Pop Goes the Weasel
by James Patterson
Book Review by Amy Coffin
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There's a killer on the loose in Washington D.C. Of course, he's just killing prostitutes and various unimportant citizens in the area. That sad truth is why little has been done to solve the cases. The crimes have been dubbed The Jane Doe Murders.

The murders are heinous and the victims have been brutalized in the most disgusting manners. There is a method to the madness, though. This is definitely the work of a serial killer.

Detective Alex Cross is unofficially on the case. A devoted father and role model for the African-American community, Alex is passionate about his work. Perhaps it is because his wife and the mother of his children was murdered several years ago and he's just trying to keep his mind off of that fact.

Meet Geoffrey Shafer. By day, he is a diplomat working out of the British Embassy. In the evening however, he is the very cold-blooded killer Alex is hunting. (Don't worry, I didn't give away the story. Shafer is named right on the paperback cover.)

We find that Mr. Shafer is heavily involved in a role-playing game called The Four Horsemen. The four participants live on opposite ends of the globe, and they role-play various murder scenes. Shafer, whose character is named Death, acts out his fantasies. He rolls a set of 20-sided dice to determine the fate of his victims.

At one point, Alex gets close to Shafer. The killer sounds his warnings, but they are ignored. Only when one of Alex's loved ones is kidnapped does he realize that Shafer has made him part of the game.

Pop Goes the Weasel chronicles this ultimate battle between good and evil. Alex must search for his loved one, while trying to catch Shafer and bring him down. Shafer, close to going mad, hides behind "diplomatic immunity." When one of DC's officers is killed, Alex goes after Shafer. In turn, Shafer turns the tables and claims in court that Alex is the killer. It seems that Shafer just can't be beat. Or is it just a matter of time before Alex Cross ends his crime spree once and for all?

The story concludes with a stunning, yet abrupt end to The Four Horsemen. I'm afraid that's all I can say on the subject. I will add that I did not put the book down for the last 130 pages. Had there been an earthquake, I would have sought a doorway and kept reading. Pop Goes the Weasel is that good.

Alex Cross is a refreshing and unique character. He's a father first. Law enforcement plays a back seat. Most fictional cops are portrayed as cold private men. Alex is warm and friendly toward his family, yet he can be a bad ass when fighting thugs on the street. He's my kind of hero.

Mr. Patterson also does an excellent job in developing the character of Geoffrey Shafer. He is truly evil. The British Embassy job, his wife, and his kids mean nothing to him. He simply lives for his killing game. I found myself getting carried away in the fiction and wholly despising the man myself.

The story itself is rather violent. The murders are descriptive and gruesome.
However, for lovers of suspense, Pop Goes the Weasel is a must. I liken the experience of reading this book to riding a frightening roller coaster that twists and turns and doesn't stop until the last page is turned. I had to quit reading the book at night, because I found that I wasn't able to sleep after reading a few chapters. Mr. Patterson definitely knows how to get his readers' adrenaline flowing.
Read the Alex Cross series in order:

Along Came a Spider

Kiss the Girls

Jack & Jill

Cat & Mouse

Pop Goes the Weasel

Roses are Red

Violets are Blue

Four Blind Mice

The Big Bad Wolf

London Bridges
1st to Die
The Official James Patterson Web Site
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