'Big Bad Wolf' lives up to name

Sunday, December 14, 2003

About two-thirds into James Patterson's "The Big Bad Wolf," his new Alex Cross thriller, readers might begin to fear that the villain won't be caught. If that turned out to be so, it would be disappointing, since we want Cross to catch the Wolf.

That's one reason Patterson is so popular; the reader becomes part of the chase. And in this case, the Wolf is always one step ahead of his pursuers.

Cross, Patterson's black lawman, has left the Washington, D.C., police force and is training at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Va. Despite his "newbie" status, Cross is put on a very big case. Attractive women (and young men) are being abducted and sold to people who have "selected" them and paid a hefty sum. A former Russian mobster -- the Wolf -- is involved.

Very little is known about the Wolf, who belonged to the KGB, the former Soviet secret police, before becoming involved in organized crime. His namesake, the Siberian wolf, is a skilled hunter but also relentlessly hunted. "The human Wolf was also a hunter who was hunted -- except that the police had no idea where to hunt."

Cross cracks an encrypted Web site as he hunts for those who have entered the Wolf's Den.

Meanwhile, Cross faces new domestic troubles when the mother of his youngest son reappears.