In the past, James Patterson's written some truly great thrillers - "Jack And Jill", "Cat And Mouse", "Along Came A Spider" - all of them coincidentally starring Alex Cross. But it's when Patterson leaves Cross behind that his novels begin to wear thin...and that, sadly, is the case with "Cradle And All", his new supernatural thriller.
In "Cradle And All", two girls are pregnant...and both claim to be virgins. One is a rich kid from Rhode Island, while the other is a poor peasant girl in Ireland. Anne Fitzgerald, a former nun now working as a private detective, is asked by the Archbishop to investigate the pregnancies, and protect the two mothers from harm. Also involved is the Vatican, which dispatches an investigator to verify the births.
It soon becomes clear, though, that the Vatican investigator knows something that Anne doesn't - he's nervous and tense, and is continuously assaulted by hallucinations of demons and mocking voices. It's only halfway through the story that we find out why - according to an ancient prophecy, one of the girls is destined to bear the son of God, while the other will bear the child of Satan. The task thus becomes to identify the girl marked by Satan and destroy her child, while protecting the other baby.
Written in typical Patterson style, "Cradle And All" is a rapid-fire thriller that keeps you turning the pages. Patterson's taken some important themes - religion, love, hell - created a supernatural thriller around them; however, the story is so outlandish that it requires a willing suspension of disbelief to enjoy it. Patterson's attention to keep the story moving along has also resulted in far too little attention being paid to character developmen. Unlike Cross, who's had the benefit of having quite a few novels being written about him, Anne Fitzgerald is poorly developed - although, with a little bit of effort, she could be a character every bit as interesting as Cross.
Finally, "Cradle And All" ends with a typical Patterson twist - and, as always, it's one that's worth the wait. Unfortunately, though, the ending is the only thing that's compelling about this book...not something I ever expected to say about a Patterson novel!