Four Blind Mice

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Alex Cross has given formal notice of his resignation to the Washington, D.C., police department. On his last day of employment, breakfast is disrupted by the panicked appearance of his friend, Detective John Sampson. Ellis Cooper, with whom Sampson served in Vietnam, has been implicated in a brutal triple homicide, and is in court martial for his life. All evidence points to Cooper, but Sampson cannot believe he is guilty.

Cross and Sampson fruitlessly retrace the steps of the original investigators. Cooper is convicted. In the most earnest dialogue in the book, Cooper avows before his execution that he is innocent. Cross and Sampson pursue the case, and unearth similar happenings up and down the east coast, from the Carolinas to West Point. The accused in each instance was implicated in a gruesome incident ages before at the An Lao Valley during the Vietnam War. Closer examination reveals a trio of troubleshooters, known as the Three Blind Mice, sent to An Lao to clean up the mess.

James Patterson’s characters have fared better in other tales. His trademark is to employ short chapters, each with tension at the end that keeps pages turning. In Four Blind Mice, the technique leaves readers with the sense that they have been here before. But Patterson does have a knack for added elements to finish his stories. Cross and Sampson successfully close their case against the Three Blind Mice. In the process, Cross begins to suspect a fourth “blind mouse,” someone in the background who directs the other three. When this mysterious figure learns of Cross and Sampson’s intervention, he focuses his vengeful attention on them.