Mary Frances Wilkens
Patterson once again keeps the reader's stomach queasy in his latest graphic "nursery rhyme." Returning as protagonist is African American psychologist-turned-detective Alex Cross, who adores his two young kids and his wise, wisecracking grandmother--his source of stability since his wife died. Alex is troubled when a young child is murdered near the school his son attends and frightened when the murderer strikes again. On the other side of town, away from the scary inner-city D.C. streets, a pair of killers who call themselves Jack and Jill are terrorizing the movers and shakers by murdering a series of high-profile people. At each killing, Jack and Jill leave sick rhymes implying that a certain resident of Pennsylvania Avenue is the ultimate target. (It is no coincidence that the murdering duo's moniker is the Secret Service's code name for the president and the First Lady.) When Alex is summoned to help protect the president, who has made powerful enemies by rebuffing business-as-usual politics, Alex is torn between his duty to protect his deteriorating neighborhood and his duty to his country. He belongs with his family, he believes, but the "powers that be" know that he is a master at negotiating with serial killers. A fast-paced, electric story that is utterly believable.
Dallas Morning News
Cross, a brilliant homicide cop, is one of the great creations of thriller fiction.
San Franciso Chronicle
The pages turn rapidly, and Patterson juggles twist after twist with genuine glee.
Can D.C. deputy chief Alex Cross (Hide & Seek, 1995, etc.) stop a demented duo thinning the ranks of the Washington elite en route to assassinating the President? You just might be surprised at the answer.
A serial killer (who seems to have sat through the film Network one time too many) is at work. The killer, a self-anointed patriot code-named "Jack" has, together with his partner "Jill," organized a bloody vendetta that gives the phrase "bleeding-heart liberals" a more visceral meaning. The Secret Service, worried that the doggerel notes signed "Jack and Jill" left at each killing might refer to their own code names for President Thomas Byrnes and his First Lady, bring nonpareil cop Cross into the case to help protect the First Family. And you don't need Cross's experience to see that Jack and Jill are working their way up the liberal ladder to the Byrneses when a caller to the President identifies herself as Jill, that Jill, and asks if he's ready to die. But it may not be such a great idea to pull Cross off his present case, a series of child murders, since the killer, convinced that the cops don't care anything about a few dead black kids, begins to see himself in competition with Jack and Jill, and steps up his own campaign accordingly. Meanwhile, it's Cross, whose idea of sharp investigative work consists of flushing suspects into futile, cinematic chases, versus Jack and Jill, whose improbable identities will be swiftly, abundantly clear to most readers as they continue to run rings around the hapless FBI, the CIA, and the Secret Service, even from beyond the grave. Makes you wonder.
The real surprise here, though, is the cavalier lack of closure to this paranoid fantasy, as if an Oliver Stone film ended without fingering the conspirators. Even Patterson's most ardent admirers should beware of this dog.
From the Publisher
Dual narrators and the clever use of sound effects such as gunshots and crowd noises contribute to this thriller featuring psychologist Alex Cross. Narrators John Rubenstein and Blair Underwood offer their own styles as the story unfolds through different points of view. Underwood perfects Alex Cross's deliberate nature with a steady performance and succeeds in building tension appropriately. Rubenstein's rendering of the killers is equally impressive, showing the aloofness of the almost inhuman sociopaths. Although the abridgment may cause listeners to feel they've missed some of the plot along the way, there is enough to tie everything together in the end.
Read an Excerpt
The Games Begin
SAM HARRISON swung his agile body out of the silver blue Ford Aerostar, which he had parked on Q Street in the Georgetown section of Washington. Horror stories and games are popular for a good reason, he was thinking as he locked the vehicle and set its alarm. Not the comfortable sit-around-the-campfire horror tales and games we used to cherish as kids, but the real-life horror stories that are around us everywhere these days.
Now I'm living one myself. I'm about to become part of the horror. How easy it is. How terribly, terribly easy to move past the edge and into the darkness.
He had stalked and shadowed Daniel Fitzpatrick for two long weeks. He'd done his job in New York City, London, Boston, and finally, here in Washington, D.C. Tonight he was going to murder the United States senator. In cold blood, execution-style. No one would be able to figure out why. No one would have a clue that might matter later on.
That was the first and most important rule of the game called Jack and Jill.
In many ways this was a textbook celebrity-stalker pattern. He knew it to be true as he took up his post across from 211 Q Street.
And yet, if anyone bothered to look more closely, it was like no other stalking pattern before. What he was going to do now was more provocative than secretly observing Senator Fitzpatrick down obscene numbers of Glenlivet cocktails at The Monocle, his favorite bar in Washington. This was the truest form of madness, Sam Harrison knew. It was pure madness. He didn't believe he was mad. He believed only in the validity of the game of chance.
And then,less than thirty yards across the shiny-wet street there was Daniel Fitzpatrick himself. Right on schedule. At least, close enough.
He watched the senator stiffly climb out of a gleaming, navy blue Jaguar coupe, a 1996 model. He wore a gray topcoat with a paisley silk scarf. A sleek, slender woman in a black dress was with him. A Burberrys raincoat was casually thrown over her arm. She was laughing at something Fitzpatrick had said. She threw her head back like a beautiful, spirited horse. A wisp of her warm breath met the cool of the night.
The woman was at least twenty years the senator's junior. She wasn't his wife, Sam knew. Dannyboy Fitzpatrick rarely if ever slept with his wife. The blond woman walked with a slight limp, which made the two of them even more intriguing. Memorable, actually.
Sam Harrison concentrated fiercely. Measure twice, measure five times, if necessary. He took stock of all the details one final time. He had arrived in Georgetown at eleven- fifteen. He looked as if he belonged in the chic, attractive, fashionable neighborhood around Q Street. He looked exactly right for the part he was going to play.
A very big part in a very big story, one of the biggest in America's history. Or some would say American theater.
A leading-man role, to be sure.
He wore professorial, tortoiseshell glasses for the part. He never wore glasses. Didn't need them.
His hair was light blond. His hair wasn't really blond.
He called himself Sam Harrison. His name wasn't really Sam. Or Harrison.
For that night's special occasion, he'd carefully selected a soft black cashmere turtleneck, charcoal gray trousers, which were pleated and cuffed, and light-brown walking boots. He wasn't really such a dapper, self-absorbed dresser. His thick hair was cut short, vaguely reminiscent of the actor Kevin Costner in The Bodyguard, one of his least-favorite movies. He carried a small black duffel bag, swinging it like a baton as he now walked briskly toward 211. A camcorder was tucked inside the bag.
He planned to capture as much of this as possible on film. This was history in the making. It really was history: America at the end of its century, America at the end of an era, America at the end.
At quarter to twelve, he entered 211 through a darkened service entryway that smelled strongly of ammonia and of dust and decay. He walked up to the fourth floor, where the senator had his flat, his study, his love nest in the capital.
He reached Daniel Fitzpatrick's door, 4J, at ten minutes to twelve. He was still pretty much on time. So far, so good. Everything was going exactly as planned.
The highly polished mahogany door opened right in his face.
He stared at an ash-blond woman who was slender and trim and well kept. She was actually somewhat plainer looking than she had appeared from a distance. It was the same woman who had gotten out of the blue Jag with Fitzpatrick. The woman with the limp.
Except for a gold barrette in her hair, a lioness from a trip to the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and a gold choker, she was gloriously naked.
"Jack," she whispered.
"Jill," he said, and smiled.