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Formulaic but effective lightweight thriller
on 4 April 2008
'Cross' is the latest episode in a long running series about Alex Cross, a psychologist who's been a police detective, FBI man and now is operating freelance. It's an entirely by-the-numbers thriller. Doesn't miss a beat. It clips along at a good pace, is written in easily accessible English, and builds up the level of threat and tension as the bad guy's vendetta takes shape -- and Alex Cross has to unravel the mystery and solve it.
The bad guy is irredeemably bad (sadist, rapist, murderer, hitman for the mob) while Alex Cross is impossibly heroic (loving father to his young family and loving grandson to his wise-but-spiky grandma). The supporting cast are all present and correct (police detective chum who has Alex's back at the vital moment; love interest where things don't go exactly to plan). Plus Alex Cross suffers the emotional baggage from a previous trauma (could this killer be the same man who killed Alex's wife all those years ago?)
The chapters are kept clipped and brief, and almost all of them end on a mini-cliffhanger so you're compelled to keep turning the pages. Even though I recognise the style and device and don't particularly like it, I found myself belting through the chapters, staying up later than expected; carried along by the drive of the plot.
And that pretty much sums up the effectiveness of Cross. It's not an intellectual or philosophical debate. It's a chase-the-bad-guy flat-out romp. Easy to read. The perfect book for an airplane or train ride. You don't need to have read any of the others in the series to enjoy it.
It's not literature, but it's entirely enjoyable pulp fiction.