The publication of CROSS MY HEART marks 21 volumes in 20 years in the Alex Cross canon. James Patterson’s career trajectory has risen and widened remarkably --- phenomenally, in fact --- in the ensuing two decades since Alex Cross was introduced in ALONG CAME A SPIDER. While Patterson, both before and after Cross’s conception, has created many popular characters, his most enduring has been Cross. This, in no small part, has been due to the continuing changes in Cross’s professional and personal lives, which have taken place across the length of the series. Cross is now a psychologist in private practice who frequently consults with the Washington, DC Metropolitan Police Department, attempting to balance the rigors and demands of this work with his considerable duties as a husband and father --- and grandchild as well --- to his family.
"Patterson has never shied away from making dramatic changes in Cross’s life, and for this 20th anniversary book, he pulls out all the stops even more so than usual."
It is those familial duties that provide the underlying propellant for CROSS MY HEART, in which Cross is under significant pressure to solve two cases. The first involves a series of attacks carried out in massage parlors in the Washington, D.C. area. Someone is entering the establishments and killing employees and customers at will. When one of the victims is discovered to be a very popular professional football player, the Metro D.C. Police come under public and private pressure to solve the killings and bring the perpetrator to justice. This particular murder becomes a symbol of D.C.’s skyrocketing crime rate, and each day that goes by without the arrest of a suspect is like a stroke tally of failure for the department.
Even more frustrating for Cross is the other case, which concerns the kidnapping of infants by a seemingly brazen woman who convinces parents and caregivers to literally surrender control of their offspring to her. Cross feels a deep personal responsibility to solve and stop the kidnappings, and when he makes a startling discovery that links the abductions to other offenses, a pattern begins to emerge. His investigation, though, comes at a price --- time with his family --- while each member is in need of his presence and wise counsel for various reasons, not the least of which is a long-planned and extensive home remodeling project that has Cross’s grandmother, the woman who raised him, at her wit’s end.
While all of those elements are in play, events of great significance, of which Cross is not immediately aware, are about to change his life forever. A brilliant criminologist who is also a dangerous killer is obsessed with committing perfect crimes, and he is determined to take down and destroy Cross for good. With almost inhuman patience, Marcus Sunday, known as The Writer, is observing Cross and his family, learning their patterns, interests, and everything else about them that can possibly be acquired through observation and surveillance. Sunday, with the aid of an equally deranged --- and seductive --- accomplice, waits for just the right moment and then strikes, systematically taking Cross’s life apart in one fell swoop, leaving him with nothing and almost no one. By the end of the book, Cross’s life is forever changed.
Patterson has never shied away from making dramatic changes in Cross’s life, and for this 20th anniversary book, he pulls out all the stops even more so than usual. In an Author’s Note at the conclusion of CROSS MY HEART, he assures us that Cross, at least, will be back in another volume. Who else will make the cut, literally? We will have to wait until next year to find out. Be rest assured, though, that the results will be anything but predictable.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on November 27, 2013