Jack and Jill is the third novel featuring Detective Alex Cross, and the first that I have read in the series, but that didn't stop me wholeheartedly enjoying it. It has made me want to go back and read the other books in the series, but this will be a long job as it currently comprises twenty five novels, as well as three film adaptations.
To be able to carry that number of titles, Alex Cross is obviously going to be a complex and intriguing character. He is a widowed father, whose elderly but sassy grandmother lives with them. His parents passed away when he was young and we get the sense that he cherishes both generations of his family above all else. His partner, John Sampson, is Alex's childhood friend, so he fits right into the Cross family unit seamlessly.
As part of the black community, both detectives are hit particularly hard by the violent murder of a little Afro-American girl. Making things even worse, her body was discovered just yards from the school that the Cross children go to. When a second child is murdered, Alex wants to go all out to find the brutal killer.
However, the head honchos have different ideas, wanting Alex to focus on another series of killings simultaneously being carried out on the other side of Washington DC, this time targetting the city's rich and famous. Chilling notes left with the murder victims suggest that there are two killers working in tandem : "Jack and Jill came to The Hill, to kill, to kill, to kill ..." What has the people in high places in a flap is that Jack and Jill are the code names given to the President and the First Lady. It soon becomes apparent not only that the presidential couple are the ultimate targets, but also that the murderers have an awful lot of inside information, so Alex can't even trust the inner circle of the President's supposed allies.
It's a fast-paced, gripping game of cat and mouse, with the killers thoroughly enjoying playing with the police, Secret Service and FBI and Alex tearing out his hair, trying to keep everyone safe. My only criticism would be that there were too many killers for one novel - although I understand the rationale of the child killer plot, as it shows how Alex is torn between two investigations that deserve his complete attention, I did feel that the secondary investigation was insufficiently developed and could have had a whole lot more impact if it had been the main crime. Similarly, I did find it hard to keep track of who was who in the main investigation, given all the aliases and double identities being uncovered in rapid succession.
It was still a great book though and kept me up past my bedtime on several occasions !
star rating : 4.5/5