Schematic and pedestrian, Patterson’s latest (after The Beach House, p. 519) pits Alex Cross against a trio of serial killers.
If only Alex Cross (last seen in Violets Are Blue, 200l) could retire from the Washington Police Force, as he wants to when he first appears here, having breakfast with his family. Alas, Cross’s friend John Sampson entreats the detective to take one more case, and a desultory pursuit ensues. Sampson believes the conviction of his friend, ’Nam vet Ellis Cooper, for the brutal murder of three women resulted from a frame-up. Patterson’s quick (what else?) crosscut to the killers bears Sampson out. Calling themselves “the three blind mice,” the men are hired killers unaware of the identity and motives of their employer, who, presumably, is the fourth mouse of the title. With “the clock for Ellis Cooper . . . ticking so loud,” Cross and Sampson search in vain for evidence to clear him before he is executed. The Army’s indifference to evidence that clears Cooper and points to other suspects bluntly suggests a cover-up. Then, crimes similar to the ones Copper allegedly committed follow: the three killers slaughter their victims, paint them red, and leave a straw doll at the scene of the carnage. E-mails from someone called “Foot Soldier” lead Cross to the solution, which, as Patterson makes obvious, stems from atrocities the military committed in Vietnam. Some feel-good domestic scenes (Cross’s grandma survives heart surgery) and a few hackneyed romantic interludes for Cross and Sampson break up the chase. At the closeout, the killers dispatched, Cross is planning to go to work for the FBI, suggesting a new tack for the series.
Short chapters, paragraphs, and sentences; stilted dialogue; facile plotting; a few feeble passes at description: a Patterson blue-plate special.