Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Hard cover edition, 109 chapters; 323 pages
There is an old-school movie that some of you may remember entitled “Death Takes A Holiday”, starring Fredric March. Released in 1934, it is about “Death” who decides to assume human form, take a 3 day break and mingle with us poor, frightened mortals.
In Merry Christmas, Alex Cross, ace detective Alex wishes that crime would take a holiday, so that he (Alex) can “mingle” with his family.
But then, crime is no respecter of holidays, detectives, or their families. If anything, crime reared its ugly head with greater intensity in this James Patterson thriller.
And with that increase, came the pressure. There was the urgency to stop the crime spree and the pressure from loving family members to not answer the cell phone. And with that pressure the emotional conflict follows.
Conflicting loyalties are a way of life for Alex Cross. His wife, Bree reminds him that he has a grandmother who cries when he goes out on a case. His colleagues with the Maryland PD and the FBI remind him that crime is always on call and no one does what he does better than he.
The Cross household dreads when that phone rings. Alex isn’t exactly overjoyed to hear those ring tones either.
December 24, 2012, Christmas Eve: Henry Fowler was once a high-powered attorney. He had it all! He had the trophy wife, the beautiful home, kids, car, and money for fabulous vacations. Then suddenly he lost everything. He began drinking and drugging.
His wife divorces him and re-marries Dr. Barry Nicholson, a successful optometrist and family “friend”.
Henry Fowler, now a drug-crazed lunatic, is holding his ex-wife, her new husband, a U.S. Congressman’s wife and his own children hostage. He’s armed and seems to be almost enjoying himself, “laughing like a happy madman”.
At the Cross household, Alex is enjoying some rare family time with his wife Bree, grandmother (Nana Mama) and the kids. There’s eggnog, and Christmas cookies. Nat King Cole and Mariah Carey are on the radio. Oh is well.
Then the dreaded cell starts ringing. Of course he must respond. It’s what he is, and what he does. Bree and the family understand…sort of.
Then he’s gone.
December 25, 2012, Christmas Day: The D.C. area is covered with almost 2 feet of snow. While an exhausted Alex Cross is having dinner with his wife, Nana Mama, and his children, Hala Al Dossari (aka Julia Azizz) exits a cab at Union Station, just north of Capitol Hill.
A Saudi national, Hala is brilliant, beautiful, and deadly. A member of Al Ayla (The Family), she is willing to die for the cause of Jihad. Her specialty is mass poisoning.
She knows that she probably has been spotted and recognized by apprehensive eyes behind the numerous security cameras. She takes pleasure in the thought.
Meanwhile, Alex Cross takes pleasure in the glow of family love on Christmas Day. Suddenly his cell phone begins it’s shrill, annoying, persistent ringing. The tension becomes so thick you can almost cut it with one of Nana Mama’s kitchen knives.
The caller ID is blank but Alex knows who it is…He has to go again.
Murder Book Judgment: I found this James Patterson crime drama to be a very good, fast moving read with content right out of today’s headlines. There is the usual hostage taking, plus a crazed lunatic terrorist plot designed to create mayhem and destruction.
But to me, the real power is this book is the focus on Alex’s family’s concern for his personal safety and his lack of family time. Those of you who’ve been with Alex Cross from the beginning know that this has always been an issue in this series.
But in “Merry Christmas, Alex Cross”, the pressure seems great enough for Alex to question why he does what he does.
There is a second issue here. Aside from being a first rate cop, Alex is also a sensitive human being, with a conscience. So, if certain interrogation procedures are deemed questionable, then which side of the fence should he land on?
Is it correct to assume that anything is justified when keeping an innocent civilian population safe? More conflict? And will this lead to a permanent rift between Alex and an old and trusted colleague.
Only time and future Alex Cross novels will tell.
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