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Sunday, December 14, 2014


5 stars out of 5

Mark this day on the calendar, folks: It's the first time in a while
that I've given a James Patterson book 5 stars. His series featuring Detective Alex Cross is one of my favorites, to be sure - partly, I think, because he writes these books all on his own as opposed to "share-cropping" with co-writers to  varying degrees of success.

This rating also comes after reading, and being quite annoyed with, the previous book in the series, Cross My Heart. It was good, but the cliffhanger of an ending, as I said at the time, so reeked of promotion for this one that I almost vowed on principle not to read the follow-up.

Well, truth is I'm glad I did. At the end of Cross My Heart, the 21st in the series, Cross had lost his entire family to kidnappings by a demented killer. That scenario is continued here as he works nonstop to find them (hopefully alive); and as might be expected, the tension gets hot and heavy. In fact, if I have a complaint, it's that the drama "crosses" the line of excessive - but even that really didn't take away that nonstop, edge-of-the-seat excitement.

Cross is being stalked and mentally tortured by someone who clearly has a psychotic streak; early on, as two mutilated bodies turn up that are presumed to be Cross's wife Bree and his son Damion, Cross is so emotionally devastated that he's barely able to function. But function he must if he has even the slightest chance of catching the diabolical killer and find his precious Nana Mama and the rest of his children alive.

To be fair, there are more than a few "holes" in the story - from lapses in police procedure to how the killer manages to accomplish everything given time and circumstances to wasting too much space on repetition. Still, the action moves along fast, thanks mostly to Patterson's way with words. While I'm basically not an OCD personality, I admit that having to stop reading anywhere other than at the beginning of a new chapter when life interferes makes me crazy; short chapters make it easy to avoid that mental upset. And since I've always been a critic of what I consider to be short-changing readers by filling up to 20% of the advertised number of pages with sample chapters from other books, I'll note that the pages devoted to previews are far fewer here.

I'll also note that while this book can stand alone, it's meant to be the second of a two-parter. To get the biggest bang for your bucks, then, I suggest reading Cross Your Heart before tackling this one.

Hope to Die by James Patterson (Little, Brown and Co., November 2014); 404 pp.

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