Sunday, September 30, 2007

"The Big Bad Wolf" by James Patterson (Thriller)

This novel is another one in Patterson's well-known Alex Cross series. It takes place when Cross is making a career change, in training with the F.B.I. And he becomes involved in a case, trying to track down what turns out to be an abduction ring.

It seems that someone is providing a very interesting - and illegal - service to high-paying customers. This service involves the acquisition and sale of a very precious commodity - live human beings, based on whatever criteria you want. Some customers want women, some want men, and what they do with their acquisitions is up to them. The people who are abducted include people from wealthy families, or students, a variety of ages, depending on a customer's taste.

Some parts of the story are told from the point of view of the victims. Finding themselves abducted, and then trapped somewhere with a person who has paid to have them in their power, strictly controlled and not knowing exactly where they are, cut off from contact with the outside world - it's obviously a frightening experience.

But the people doing the abductions have some dissension within their own ranks, and this is one of the things that allows Cross to start following the trail to the main ringleader of the operation.

Enter the Wolf.

In the past, the Wolf was a KGB agent, with suspected mob connections. Patterson shows some scenes from the villain's point of view, and he is brutal - violent, murderous, absolutely unhesitating about eliminating anyone if it suits his purpose to do so.

In the meantime, Alex Cross is also contending with personal problems, as he fights for custody of his son. It seems that Christine Johnson, the boy's mother, is fighting back pretty hard, and the whole thing takes a tough emotional toll on Cross.

Some of Patterson's novels seem to take on a larger-than-life quality. Admittedly, there is a certain James-Bondishness to Alex Cross at times, and a villain like the Wolf does come across a little like over-the-top Bond villains, too.

But, then again, that's all right with me - I actually prefer an author to err on the side of making things more interesting and exciting than settling for mediocrity. I read for entertainment and enjoyment, after all!

And, of course, throughout all this, there's the one thing that's always very consistent in Patterson's Alex Cross novels. It's all very intense, with short chapters in which one thing after another keeps happening, and it's a very addictive writing style Patterson has. Very unputdownable.

And there are some connections to other Cross novels, Kyle Craig, the villain from "Cat and Mouse" makes an appearance, and Patterson used the Wolf in a later novel, "London Bridges."

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