A dual-personality serial killer (smart, popular math teacher by day, sociopath by night) is busy cutting (sometimes literally) a murderous swath through Washington, D.C. Alex Cross, the city's deputy chief of detectives, would rather play Gershwin on his piano than tangle with the man who leaves an index card marked Son of Lindbergh in the pocket of his first victim. But Cross teams up with the seductive Jezzie Flanagan, the first female supervisor of the Washington branch of the Secret Service, to save the lives of a girl and a boy the madman holds hostage.
Three strong characters (Cross, Flanagan and the murderer) as well as a prime-time plot move Patterson's sixth novel at far more than a spider's pace. Chairman of the ad agency J. Walter Thompson, North America, Patterson (The Midnight Club) knows how to sell thrills and suspense in clear, unwavering prose. In Alex Cross, who happens to be black, this Edgar Award winner has created a most compelling hero, a brainy cop afraid neither to bare his emotions (for his own two kids, for instance) nor to admit procedural error. (Little, Brown, $21.95)