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Four Blind MiceReview - Four Blind Mice
by James Patterson
Little Brown, 2002
Review by Su Terry
Jan 27th 2003 (Volume 7, Issue 5)

Four Blind Mice by James Patterson is the eighth in the Alex Cross series. In this novel, Cross is faced with a series of brutal murders perpetrated by army soldiers with impeccable military histories. The book a “why done it” (to borrow another reviewer’s excellent descriptive phrase). From the very first scene, the reader knows who are the murderers are, but not why they are killing. As the novel opens, Alex Cross, Washington D.C. detective and widowed father of two, is trying to decide if he really wants to leave the DCPD to join the FBI or to enter private practice, but before he can decide John Sampson, his police partner and long time friend, has approached him with a favor. Sampson asks Cross to investigate the charges against Sergeant Ellis Cooper, a former army buddy from Sampson’s service in Vietnam. Cooper has been convicted of heinously murdering three army wives and is sitting on death row. Cooper swears that he is innocent, but the evidence against him is irrefutable. Sampson feels that Cooper could not have committed the crime. What the reader knows that Cross and Sampson do not is that Thomas Starkey, Brownley Harris, and Warren Griffin, three former Army Rangers from Vietnam have been paid to commit the crime and to plant evidence in order to set Cooper up for the fall. This pattern of murder and framing yet another victim is not new to them they have done this before to other soldiers, however, what even the killers do not know is who is paying them and why. Cross and Sampson race stop at nothing to save Cooper’s life, unfortunately their efforts fail, and Cooper still protesting his innocence is executed. As Cross and Sampson continue to dig, they discovered the pattern of other army men with impeccable records executed for similarly heinous murders who died protesting their innocence. Unfortunately, the more Cross and Sampson attempt to dig into the men’s military history and background, the more they are met with the “grey wall of silence” that refuses them interviews and denies them access to military records. Meanwhile, Cross is exploring a long-distance relationship with Jamilla Hughes, a San Francisco detective with whom he worked on a previous case (Violets are Blue) and John Sampson is getting rather chummy with Billie Houston, a widow of an earlier victim of Starkey, Harris, and Griffin. In addition, Nana Mama, Cross’ mother and caretaker of his children is faced with serious ill-health complicating matters on the Cross’ home front. Finally, Cross begins receiving fax and email from “Foot Soldier” a mysterious source of information that knows way too much about the murders and Cross’ personal life, and seems to point directly to a mastermind criminal that Cross has previously put in prison.

Four Blind Mice is filled with interesting characters. Cross and Sampson are an interesting dichotomy. Growing up in the same neighborhood as boyhood friends, Cross walked the straight and narrow, college, medical school, marriage, and into the police force. Sampson, on the other hand, took a more crooked path - troubled youth, the army, bachelorhood, and into the force. In this novel, both Cross and Sampson confront critical relational challenges. After the murder of his wife, Cross faces the crisis of dating again and Sampson, the confirmed bachelor, looks at the prospect of marriage. In addition, each must confront their feelings about what will happen to their friendship, their partnership, and their professional prospects if Cross decides to leave the police department.

I have one major complaint about the book. Four Blind Mice is definitely a book within a sequence of books. It presupposes knowledge about Detective Jamilla Hughes and the convicted killer Kyle Craig. While I could follow the plot easily, these characters bring with them a history that I, having not read any previous Alex Cross novels, lacked. I particularly felt the lack in regards to information about Craig who might or might not be involved in the murders. Does one have to begin with the first Cross book to know the scoop? Probably, but it seems that at least a reading of Violets are Blue might be in order to have background on Hughes and Craig. Less critical readers than I may feel less frustrated, but I wished I had started further down the reading chain.

James Patterson is the author of many international bestsellers. Patterson grew up in Newburgh, New York. He graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in English from Manhattan College and summa cum laude with an M.A. in English from Vanderbilt University. He currently lives in Palm Beach County, Florida. His debut novel, The Thomas Berryman Number (1976), won the Edgar Award for the best first mystery novel. His novels include: Season of the Machete (1977), The Jericho Commandment (1979), Virgin (1980, rewritten in 2000 as Cradle and All), Black Market (1986), The Midnight Club (1989), Hide and Seek (1996), See How They Run (1997), When the Wind Blows (1998), and Suzanne's Diary for Nicholas (July 2001). He also has two popular and successful series. "The Women's Murder Club" series includes: 1st to Die (2001) and 2nd Chance (2002).  The series featuring Alex Cross includes: Came A Spider (1993), Kiss the Girls (1995), Jack and Jill (1996), Cat and Mouse (1997), Pop Goes the Weasel (1999), Roses are Red (2000), Violets are Blue (2001), and Four Blind Mice (November 2002). The Jester written with Andrew Gross will be released in March 2003. Patterson’s official website is: http://www.jamespatterson.com

Peter J. Fernandez and Michael Emerson narrate the unabridged audiobook of Four Blind Mice.  Fernandez is an actor who has appeared on Broadway in Jelly’s Last Jam and in The Merchant of Venice with Dustin Hoffman. He has also narrated Patterson’s Roses are Red and Connelly’s City of Bones. Emerson is an actor who has appeared in the films Unfaithful, The Laramie Project, and The Imposters and has appeared on television in The X-Files, Law & Order, The Practice and The District. The added sound effects and occasion background music are a wonderful addition to this audiobook.

Four Blind Mice by James Patterson is very engrossing.  Do not start listening to this audio book at night without calculating the 7.5-hour listening time. It will keep you up until the surprise ending. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this novel with the above caveat about Violets are Blue. I highly recommended it.

 

© 2003 Su Terry

Su Terry: Education: B.A. in History from Sacred Heart University, M.L.S. in Library Science from Southern Connecticut State College, M.R.S. in Religious Studies/Pastoral Counseling from Fairfield University, a M.Div. in Professional Ministry from New Brunswick Theological Seminary, a Certificate in Spirituality/Spiritual Direction from Sacred Heart University. She is a Licensed Minister of the United Church of Christ and an Assistant Professor in Library Science at Dowling College, Long Island, NY. Interests in Mental Health: She is interested in the interplay between psychology, biology, and mysticism. Her current area of research is in the impact of hormonal fluctuation in female Christian mystics.


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