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After James Patterson's last Alex Cross novel London Bridges, I was beginning to think that the Cross character had perhaps run its course. So with a little trepidation, I picked up Mary, Mary from the library. It now appears that London Bridges was an anomaly, and Patterson/Cross are back on track.

Alex Cross is vacationing with his kids and grandmother at Disneyland, when he gets a call asking for a short one day consult on a celebrity killing in LA. Reluctant to give up his vacation time, he decides to make this one exception. That was his first mistake... While he was gone, the mother of his 3 year old shows up and takes the child back to Seattle, while also petitioning the court for permanent custody. His ongoing romance to Jamilla is also floundering, so he's left with little social life and a feeling that his personal life as a father is failing. The Mary Smith killer is keeping him occupied however. Pretty soon he finds himself traveling coast to coast on a regular basis helping the LAPD analyze the emails and clues as to who "Mary Smith", the killer, might be, as well as who might next be in the sights of the killer. And even when they have a person in custody who fits all the evidence, Cross isn't quite sure there isn't something else going on...

The action part of the story line for this novel was good. There are a number of characters that Patterson puts "in play" as potential suspects, and there's really not much elimination until the end. I was completely surprised at the twist ending, which was good. From a character standpoint, Patterson has set up Cross for some significant romantic changes ahead. All the regular players are moved out of the picture, and a few new ones make their appearance. All goes to show that Patterson isn't done with this series... And if they continue to play out along these lines instead of London Bridges, that will be a good thing...
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on November 18, 2002
Every time James Patterson releases a book, readers use this space to complain about his latest work. People who have never read Patterson should understand something: He does not write with the forensic detail of a Ridley Pearson, or develop a plot like Jeffery Deaver, nor does he have the hard-boiled edge of a Michael Connelly. James Patterson attempts to do one thing and one thing only - entertain his readers - and he does it very well.
Four Blind Mice is the eighth installment in the Alex Cross series of books. While this one is not quite on par with Kiss the Girls or Along Came a Spider, it is certainly better than any of the more recent Cross novels, especially Violets Are Blue.
There were several positive aspects to this novel. The first and most noticeable is that Patterson brings John Sampson in for his most fully developed role yet. Sampson is a very likeable character and plays well with Cross. In fact, the Sampson character highlights the better parts of Cross more than any other. The second plus to this book was that the plot is better than it has been in the previous two Cross novels. Although most of Patterson's plots are unrealistic, and this one is no exception, this one seems more grounded in plausibility than Violets Are Blue, for example. The killers, whom we know are a group of former army rangers less than 10 pages into the book, are much better as villians than Vampires. This only ads to the story. The final thing frequent readers of Patterson's novels will notice is that the Cross character is fleshed out more fully and from different angles. We get to see Cross the detective, Cross the buddy,Cross the Dad, Cross and Jamilla, and Cross and Nana-Mama. This really helped to give the character a three-dimensional feel.
All in all, this book is worth the purchase, especially for a Patterson fan. It is easily read in one sitting and is a highly entertaining read. If you're new to Patterson, it certainly helps to read the Cross books in order, starting with Along Came a Spider.
Also Recommended - The Lou Boldt Series by Ridley Pearson, The Lucas Davenport Series by John Sandford, any Jeffery Deaver Book, as well as anything by Greg Iles. For light reading akin to James Patterson, Stuart Woods does the trick.
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VINE VOICEon November 25, 2002
This is a more than adequate prototypical James Patterson assembly line thriller involving another case for fans of DC Detective Alex Cross. The dialog is simple, the action is fast, the murders are brutal, there is a mastermind to catch, and the chapters are shorter than ever (less than four pages on average). However, I found this book much more enjoyable than the last few Cross books. First, we don't get so many mindnumbing gruesome details about the murders. Second, John Sampson's character gets fleshed out and he has a more instrumental role in the story. Third, it was much more a straighforward police procedural and detective story despite a few stupid and unrealistic actions by Cross (including breaking and entering at the home of one of the suspects). Last, I personally was glad that a bestselling author like Patterson addressed the continuing effect of the Vietnam War on many veterans and the ethical dilemmas which they faced, even if this is a very superficial treatment.
As usual, Patterson hooks you through immediate action and the fact you're several chapters in the book almost before you have begun, since it's always easy to read another three or four pages. This is no literary masterpiece and there are no long descriptive sections, just the necessary facts to advance the plot intermixed with more than usual degree of involvement in the personal lives of Cross (and his new girlfriend Jamilla), Sampson, and Nana, Cross' grandmother.
Sampson's Vietnam buddy, Ellis Cooper, is convicted of a brutal triple murder based on compelling physical evidence. He contacts Sampson from Death Row and he and Cross become convinced that he was framed. As they investigate, they uncover several previous murders where Vietnam vets were apparently similarly framed and executed. We are then introduced to the three killers, a professional hit squad that was a covert assasination team in Vietnam. (Thus, in this book the suspense is more about how Cross and Sampson will trap the killers and why the murders have been committed than by whom or how.) Further murders occur and Cross and Sampson confront the killers but run into hostility from the miltary as they attempt to build their case. The action soon moves to the campus of West Point and direct involvement of the Army, and it becomes clear that there is someone directing events behind the scenes. Kyle Craig (known to previous Cross readers as the murderous FBI agent now in a maximum security federal penitentiary) appears briefly as a confidante of Tran Van Luu, also a prisoner, former Army agent in Vietnam, and leader of the NY Vietnamese gang, the Ghost Shadows.
I found the conclusion more satisfying than recent Alex Cross books, and the explanation for the killings and the revenge exacted for long hidden events a sort of rough justice for all involved. Of course, as usual in Patterson novels a lot of questions concerning the details are left unanswered. For just a few examples, we don't know how all the evidence was fabricated, why the innocent victims were chosen, or how Kyle and Tran operated from supposedly solitary confinement. This book is recommended for both Alex Cross devotees and new James Patterson readers who want a quick easy read with a plot with a few intriguing twists.
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VINE VOICEon December 18, 2006
Mary Mary by James Patterson is typical of his Alex Cross novels-- single dad Alex tries to juggle parenting and career along with a love life. This book centers around a series of murders of Hollywood mothers, with the killer sending emails to a Hollywood reporter and signing them as "Mary." FBI Agent Alex is pulled off a vacation with his family to Disneyland to help the LAPD with the case, although they are not exactly appreciative of his help.

