January 08, 2001 12:00 PM

by James Patterson

Page-turner of the week


Add a new wacko, called the Mastermind, to the ghouls that Washington, D.C., forensic psychologist Alex Cross has investigated in books like Jack & Jill and Pop Goes the Weasel. This new monster orchestrates daring bank robberies: His henchmen hold bank employees’ families hostage at their homes during the heists, but even after the money passes hands, killings take place. Justice is somewhat served, though, since the Mastermind then gleefully poisons his own cronies. The lack of an emerging pattern stumps Cross and his colleague Betsey Cavalierre. And on the personal front, Cross is beset by family crises: Strange seizures afflict his daughter Jannie, and longtime girlfriend Christine is reeling emotionally after a long ordeal (described in Weasel). Fans will recognize the routine—swift pacing, Cross’s piano playing, grotesque blood letting and sexual psychosis, a villain with overweening arrogance, and unconvincing dialogue from Cross’s precocious children. But with killers from Weasel and Jack still floating around, how much longer can Cross hold on to his job? Despite a thrilling train sequence in which the Mastermind leads Cross and Cavalierre by their noses, the elements are getting a mite predictable, and the last-line revelation (don’t peek) is as far-fetched as it is shocking. (Little, Brown, $26.95)

Bottom Line: Winning, if familiar, formula

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