Pop Goes the Weasel

James Patterson, Author Little, Brown and Company Inc $31 (423p) ISBN 978-0-316-69328-8
Patterson dedicates his latest (after 1998's When the Wind Blows) to ""the millions of Alex Cross readers who so frequently ask `Can't you write faster?'"" Those readers won't be disappointed: the successful formula is in high gear, with the Washington, D.C., psychologist/homicide detective up to his ears in unsolved murders. This tale features a duplicitous villain, a glut of dirty office politics and the inevitable threat to someone Cross just can't live without. A highly moral character, Cross is now firmly rooted in many imaginations as Morgan Freeman, who played him in the film version of Kiss the Girls. When he's not caring for Damon and Jannie, his two young children, Cross takes boys to visit their fathers in prison and works in a soup kitchen. After his boss, Chief Pittman, refuses to believe that a serial killer is striking in the neglected Southeast section, Cross and four other officers work extra hours on their own, the only ones who really care. Readers learn early on that the killer is a British diplomat, Geoffrey Shafer, a chilling madman ostensibly holding his sanity together with drugs. Shafer is obsessed with a real-life version of a computer game called the Four Horsemen, during which he masquerades as a taxi driver who kills his unsuspecting passengers. If Shafer is almost too good to be true--another fictional psychopath with infinite resources--Patterson is shrewd enough to show him making mistakes (like forgetting to wash) as he comes apart at the seams. The killer is caught in the middle of the narrative, setting the scene for a bold courtroom drama. Even the disappearance of Cross's new lady love (his wife was killed in a previous book) is less of a clich d device than a ritual sacrifice as Patterson's well-oiled suspense machine grinds away with solid precision. 1 million first printing; $1 million ad/promo; 14-city author tour; Time Warner audio. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 10/18/1999
Release date: 10/01/1999
Genre: Fiction
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