I do enjoy the Alex Cross novels; I appreciate that Cross is a loving father and his conflict between taking care of his children and satisfying the demands of his job. The plot in this book, however, has holes big enough to drive a Zamboni through. The motivation for the face slashing of the victims is never adequately explained-- or, I should say, the slashing of the original victim is never explained satisfactorily. How the killer eventually catches up to Alex at the end is another big question. In this, as in so many other books, Patterson does not play fair-- he withholds crucial information till the end of the book in order to be able to keep the identity of the killer a surprise.

Underlying the main story is another continuing storyline of Alex's attempts to gain custody of his son, Ali, from his ex-wife, Christine. There are hints all the way through the novel that something is going on with Christine, but we never find out what, nor do we find out what causes her big change of heart at the end.

This is my continuing problem with the Alex Cross novels-- Alex Cross is a good, interesting character and the plots are taut and original. But Patterson does not seem to be confident enough in his own abilities as a writer to give the reader all the information necessary throughout the book. He withholds information and then, at the end, after he's almost reluctantly divulged everything in the space of about two pages, he abruptly stops the book before we have a chance to absorb the sudden disclosures and resolve everything in our own minds.
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on November 19, 2005
Well I must admit I did wonder if Patterson had another great Alex Cross adventure in him after recent efforts where he seems to have got confused between his star character being Alex Cross or James Bond. I am happy to say though that this is another excellent traditional style Cross adventure with one of the best serial killers yet, that will have readers guessing their identity until it is revealed near the end. Speaking of the ending though I thought it was a little but unrealistically convenient so Alex could be around for the next sequel. That's all I'll say on that though so as not to give it away to anyone who actually reads these reviews before making a decision to purchase books.

