We hope you enjoy this book review by Douglas R. Cobb.

Cross paths with a tiger once, and if you live, consider yourself extremely lucky. Cross paths with a man called the Tiger, and you'll generally find yourself extremely dead. But, that's just what Washington, D.C. Detective Alex Cross does several times in James Patterson's newest page-turning mystery/thriller Cross Country. Tigers, the animals, are a rare breed, not native to Africa; but Tigers, criminal gang bosses that often use young boys to perpetrate unspeakable crimes of violence, mutilation, and murder, are, unfortunately, all too common there. The particular Tiger that Alex Cross is on the trail of is particularly vicious. It is not enough for him and his gang of loyal misguided youths to kill the person they are hired out to murder--they instead wipe out that person's entire family, as well, to serve as a message to others.

Alex Cross gets called to a murder scene at the Cox house near the beginning of the book. In the first chapter, the Tiger and his gang breaks into the house and tortures, mutilates, and kills all of the family members, including the children, and arranges the bodies into piles. Their main target is the mother, Ellie Cross, who, as Ellie Randall--her last name before she married--had dated Alex Cross when they'd both gone to Georgetown University. She'd been a history major, "looking for anti-apartheid signatures," from the students. What motive would anyone have to snuff out her, and her family's, lives?

Bloody fingerprints are everywhere. The Tiger and his boys don't bother to be discrete or try to clean up after themselves; they want people to know who committed the murders, and that they have no fear of being caught, not by Cross or anyone else. After another family is brutally killed and decapitated by the Tiger and his gang (the heads are never located), Cross pursues them to Nigeria, where they are based. He tracks them across much of Africa, to Sierra Leone and Darfur, to attempt to arrest the Tiger and bring him to justice. Along the way, he's assisted by the beautiful journalist Adanne Tansi, who'd been an acquaintance of Ellie's.

Though not one to ordinarily believe in conspiracy theories, Cross can't help but think that there's more to the killings and the apparent attempts to prevent him from investigating them, and he is determined to learn who is really behind the murders. The Tiger and his boys commit them; but, who stand to gain the most from them? What secrets do certain people and/or countries not want the world to know? Alex Cross goes from being the hunter to being the hunted. As he tries to leave the airport, he gets kidnapped by the police, handcuffed, beaten, his nose broken, and he's imprisoned in the notorious Kirikiri jail. Not even knowing, because it's dark in the jail, what time it is, he asks an inmate what time it is, and the man answers: "Midnight maybe. Who knows? What's the difference to us? We're all dead men anyway."

Intense, suspenseful, emotionally charged--Cross Country is a novel that will live with you for a long time after you've finished reading it. It should; it's an excellent tale of one of literature's most famous police detectives pursuing a mass murderer who kills without remorse, and orders boys to do the same. It's one of James Patterson's best novels to date, which is saying a lot, especially considering his novels that have made it to film, like Along Came A Spider, and that his The Woman's Murder Club series of books has inspired a weekly television program with the same title.

Also, James Patterson manages to instill into the novel scenes of the horrible human costs of the various civil wars ongoing in Africa, without being preachy or letting Cross's observations and experiences get in the way of the main plot of his attempts to catch the Tiger. Patterson brings a social and moral consciousness to his novels that other writers might try to shy away from, but he is not afraid to tell the truth about the rapes and genocide taking place in Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Darfur. I believe this novel would make a very good movie, and I hope it will become one. I highly recommend Cross Country to anyone who loves the mystery/thriller genre. It will be welcome to his many fans, and is sure to earn him many more.



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