James Patterson’s Roses Are Red hauls back Alex Cross (played by Morgan Freeman in 1997’s ”Kiss the Girls”) in all his improbable perfection. Cross, a D.C. detective and FBI liaison, is working on a series of bank robbery murders coordinated by a loon calling himself the Mastermind – who, as is typical of a Patterson villain, becomes unwholesomely obsessed with Cross.
But Cross has problems of his own, revolving – alas, dear reader – around his cereal commercial cute family. His motherless moppety children, Damon and Jannie, are enjoying their evening boxing lesson with Dad when Jannie is struck with the first of several mysterious seizures. This leads to many scenes in the hospital in which his sunny kids keep thinkin’ about tomorrow and Cross muses about mortality (”What if this was our last sunrise together?”). You’ll need paint stripper to remove the syrup.
Cross is also dealing with his jittery fiancée, Christine, who gave birth to his son while held captive by, ahem, the Weasel (in last year’s ”Pop Goes the Weasel”) and is now suffering from mental problems while juggling work and family.
After dealing readers this lame duck plot, and the sticky prose that goes with it, Patterson tries to goose the excitement by artificial means. Like dicing his book into 126 chapters and making heavy use of italics as a dramatic device.
And, most insultingly, dishing out titillating, sexually charged descriptions of the murders and violations of several women. Through it all, Cross remains an exhaustingly predictable character: He plays the piano when he gets sad, marvels at the wisdom of his sassy Black Pride grandmother, a.k.a. Nana Mama, and wonders if he should give up ”the Job.” We know, we know. In the last chapter, Patterson lets loose a thunk of a revelation that will change the entire nature of the series. But unless he makes some changes to Cross, it won’t be of interest.