Cross the Line
James Patterson continues to keep the long-running Alex Cross series fresh and readable with a combination of elements. He is unafraid to put his signature, now-iconic character through changes, both good and bad, while continually creating new, memorable and powerful antagonists with whom Cross, presently a Washington, D.C. police detective consultant, can cross swords. Add Patterson’s style --- above all else, the story advances, sentence by sentence --- and you are guaranteed a winner, which is what you get with CROSS THE LINE.
"Two of these cases are connected, however tenuously, while the third is a good old-fashioned mystery with a couple of twists, turns and misdirections."
Patterson gives Cross three separate cases (read: “headaches”) with which to deal. One involves a mysterious motorcyclist with mad riding and shooting skills who is assassinating motorists, seemingly at random, in the D.C. area. The reader knows a bit more than Cross with respect to what is going on, so it is left to him to discover that the targets are not as random as they might appear. Another involves the execution-style killing of Cross’ boss and the man’s lady friend. There is no lack of suspects here, and they include the Chief’s former partner, now living a reclusive and bitter life after losing his job. The murder also leaves a void that is filled by Bree, Cross’ wife, thus making her his boss, as he notes at one point, both at home and on the job. Things get just a bit prickly when Cross sees a couple of the cases a bit differently than Bree does, but it’s no mystery that the two eventually work things out.
The third case, though, is perhaps the most complex and intriguing. A mysterious team is attacking and decimating crystal meth factories in the D.C. area with military precision. They are meticulous and deadly, and seem to have no aim other than to stop the illegal activity. They also are careful not to leave any clues behind. Their actions leave Cross and his team with very little to go on, even as the shadowy gang, which takes neither drugs nor money, ups the ante and broadens the scope of their attacks. But the closer Cross gets to them, the closer that he and Bree come to danger. And not everyone comes out of the other end of this ultimate encounter intact.
Two of these cases are connected, however tenuously, while the third is a good old-fashioned mystery with a couple of twists, turns and misdirections. Patterson also includes an earth-shaking ending that sets up a story line that is sure to play out over the next few books in the series and possibly beyond. There is a strong hint of it about halfway through the novel, but it is nonetheless interesting to see it come to fruition as anticipated. The event could mean huge changes for Cross and his family --- the biggest, actually --- and there are so many alternatives that one could be motivated to pick up the next installment just to see what occurs initially. What is certain, though, is that this will continue to be a series worth reading, and returning to, for some time to come.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on November 23, 2016