Roses Are Red, James Patterson's sixth Alex Cross thriller, opens with the District of Columbia detective attempting to mend his nearly unraveled family. The year-long kidnapping of one's intended (1999's Pop Goes the Weasel) will do that to a relationship. Christine, the kidnappee, is amenable with one reasonable condition: that her family's horizon remain uncluttered by homicidal maniacs. How unfortunate, then, that the joyous christening of their newborn son is rudely interrupted by the FBI bearing news of several heinous murders requiring the attention of detective (and doctor of psychology) Cross.
"Three-year-old boy, the father, a nanny," Kyle said one more time before he left the party. He was about to go through the door in the sun porch when he turned to me and said, "You're the right person for this. They murdered a family, Alex." Which leaves Cross free to hunt the Mastermind, the barbarous brains behind a widening series of bank robberies in which employees or their family members are held hostage and, when instructions aren't followed to the finest iota, slaughtered. Given the cases' glaring and unfathomable inhumanity, Cross's long- time DCPD partner (the wonderful giant, John Sampson) gives way to the warm, attractive, and fiercely intelligent FBI Agent Betsey Cavalierre.
As soon as Kyle was gone, I went looking for Christine. My heart sank. She had taken Alex and left without saying good-bye, without a single word.
The longer and harder Cross and Cavalierre remain on his trail, the bolder and more brutal--and shiveringly close to home--the Mastermind's strikes become. And, thanks mostly to lightning-short paragraphs and a point of view that rappels from the first-person Cross to the third-person Mastermind, the tale progresses at hot-trot speed to a bona fide doozy of a denouement. It'll be over before you know it, so sit back, hold your breath, and enjoy the show. And stay tuned for the next one. --Michael Hudson