Alex Cross’s Trial Review
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James Patterson’s beloved hero, Dr. Alex Cross, is an exceptionally gifted character. Through the years, he’s worked as a detective, an FBI agent, and a psychologist. He’s tracked serial killers across the country—and around the world. He’s even written a few books—including his latest, Trial.

In Alex Cross’s Trial (so titled because it was written by Cross—not because it’s about him), fictional author Alex Cross (with some help from Patterson and co-author Richard Dilallo) tells the story of progressive young lawyer Benjamin Corbett, who’s sent by President Theodore Roosevelt back to his hometown of Eudora, Mississippi, to investigate widespread reports of lynchings. Once he arrives in town, Ben is surprised to find that the reports are true. Not only are the lynchings taking place, but they’re also attended by crowds of spectators—and they’re often written up in the local papers as if they were sporting events.

With help from Abraham Cross (Alex’s great great uncle) and his spirited daughter, Moody, Ben digs deeper into the reports, discovering horrors that he never imagined. But when he tries to do something about it, he puts himself—and his new friends—in danger.

Patterson’s fans might be in for a surprise or two with Trial. First, there’s the title. Though his name is in the title, this isn’t the latest Alex Cross crime thriller (the next Cross thriller, incidentally, is called I, Alex Cross—and it comes out in November). Instead, it’s a period piece, set in the early twentieth century. It’s the fictional Law & Order-style account of an investigation (and, later, as you might expect, a trial) focused on racism in the South.

Not only is it not an Alex Cross thriller, then, but it’s also not the kind of novel that you’d expect from Patterson—one that’s set a century ago. But, then again, Patterson’s never really been one for categorization. He has, after all, authored kids’ sci-fi adventures like the Daniel X series and paranormal romances like Sundays at Tiffany’s. So a dramatic period thriller shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise.

When you get beyond the initial confusion over the title—and the unexpected subject matter—you’ll find that Trial is a compelling and unforgettable novel, written in such vivid detail that you’ll feel as though you’re there, sharing in Corbett’s shock and disbelief as he witnesses these unspeakable horrors for the first time. It’s a haunting story—because, even though it’s fiction, it’s not far from the truth. Like Corbett, you won’t want to believe the stories—or that educated and influential people could do such horrible things—and, at times, it’s truly heartbreaking.

But there’s more to Trial than its moving drama; it’s also an action-packed thriller. As Corbett continues his investigation—befriending (and defending) Abraham and his family in the process—it puts him in danger, until he begins to fear for his own life. You’ll fear for him, too—and you’ll feel compelled to keep reading until you find out how his story ends.

Unfortunately, though, parts of the conclusion don’t get the attention they deserve. After the trial (which, fortunately, comes to a fitting—though not necessarily satisfying—end), things end rather abruptly, leaving loose ends and unanswered questions. Some minor plots are dropped completely, while others come to a neat, tidy (and completely unrealistic) ending.

Still, despite its somewhat unsatisfying conclusion, Alex Cross’s Trial is both a powerful drama and a gripping thriller—and the story that it tells is an important one. So although this isn’t the Cross thriller that you might be anticipating, it’s an unforgettable (and worthwhile) experience nonetheless.

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