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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Death Is on the Loose
James Patterson, bestselling author of Cat & Mouse, Along Came a Spider, and Kiss the Girls, returns with Pop Goes the Weasel, his latest gripping dark-crime tale featuring brilliant profiler Alex Cross. While resembling the gritty psychological works of John Sandford and Thomas Harris, Patterson has firmly wedged his own easy-flowing, spine-tingling niche in the genre, and has mined an area of suspense that is clearly all his own.
A serial killer called the Weasel is slaughtering women in the slums of D.C. And family man Geoffrey Shafer is much more than he appears. Not only is Shafer a diplomat with the British Embassy — and so has diplomatic immunity — but he also takes himself to the edge of sanity with hallucinogenic drugs, disguises himself as a black cab driver, and rolls the dice to decide the life-or-death fates of his black female fares. Soon Alex Cross and his partner, John Sampson, are hunting the elusive killer, but before they are even able to properly begin their investigation, their racist police chief forces them to look into the by-the-numbers murder of a rich white man instead.
When the Weasel, who is also a former MI-6 agent, begins sending email messages to three of his former cohorts concerning a demented online role-playing game, the situation grows even more deranged. To make matters worse, Sampson's ex-wife is found murdered in a ghetto, and the angry detectives willingly disregard their ordersandagain return to tracking the Weasel. When Cross's fiancée, Christine, is kidnapped while vacationing in Bermuda, and Cross is emailed to quit the hunt, his resolve to continue the pursuit is reinforced. But when Shafer is caught, the real battle of wits begins as a high-profile trial puts Cross's reputation, his life, and perhaps his very sanity, on the line.
The subplots in Pop Goes the Weasel are what capably tightens the novel to the breaking point as the story quickly progresses through a series of brutal crimes, which continue to move closer and closer to home. Not only do we witness Cross's search for one maniacal killer, but three other homicidal maniacs are at work over the Internet. The mix of British charm and a cold indifference to murder brews an aperitif of bloodthirsty characterization not found in fiction for a long while. As a master of lies, Shafer can dupe a jury and also take advantage of the grief-stricken to help sway events in his favor, casting doubts not only into the minds of the police, but also into those of the readers who already know the truth of the situation.
Patterson's attention to the seamy side of Washington, D.C., is also a powerful draw, since its perverse yet politically potent aspects add credible facets to both our protagonist and our psychotic villain. The author knows how to stretch out his suspense factor — his use of incredibly short chapters and increasingly taut plot elements is superior. The story flies by with such speed that you'll suffer from friction burns from turning the pages so quickly. Once again, James Patterson proves that he's more than capable of conceiving engaging, cunning stories that transcend the serial killer subgenre. Pop Goes the Weasel works as an intense character portrait that will leave readers moved and electrified.
Tom Piccirilli is the author of the critically acclaimed supernatural novel Pentacle, as well as the dark-suspense mysteries Shards and The Dead Past. His short fiction has appeared in many anthologies, including The Conspiracy Files. His two latest, an exciting mystery called Sorrow's Crown and a horror novel called Hexes, have just been released.