Roses Are Red (novel)

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Roses Are Red
Author James Patterson
Country United States
Language English
Series Alex Cross
Genre Crime, Mystery, Thriller
Publisher Warner Books
Publication date
Media type Print (Hardcover, Paperback)
Pages 400 pp
ISBN 0-316-69325-1
OCLC 43641257
813/.54 21
LC Class PS3566.A822 R67 2000
Preceded by Pop Goes the Weasel
Followed by Violets Are Blue

Roses Are Red is the sixth novel featuring the Washington, D.C. homicide detective and forensic psychiatrist Alex Cross written by James Patterson.

Plot summary[edit]

Alex Cross returns for the sixth book in the series with a new killer on the loose. A series of meticulously planned bank robberies leave behind a wake of bodies. Alex Cross must not only battle against the sadistic criminal who calls himself The Mastermind, but also the risks that he may be putting his family in. Cross takes a plunge into a case where mind games lead to violence and the slightest mistake will be punished with death.

Plot In-Depth[edit]

Alex Cross is back--and that alone will have this novel crowning bestseller lists, a feat Patterson's books have achieved often of late, both his Cross (Pop Goes the Weasel) and non-Cross (Cradle and All) thrillers. Patterson won an Edgar for his first novel, The Thomas Berryman Number, but he hasn't won one since. One reason is that his prose, though sturdy as a trusted rowboat, is just as wooden; another is that his plotting--here detailing Washington, D.C., homicide detective Cross's pursuit of a crazed but crafty homicidal criminal known as the Mastermind--is about as sophisticated as that of a Frank and Joe Hardy tale. So why are the Cross novels so popular? In part because Patterson constructs them out of short, simple sentences, paragraphs and chapters that practically define the brisk, fun, E-Z read, and in part because, here and elsewhere, he engages in the smart and unusual tactic of alternating third- and first-person (from Cross's POV) narrative. Mostly, though, readers adore them because Cross is such a lovable hero, a family-oriented African-American whose compassion warmly balances the icy cruelty of Patterson's villains and their sometimes graphically depicted crimes (as is the case here). In the new novel, Cross suffers lady problems as his old love, who's in terror of Cross's job, leaves him, and he fumbles toward a new romance with an FBI agent; he also suffers personal trauma as his beloved daughter develops a brain tumor. That's back-burner action, though. The main focus here is, first, on a series of shocking Mastermind-engineered bank robbery/kidnappings involving wanton killings and, second, on the hunt to ID the Mastermind--a hunt both absorbing and annoying for its several (rather smelly) red herrings, and concluding with a revelation that screams sequel. While there's nothing subtle in this novel, every blatant element is packaged for maximum effect: roses may be red, but Patterson's newest is green all the way. U.K. and translation rights, Arthur Pine Associates. 1.25 million first printing; Literary Guild and Doubleday Direct main selections; simultaneous Random House large-print edition and Time Warner Audio. (Nov.)

When Cross and Cavalierre get to the bank all the employees, except one are dead. The manager's wife is also dead. The survivor has a message from the Mastermind. The message was that everyone was dead because a mistake was made. The survivor, the bank's security guard, also blames himself for not protecting his friends. Later that day, the Mastermind goes to pay a visit to his crew. He brings pizza and wine again. This time it was laced with marplan as the poison. After they are all dead he has sex with the dead Ms. Green. Three days later, Alex spends the day with little Alex. He takes him back to Christine's, who informs Alex that she is leaving Washington DC and cannot take little Alex with her.

The Mastermind interviews his new crew. Three of the five men had shown up: Brian MacDougal, B.J. Stringer and Robert Shaw. They are from New York. The leader, Brian MacDougal, said the other two are at work. The next job was for $15 million. In reality the other two members, Vincent O'Malley and Jimmy Crews, are outside in a parking lot listening to the whole thing. The two members outside wait for the Mastermind to go out of the hotel and follow him to a mental institution named Hazelwood. The next day, Cross goes to the J. Edgar Hoover Building. He is there to meet with Craig, Cavalierre, the FBI director and the Secretary of Justice. The SOJ wants results. Cross and Cavalierre work late. There are a number of suspects with dozens of agents working the case.

