Detective Alex Cross is back. There have been gruesome murders in the impoverished, prostitute-ridden, black sections of southeast Washington, D.C., and Cross is forced to investigate the deaths on his own time and behind the department's back. It is a matter of personal conviction for Cross until the killer involves Cross's family. If you read the opening chapter of Pop Goes the Weasel all three pages you're hooked. From the author of Kiss the Girls, which was made into the thriller starring Morgan Freeman, Pop Goes the Weasel is just as cinematic. Written almost in movie scenes, it is a story told from the alternating points of view of both the killer and the detective. Patterson's latest is definitely cat-and-mouse and allows us a front-row seat to the games which is exactly what this is to the killer.

Pop Goes the Weasel continues Patterson's attempt to break a few mystery stereotypes. In a literary (and movie) world filled with white detectives and black thugs, drug pushers, and prostitutes, it is refreshing to read about a man like Alex Cross a psychologist, detective, FBI liaison, and a widower trying to raise a family and be effective at work at the same time. He's a positive role model, an educated man, and just happens to be successful enough to drive a Porsche. He's also a monogamous man in love.

There's a social issue here that may or may not be true depending upon one's interpretation of the statistics. Cross believes that the killers of established white people are found much quicker than the killers of lower-class minorities. It's certainly the case in this novel and, if true, it's a horrifying fact. Patterson certainly has a point to make, but rarely does he preach it, instead allowing readers to reach their own conclusions.

Pop Goes the Weasel is easily one of the most believable and well-written genre mysteries of 1999.

Clay Stafford is a writer and filmmaker.

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