Hallelujah. Alex Cross is back. James Patterson, who has quickly built a strong, loyal and ultimately multitudinous following with thrillers with deceptively childhood reminiscent titles such as ALONG CAME A SPIDER and CAT AND MOUSE, returns with POP GOES THE WEASEL and brings Alex Cross with him. Oh, and incidentally introduces a cold-blooded killer who you will remember long after you finish the book.
There is a mad killer loose in Washington, DC. We learn his identity immediately. He is Geoffrey Shafer, attached to the British embassy in Washington, and he is a lunatic. Not the raving type, mind you. He presents an impeccable appearance, has a storybook home with a fairy princess for a wife and three children, and is a British war hero. But a lunatic nonetheless. Shafer, addicted to pharmaceuticals which aggravate, rather than control a manic depressive disorder and God knows what else, is also one of four players in a cyberspace game called The Four Horsemen --- and Shafer is the character known as Death. Shafer does not confine his role-playing to cyberspace, however. No. He plays out his fantasies on the mean streets of DC's southeast area, a high crime area where bodies are regularly found and few, if any, of the victims are ever missed.
Alex Cross is drawn into the path of Geoffrey Shafer when he discovers a pattern to a series of brutal murders in southeast DC. Unfortunately, Cross's family, and Christine, his lover, are also --- very dramatically --- drawn into it as well. Shafer is as cold, calculating, and brilliant as any adversary that Cross has ever matched wits with. It is not that Shafer will not be taken easily --- he simply will not be taken. Cross, up against a masterful actor with an incredible intellect, has one thing going for him --- dogged determination.
Patterson, in POP GOES THE WEASEL, presents the classic situation where an irresistible force collides with an immovable object --- and the reader is the winner. POP GOES THE WEASEL is ultimately a thriller that hurls its readers along to a stunning conclusion --- or should I say conclusions --- which is by turns heartwarming and terrifying. And which will leave Patterson's readers waiting impatiently for his next book.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on October 1, 2000