THE PEOPLE vs ALEX CROSS … Between the covers

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Back in the day, James Patterson’s Alex Cross books were my go-to choice for police thrillers with something just a little different. Along Came A Spider, Kiss The Girls, Jack & Jill and Pop Goes The Weasel were all sustenance for a hungry man. But round about the time when Patterson had exhausted his nursery rhyme references for the book titles, I began to lose interest. Maybe it was the Washington cop’s implausible bad luck in choosing wives and girlfriends. For such a demonstrably clever bloke, he was becoming a serial bad judge of character. Was it his Mother Teresa of a grandmother, Nana Mama? Apart from the fact that she must have reached the age of at least 130, had her unfailing wisdom and saintliness begun to grate? Whatever the reason, I moved on. When, however, the good people at Century sent me a crisp new hardback copy of The People vs Alex Cross, I thought it would be rude not to see what the good Dr Cross was up to in his 27th outing, almost a quarter of a century after his first appearance.

Alex CrossAlex Cross is in trouble. Big trouble. He is the victim of a beyond-the-grave revenge attack from his very first opponent, Gary Soneji. Gary is long dead, blown up by his own bomb in a subway. It is not beyond Patterson’s audacity to resurrect someone, but in this case it is supporters of the late Mr Soneji who are responsible for Cross being accused of homicide. He is lured to a warehouse where members of the Soneji cult are waiting for him. In the fire fight that follows, members of the cult are killed and wounded, but when Cross summonses emergency backup, no weapons other than Cross’s own can be found. The words happy, trigger and cop are immediately rearranged into a well-known phrase or saying by the sensation-hungry media.

As Cross prepares for his trial he is, naturally, suspended from police duties. Again, perfectly naturally, since it is Dr Alex Cross we are dealing with, he becomes unofficially involved in the investigation into a series of kidnappings and murders. Whoever the kidnapper is, he or she has a penchant for willowy blonde young women. Cross’s best buddy, the almost indestructible cop John Sampson, is knee deep in the chase to find the missing girls, and the search leads the pair into the darker-than-black world of snuff movies and the mysterious cyber phenomenon known as the dark web.

Writer James Patterson promotes the new movie "Alex Cross" based on his novel "Cross" at the Four Seasons in Los AngelesHand on heart, I have to admit to really enjoying this book. Patterson (right) hasn’t achieved his world-wide pre-eminence as a best selling writer by not being able to tell a story. The action comes thick and fast and in this book at least, the portrayal of Cross disproves the old adage about familiarity breeding contempt. Yes, Nana Mama is still there, serving up delicious meals for all and sundry and being annoyingly stoical in the face of her grandson’s adversity. Yes, Cross’s annoyingly geeky nine year-old son spots something that a top FBI data analyst has missed, but at least our man’s current love interest seems to be a good sort.

The book pretty much turns its own pages. It is pure escapism, but a damn good read. Long time fans of the series will not be disappointed, and apostates like myself may well be converted back to the old religion. The People vs Alex Cross will be out on 2nd November in hardback, Kindle and as an audio CD. The paperback edition is due in April 2018.

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Let’s meet Gary Corbin. Gary is a writer, actor, and playwright, and he lives in the city of Camas, which is actually still in Washington State, but a stone’s throw from Portland Oregon. If the stone thrower had a particularly strong arm, he could probably lob the rock over the 49th Parallel and have it land in America’s noisy neighbour, Canada.

Gary’s creative and journalistic work has been published in the Portland Tribune, The Oregonian, and Global Envision, among others. His plays have enjoyed critical acclaim and have enjoyed several productions in regional and community theaters. He is a member of PDX Playwrights, the Portland Area Theatre Alliance, the Willamette Writers Group, 9 Bridges Writers Group, and the North Bank Writers Workshop, and participates in workshops and conferences in the Portland, Oregon area.

When he is not busy writing, Gary is a home-brewer as well as a maker of wine, mead, cider, and soft drinks. He is a member of the Oregon Brew Crew and a BJCP National Beer Judge. He loves to ski, cook, and watch his beloved Red Sox, and hopes someday to train his dogs to obey. And when that doesn’t work, he escapes to the Oregon coast with his sweetheart.

lying-in-judgmentIn his debut novel, Lying In Judgment, he has created both a cunning title and a positively perverse plot. Peter Robertson has left his youth behind but, having become a ‘thirty-something’, he is appalled to find out that his wife is being actively – very actively – unfaithful. He becomes obsessed with his wife’s betrayal and decides to confront her lover. The confrontation turns violent, and Robinson exacts a terrible kind of justice on the man who has broken up his marriage. Except – and it is as big an except as you could imagine – Robertson has made a stupid mistake, and battered to death a completely innocent stranger.

In a dreadful turn of fate that is worthy of Thomas Hardy, Robertson finds himself called up for jury service, and the big case in front of what was known, in less enlightened times as “Twelve Good Men and True” is the prosecution of a man for an apparently motiveless murder. And the murder victim? Yes, you’ve got it – it is the man Robertson killed because he mistook him for his wife’s lover.

Corbin plays the fascinating possibilities for all he is worth, and leads the reader a merry dance across the fields of guilt, conscience, deception and psychological trauma.

Check UK Amazon for more details of Lying In Judgment.

tmmdCorbin opts for a slightly lighter atmosphere in his second book, The Mountain Man’s Dog. I guess that’s obvious, as dogs, being such cheery souls for the most part, don’t do Noir and psychological intensity. We are still in the wilds of the North West, Clarksville Oregon, to be precise, and we are introduced to one of its more rugged citizens, the delightfully named Lehigh Carter. Mr C is far more at home working under a stand of timber than he ever is in polite company, but his innocent love for a feisty girl, Stacy McBride, has him in all sorts of bother. The dog? Well, Stacey McBride, Carter’s former fiancee, persuades him to adopt the stray, and she only has to flutter her eyelashes for him to agree.

The problems start when Stacey’s pop – an ambitious local politician – decides that the the well-meaning but unsophisticated Carter is not suitable to become a member of his extended family. After all, what would the voters think? Carter may not be the sharpest chisel in the toolbox, but he is as honest as the day is long, and the closer he gets to the world of Senator George McBride, the more the smell from the politician’s crooked dealings offends his nose, a nose more used to the clean smells of pine resin than those of corporate corruption. Carter’s honesty wins through, and you will have to buy the book to see if Carter gets his girl – or just the dog.

Check UK Amazon for more details of The Mountain Man’s Dog.

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