Michael Sullivan, aka The Butcher, is quite theatrical. Mockingly, he bows after each mafia-style hit he delivers --- wielding pain, humiliation and death "as if this was all a big show to him, all just an act." There was a method to his madness, though. He always knew what he was doing, and why, and when.
CROSS, the 12th entry in James Patterson's Alex Cross series of novels, begins to answer questions that readers have been asking for years.
Nana Mama, Alex's grandmother, is normally a pillar of strength in the family. With Alex's hectic schedule as a detective in the Washington, D.C. police department, he is often away for hours and days at a time. Alex's wife, Maria, was killed in his arms by a sniper years before. With small children and a house to run, Alex couldn't do it without Nana Mama's love and support. But when Nana Mama suddenly walks out in frustration, Alex is forced to make serious changes in his lifestyle.
As a way to unwind following paid assassinations, the Butcher hunts women. After raping one of his captors, the Butcher "held up photos for her to see --- one at a time. These are all people I've met twice. You and I, of course, have met only once. Whether or not we meet again is entirely up to you. Do you follow?" The second meeting always involves torture, brutality and death.
When a suspicious murder occurs in Georgetown, Alex's services are requested. Believing that the Butcher is the victim, as well as the probable killer of his wife, Alex must get involved.
CROSS is a complex story on several levels. There are layers of relationships here, involving Alex, his family and clients; and the Butcher, his family and business relationships, past and present. Beyond this there are psychological similarities between the two men, as both are tortured by their past.
"Then something strange and disturbing to all concerned started to happen. There were reports of Michael Sullivan torturing and mutilating the bodies of victims; murdering a priest and a layman accused of misconduct with boys at his old grade school; a couple of other vigilante hits; a rumor that Sullivan might have murdered his own father, who disappeared from his shop one night and whose body had never been found to this day."... "Then Sullivan seemed to completely disappear off the Bureau's radar screen."
In typical James Patterson fashion, there are several twists, turns and surprises built into the plot of CROSS. The book builds a great deal on past cases and characters, setting the stage for future cases. It also leaves questions and unresolved issues in the minds of readers. I look forward to the next installment!
Reviewed by Marge Fletcher on January 7, 2011