Cross Justice (Alex Cross #23), by James Patterson

Seven stars

In this most recent Alex Cross novel, Patterson opens up about the protagonist who has been through many peaks and valleys over the past two decades. After an absence of over three decades, Alex Cross is headed home, back to his roots in North Carolina. While it would be nice to call this a family vacation in its truest form, Cross has a mission. Stefan Tate, a cousin, is on trial for rape and murder, with a pile of evidence making his guilt all but certain. However, Cross remains open-minded and begins poking around into the narrative offered by Stefan, as well as that which the district attorney is using at trial. This uncovers more than Cross can imagine, including a deep-rooted suspected drug ring headed by one of the town’s most active businessmen. As he struggles to find innocence in a town where guilt has already been determined, Cross also must address the deaths of his parents and the pains it caused him in his childhood. Digging deeper, Cross learns that the additions his parents had may not have cost them their lives, but these revelations are wrapped in other barbed truths. Cross heads to Florida to get answers, where he stumbles into a set of murder investigations in which socialites appear to be committing drastic forms of suicide. When Cross uncovers a key piece of evidence, he is able to help solve one case and blow another wide open, which necessitates a quick return to the rest of the family before others are hurt. Back in North Carolina, Cross may hold the key to the trial as well as answers to put his family at rest. A stunning turn-around for the usually lacklustre Patterson, which might draw long-time Alex Cross fans back into the fold.

Can this be the same James Patterson who churns out tepid novels as fast as a reader can digest them? It seems as though the old dog might have a new trick or two. Perhaps it is that he holds the story as his own or that he is tired of sub-par publications (which still earn him millions). In any case, Patterson delivers a wonderful story that offers a very strong Alex Cross backstory, one that is long-past due. Patterson also builds on a few developments to bring other Cross family members some drama of their own. While every Cross story seems to need a serial killer and their own machinations, it seems as though Patterson only added this branch out of necessity, for it plays a seemingly minor role in the larger narrative. Still, I remain in awe that such a powerful story could come so easily from James Patterson. What a turn around!

Kudos, Mr. Patterson for returning to your days of glory. I can only hope you will not abandon this writing style, preferring stellar pieces of writing to which your name is affixed.