks up about two-thirds of the way through.
There are some great things going on in this book and some not so great things. First off, I have to say I really liked the Coco story line that was unfolding within the books. I’m a sucker for the bad guys and she had the potential of being one of Patterson’s better ones… except for how it all tied into Alex becoming involved in this case. Honestly, she would have been better off in a standalone book.
Secondly, I both loved and hated Alex’s trip to his hometown of Starksville, North Carolina. First off, it’s clear Patterson is completely ignorant to the fact Mr. Pibb is still around and is even sold and served at many establishes in the North. So the idea that Bree had never heard of it because she’s “from Chicago” is ludicrous. One of my favorite pizza shops in downtown Chicago serves the beverage. Also, I was really offended by the racial aspects the story immediately took on within minutes of Cross’s arrival. I’m not saying racism doesn’t run rampant within our country. It does and as a teenager in Louisiana, I was called a lot of awful names for being friendly with everyone. But to imply that in a small town, in a distant cul-de-sac where only Alex’s family members live, someone reported a break in the moment he showed up, is ridiculous. That scene, where a set of cops barge into the house (or bungalow, which Alex kept calling it, which I might add, makes no freaking sense), guns drawn and their trigger fingers itching, seemed a bit far-fetched. Patterson goes to great lengths to describe how secluded the area is and seeing as all three houses are owned by members of his family, this scene just seemed like he was trying to push the present day controversy about police and racism to the forefront. The truth is, he could have achieved this without this scene and it was yet another time I almost put the book away. I just felt it was forced upon me as a reader and it didn’t even make sense. Yes, these situations happen and they shouldn’t, but how you address these issues are just as important as trying to find solutions to keep these situations from happening. But I suppose having a small town full of drugs, corruption and racism work well to create conflict
Also, can we stop with the freaking Cross stepford children? Is everyone in the immediate Cross household super gifted? Because I’m fairly certain that is impossible. On top of that, we are once again riddled with the constant inconsistencies with details such as ages and histories of characters. I enjoyed learning about how Cross came to live with Nana Mama. That was interesting and with the exception of how it tied Alex to the case of Coco in Florida, I enjoyed it. But I also found myself really annoyed that Bree kept bitching about not going to Jamaica. Why was this even an issue? One, Alex’s cousin is on trial for murder. Clearly that takes priority over a vacation, right? Two, Alex’s ex-fiance, Christine was kidnapped for over a year in Jamaica. That’s where Ali was born and I highly doubt the place holds a lot of fond memories for Alex. But you know, what do I know?
I know this sounds like a lot of complaining about a book I don’t have to read, but my issue is this was one of Patterson’s best series. Beyond that, I actually liked huge portions of the book. But as a whole, it was drawn out and there was a lot of wand waving to make things happen. The quality of these books continue to suffer and it may be because after twenty-three books, Patterson has lost his inspiration for Alex Cross. Ghost writers can only continue to beat this horse so long and I would much rather the series end on a high note, than continue to flip back and forth between quality story telling and constant recycling of old story lines and events. This book didn’t carry any recycled material that really stood out to me, but the next one most likely will. And it’s that feeling, knowing the next one will probably be less than par because the last few have been good or decent, that bugs me.
Four stars for the main story line in North Carolina. That story could have easily carried this book and made it a solid four star read. But the book loses a point for the need to magically throw Alex into the Coco case (which should have either been the primary focus or a book on its own) and the inability to start being so darn predictable. I can’t feel like the Cross family or even Alex Cross, himself, are truly in danger, unless you finally make something bad stick to the family. After what happened in the past two books, they shouldn’t be so easily thrown back into their regular lives and yet, they are completely unscathed, yet again. That’s boring. At least when Christine was kidnapped, she was traumatized. I still feel the time may have come to say goodbye to Alex Cross.
Pick up your copy on Amazon: Cross Justice by James Patterson