Current reviews
  Reviews by title
  Reviews by author

  Contact Onyx

  Discussion forum


Onyx reviews: Roses are Red by James Patterson

A few things may be assumed about a James Patterson novel, especially when it features Alex Cross. First, the book will almost certainly feature a clever and egocentric serial killer. Next, Alex will become involved with the case to the extent that everything else in his life becomes secondary. Finally, sooner or later in the story, the killer will take Alex's involvement in the case personally and lash out at him or someone close to him.

All of these are true of Roses are Red.

Alex Cross (played by Morgan Freeman in the film versions of Kiss the Girls and the upcoming Along Came a Spider) works for the Washington, D.C. Metro police department. As the violent crimes liaison between the city police and the FBI, he is often caught in the middle of jurisdictional wrangling between these two departments.

This time, Alex is investigating a comic-book style criminal who calls himself the Mastermind. The Mastermind is behind a serious of bank robberies in the D.C. area that have all ended with several people dead. In some cases, bank employees have been killed during the robberies. In others, the robbers have killed hostages, family members of bank employees used as leverage during the robberies, in response to some perceived lack of cooperation by the authorities during the crime. To cover his tracks, the Mastermind uses a series of local criminals to carry out his robbery/murders and then executes his minions after each crime.

Chapters alternate between Alex's first-person viewpoint of the investigation and scenes where the Mastermind reveals more to the reader than Alex knows about the upcoming capers and plans. The reader knows that the Mastermind is orchestrating the robberies so that people will die; Alex and the FBI do not understand the criminal's motivations or intent.

Alex and his partner in this investigation, Betsey Cavalierre, develop a strong romantic connection. Alex's former girlfriend Christine is struggling with her demons. She was kidnapped and held prisoner for a year in a previous story and cannot come to terms with that episode's long-term impact. She has a son by Alex who was born during that period of captivity.

Patterson continues with his pattern of extremely short chapters that have alternating viewpoints. On average, chapters are less than four pages, making the giving the book a choppy consistency, like a movie cut with rapid camera changes or an MTV video. This tends to diminish the tension in the early stages of the book, because it takes several of these chapter switches for the reader to find out what is going on in any particular situation, but it enhances the tension as the story nears its climax.

Roses are Red is stronger than some of the more recent Cross books. Alex's personal life is a mess. He has to deal with one dissolving personal relationship, another potential romantic partner and a sudden and severe illness in his family. These complications bleed into his professional life and Alex seems all the more real for having to deal with both simultaneously.

The ending, too, is more experimental than previous Patterson novels. There are numerous false endings that culminate in a shocking revelation that is made only to the reader and not to the characters in the novel, like a sly nod to the movie camera in a feature film. It is the type of ending that will make readers go back to reevaluate all that has gone on up to that point. It will also generate heightened anticipation for the next installment in the Alex Cross saga.

Web site and all contents © Copyright Bev Vincent 2007. All rights reserved.