Overall I was very pleased with Mary, Mary and recommend it to any fan of quality Alex Cross adventures. I also recommend Patterson's previous novel (not an Alex Cross Adventure) Lifeguard which shows he can still write great stand alone novels as well, again some in this line have been rather average of late. Anyway its great to see Patterson back and hopefully he has learnt from the extensive criticism he got from his mediocre novels and will continue to put the time into producing the great work that we know he can and we all want to read.
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on March 16, 2003
You can count on being entertained by James Patterson's Detective Alex Cross series. The characters are familiar and well-drawn and the plots are challenging and provide page-turning entertainment.
In this installment, the first after the "Mastermind" killer was jailed in Violets are Blue, puts Alex's partner Sampson in the forefront as he suspects that an Army friend has been framed for murders he did not commit in Fort Bragg. So starts what appears to be a pattern of cases where Army soldiers are framed in a convincing way in a pattern of ritualistic and gruesome murders. As the plot continues we find a connection with a series of murders that took place in Vietnam in 1969. But who is ordering the murders and why--this is the element that holds your interest until a very satisfying ending.
Also of interest in this book are love interests for Cross and Sampson and a health threat for Nana Mamma who is the heart and glue of the Cross household.
Some reviews call Patterson's work predictable. The only predictable element I find is that I am fairly sure that when I pick up a Patterson novel I will be happily entertained and challenged with plot twists. This was a very enjoyable and quick read--I finished it in one 24 hour period.
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After reading 'Violets are Blue', I felt that James Patterson had become locked into a pattern in his suspense stories. At one end of the story is Alex Cross, psychologist turned homicide detective and at the other is one or another variation of the psychotic mastermind. Because this is such a generic formula, one can get a lot of mileage out of it before it becomes noticeably repetitious. However, 'Violets are Blue' was not all that well written, and I found myself predicting too much of the book's events.
'Four Blind Mice' is a much better vehicle, although the basic pattern is still present. This time Alex's partner and friend, John Sampson drags Alex into a case that starts out ugly and then gets very frightening. Sgt. Ellis Cooper, a man Sampson admires greatly, is sitting on death row awaiting execution for crimes that he apparently did not commit. The two detectives pour a tremendous amount of energy into finding the truth, but they can only find shadows and whispers of a pattern of murder and accusation that has led a series of Viet Nam veterans to their deaths.
Again Patterson exposes the killers almost immediately, and leaves the reader waiting impatiently for Cross and Sampson to catch up, while we get to spend time inside the heads of the killers. Even when it is clear that the executions are really assassinations, it is difficult to uncover the underlying motivation. Cross finds himself receiving anonymous messages from someone named 'Foot Soldier', who is apparently the mind behind much that is going on. But nothing comes clear easily.
Alex has a lot going on in his life to distract him. He is falling in love with Jamilla Hughes, a detective on the other side of the continent, he is considering leaving his job, and something is not quite right with Nana Mama, who has been most of the stability in Alex's life. Much to worry about and not many easy answers.
Despite the improvement in narrative, I still find books that immediately reveal the killers less satisfying than those that keep more secrets. Patterson simply does not leave much for the reader to guess, turning this from a mystery story to a pure suspense tale. Whether you will like this or not is largely a matter of your preferences as a reader. I can tell you that the writing is good, the characters are interesting, the puzzle is intricate, and the suspense really is there.
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on January 6, 2003
That it can be read in a few hours is the best thing I can say about this book. Reads more like a rough draft or outline than a complete novel. Cardboard characters, cursory plot development and unimaginative prose are among the flaws. A total waste of an afternoon.
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VINE VOICEon December 7, 2002
James Patterson these days seems to have a new novel every couple of months. Readers in the last year and a half could choose between a romance novel, Suzanne�s Diary of Nicholas, a second book from a new series featuring four women, 2nd to Die, an Alex Cross novel Violets are Blue and most recently a thriller co-written with Peter DeJonge, The Beach House. And while these books were for the most part were somewhat satisfying reads, I kept waiting for James Patterson to once again write a book featuring Alex Cross as exciting as Along Came a Spider and Kiss the Girls and other titles from this series. Four Blind Mice is just this book. A return to old time Patterson known for his thriller plots, endearing characters and a plot filled with wonderful twists and turns.
And when Patterson is good, one can�t help but enjoy spending time with out favorite detective/psychologist Alex Cross, his family and good friend John Samson.
Still reeling from a horrendous and violent experience spent tracking down the Mastermind, Alex Cross has finally made up his mind to resign from the Washington DC police force. But before the day is over he finds himself once again embroiled in a baffling situation and one which may cause the death of his good friend John Samson�s Viet Nam buddy. Samson�s friend is about to be executed for the brutal murder of three military wives. But this decorated military man from the beginning claimed he was framed and is totally innocent although he can�t really supply an alibi. Alex promises himself this will be his last case and begins to investigate the murders. As he and Alex move deeper and deeper into the case they suspect that men known as the three blind mice, massacres during the Viet Nam war and higher ups at West Point may be involved in the systematic murder of innocent people and the framing of military personnel who are equally innocent. As Cross and Samson crisscross the country it becomes clear that there is a fourth blind mice. Who this is and why the cover up provides readers with an ending hard to imagine.
In Four Blind Mice, Patterson provides readers with a fast and thrilling read. But if one expects only a thriller read, they may have to think again. For within the plot the reader once again returns to visit with Alex�s lovable grandmother Nana Cross, his three children, a new love woman in his life Jamilla and even a love interest for John Samson.
I highly recommend reading this book if you�ve followed the series up to now. And even if you�ve never read any of these books you owe it to yourself to become familiar with this author and his Alex Cross characters. As for me, my faith is restored in thisauthor. After a couple of so so Patterson books, I finally read one that I truly enjoyed. And I am happy to say that Four Blind Mice is exactly what I wanted. An old time Patterson book. The kind of read which kept me turning the pages throughout the night wondering what�s going to happen next. Once again I can hardly wait for Patterson's next book.
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on November 28, 2002
Just when we feared homicide detective Alex Cross was losing his touch, he himself fretting about the job and the anxieties attendant to it (in the prior story "Violets Are Blue"), along comes "Mice", supposedly his last job on his last day of duty with the DC cops. His best friend and long-time colleague, John Sampson, begs him to help clear an old army friend who seems unjustly convicted (via overwhelming evidence) of a gruesome triple murder. Their work on the case raises many questions but not in time to prevent the execution. Finding shades of similar crimes dating back many years, Cross pursues every slight clue as he and Sampson piece together a story about assassins too much in love with their own work. They spend most of the book chasing "three blind mice" and we wonder if the fourth will ever surface.
What makes this a fine entry in the Cross series (now eight in all) is Patterson at his entertaining best - action galore (must be a dozen murders or more...), frantic pace, intriguing plot that captivates `til the very end. We burned through it in one day, which also speaks to its intensity and grip on the reader. A little romantic interest for both Alex and Sampson, whom we meet in more detail than ever before, temper the blood and guts a little and generate a smile or two to relieve the tension. Lastly, we find out at the end the direction Cross seems to be heading with his career, leading us to believe there just might be a few more stories left in the ol' word processor! Not a Patterson to be missed.
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