The next day, a van pulls in front of a tourist bus. The bank crew takes a bus full of tourists hostage. He instructs everyone to get rid of cell phones and tells the driver to follow the van. A fax is sent to the directors of the Metro Hartford Insurance Company, who were meeting at the Mayflower Hotel, informing them that a bus carrying many of their wives is being held hostage and if $30 million is not received in five hours everyone will die. The kidnappers inform them that they are the ones responsible for the other robberies and that those robberies were committed as object lessons for them. The FBI is told that the Metro Hartford will pay the ransom. The Mastermind is on the scene outside of the Mayflower Hotel.

While on the train, the Mastermind toys with the FBI and Cross several times by getting them ready to throw the money and then telling them to stop. Finally the money is dropped. They exit the train seven miles later. When Cross, Cavalierre, Doud and Walsh exit the station, other FBI's are there waiting. They inform them that they got a break and a woman reported the bus being seen at an abandoned farm. When they get there all the people are alive inside the house. Cross is now working sixteen hour days. The FBI has a suspect, a former U.S. Army sergeant named Mitchell Brand, who fits the profile. He was violent, had committed six bank robberies and has an IQ of over 150. That night Sampson comes over for a beer. Alex tells John Sampson that it's over between Christine and him and that little Alex was coming to live with them.

The next morning Sampson calls Alex and tells him they found Mitchell Brand at an east side ghetto building and that Chief Pittman had ordered a lot of man power to bring him in. Alex leaves immediately. When Alex gets there he sees the situation is out of control and there are too many police officers there. Cross takes control. Pittman tells him to not screw it up. James Walsh arrives after Alex and the two head up the ghetto building. Cross asks where Cavalierre is and Walsh tells him she took a few days off to see her family. Brand's girlfriend, Theresa Lopez, lives in the projects there. Cross warns Walsh that Brand is most probably armed. They lead a team of eight, which includes Sampson. They burst in the apartment. Theresa Lopez's three children are watching TV. Brand comes out of the bedroom holding a gun to Theresa's head. He tells them he was at a wedding last week and that someone is setting him up. He puts down the gun.

The next morning Alex picks up Jannie from the hospital. The tumor is found to be benign and was successfully removed. The next evening there is a briefing at the FBI building. Alex thinks that the Mastermind is done robbing banks and is now playing a game of “catch me if you can.” The next day, Cross, Cavalierre, Doud and Walsh go to Hartford, Connecticut to interview Metro Hartford employees and former employees. The last person Cross interviews, a woman named Hildie Rader has the most useful information. She claims to have met one of the kidnappers.

She tell them she frequented a bar and a man struck up a conversation with her. The next day the man appeared again, but seemed more interested in getting information on Metro Hartford executives. Hildie says the bartender was a friend of hers and told her that the man had asked about her by name the day before he met her. She also told them that the man had also talked to another employee from Metro Hartford asking more questions about Metro Hartford executives. Cross and Cavalierre decide to interview both women the next day and try to get a composite drawing of the suspect. Cavalierre and Cross go out for a drink and later try to make love in Betsey's hotel room, but Alex is too emotional and cannot. Betsey hugs Alex, telling him she knows he's not ready yet.

The Mastermind quietly breaks into a home. He puts on a Bill Clinton mask like the one used on the first robbery. He goes upstairs and goes into a bedroom. He jumps on a woman and binds and gags her. He tells her if she tells anyone about this he will kill her. He says he is going to impregnate her. He warns her she has to have the baby or he will kill her. The next day Cavalierre tells Cross about the incident. The woman had contacted the police after all. The woman had left the hospital and was found tortured and poisoned. She had disobeyed the Mastermind and he carried out his threat.

Alex returns home. In the middle of the night, Cavalierre calls Alex to tell him they got a break. A girl thinks her father was involved in the robbery. Her father is an NYPD cop. Cross and Cavalierre head to New York City to see the girl. The girl was fifteen-year-old Veronica MacDougal, the daughter of Brian MacDougal. She was turning her father in because Brian drank too much and struck Veronica's mom a lot. Brian was a narcotics detective with his partners. They’d all been working together for twelve years.

