Onyx reviews: Roses are Red by
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
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
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