Merry Christmas, Alex Cross by James Patterson

Merry Christmas, Alex Cross is the nineteenth installment in James Patterson's Alex Cross Series. Initially, I was hesitant to dive into this novel. Despite having read all of the previous books, and enjoying most of them, giving Alex Cross a Christmas story seemed to be stretching things a bit thin. The Alex Cross series is one of the few projects that Patterson has maintained sole writing credit on, so I decided to trust that he would continue to deliver the quality that has remained in tact throughout the series.

The novel opens on Christmas Eve, as Alex is enjoying the holiday festivities with his family, after a mostly normal day. In this opening, we reconnect with Alex's children, wife, grandmother, and newly adopted daughter who readers of the previous novel will remember. As always, Patterson writes these family scenes with an honesty that is undeniable. Perhaps this is why Alex continues to be one of my favorite Patterson characters.

Of course, all of this peace and goodwill doesn't last. Soon, Alex is called to intervene on a hostage situation. A disgraced lawyer has taken his young children, ex-wife and her new husband, and a senator's wife hostage in his former home. Alex learns that the man, who suffers from severe drug addiction, is seeking revenge on the people he blames for his downward spiral, his family. As the hours progress, Alex tries to use his expertise and personal experiences to convince the man to free his family before he destroys Christmas for both his and Alex's families.

Across town, more trouble is brewing as a known terrorist is spotted in Union Station. The FBI has tried to keep tabs on her, but is genuinely surprised at her resurfacing. Alex was the lead the profiling on the initial investigation on her, and is called by the FBI to discover her motives before she takes action. As he attempts to unravel the details of her plans, he uncovers a terrorist mission that threatens the security and well being of the entire nation.

After a disappointing effort in the previous novel, Kill Alex Cross, I was happy to see Patterson return to top form with what is certainly the best Alex Cross novel in years. As with most of my favorite Patterson novels, this story finds the perfect balance between fast paced action and relatable character development. More than any of his previous novels, Patterson delves into the psyche and motivations of the villains and reveals deeper connections between them and his hero, Alex Cross. More so, Alex begins to question his years of risking his life and family for the well-being of others. This kind of tragic outlook juxtaposed against the cheery backdrop of the holiday season makes Merry Christmas, Alex Cross an undeniable hit.

For more information, visit the author's website, Amazon, and GoodReads.

(2013: week 13, book 11)

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