Veronica noticed that her father had more money than an average cop should. She claimed she was very observant and said when she grew up she would make a great detective. He could afford fancy clothes, take expensive trips, buy a new car every other year and had a sailboat. One night she followed her dad when he was drunk to her grandmother's house. Hidden in a shed was a bag with $20,000. She became more observant. She overheard a conversation with Jimmy Crews about a job in Washington DC. Soon afterwards he was gone for four days, during which the Metro Hartford kidnapping had occurs. He returned the day after. That night he had broken Veronica's mom's cheek bone. That night, she went to the shed and found more money. Veronica opens her backpack and takes out a load of cash, $10,000.

The five cops are put under surveillance. The ransom money at the grandmother's shed was removed. They also run a background check on the detectives. The Department of Justice decides to take all five of them at the same time. The takedown was at 5 am. Cross and Cavalierre are at MacDougal's. Inside, MacDougal starts to shoot. It was like he knew they were coming. He tries to get away but Alex stops him and punches him several times. It takes a few days, but MacDougal tells Cross that he can tell them how to find the Mastermind but wants a deal. He tells Cross that they were only involved in the Metro Hartford job, not the other jobs and that no one was ever killed in his jobs. A few days later the Mastermind breaks into James Walsh's house and kills him with a .357 Magnum, but makes it look like a suicide.

The next morning Cross is asked to look at the scene. Mike Doud is with him. Walsh was Doud's best friend. He believes it was not a suicide despite the appearance. Alex returns to New York. The Justice Department agrees to make the deal with MacDougal. MacDougal tells them the Mastermind is in the mental ward at Hazelwood Veterans Hospital. Sampson and Cross go to Hazelwood. Despite the senior doctor's protest, Cross will work as a counselor and Sampson as a porter. That night, the Mastermind writes another hate letter, this time to his landlord. He is angry that his doctor revoked his privilege to leave the hospital grounds. He stops writing and leaves his room when he sees Dr. Cross. Alex has a list of suspects he thinks is the Mastermind and he reviews them with Sampson. Later that night Cavalierre reports that Agent Mike Doud is missing.

After a week, Cross thinks the hospital is a dead end. After some persuasion, Cavalierre has Alex agree to spend the weekend together, as she says that he is ready for another relationship. They go to a hotel and make love. Both Alex and Cavalierre decide to officially start a relationship together. The second day Alex begins to wonder about the first job at First Union. They decide to look over the personnel files again. After a few hours Alex sees a name he recognizes, a man who is a patient at the hospital, Frederick Szabo. Alex watches Frederick Szabo and for several days he does nothing and never leaves. Cavalierre calls Alex. She went to First Union bank and interviewed former co-workes of Szabo. He was the Director of Security. He was meticulous, exact and precise. The employees used to call him the Mastermind.

The next day, Cross notices Szabo leaving. He follows him to his apartment. Cross notices that there was never any mention of Szabo ever working at the bank or having an apartment. In fact the file said Szabo was homeless and never had a job since leaving Vietnam. Cross waits until Szabo leaves before breaking in and looking around. He finds a file cabinet with hate letters written to major banks, as well as the plans and layouts for the banks hit and the Mayflower Hotel. From the corner of his eye he sees a man wearing a Clinton mask charging at him with a big hunting knife. The man yells Cross’ name. The two struggle. Cross pushes him away and shoots him in the shoulder. Cross removes the mask and sees it is Szabo. Szabo yells at him and tells Cross he has the wrong man.

The FBI arrives at Szabo's apartment. Szabo is taken to a cell where despite all of Cross’ and Cavalierre's questions, he remains silent. After several hours, Szabo grins and tell Cross again that they have the wrong man. After several exhausting hours Cross returns home. He lies awake in bed and recalls his conversation with Tony Brophy and his description of the silhouette of the Mastermind. Szabo does not match that description. Cross calls Cavalierre and tells he that he thinks he knows who the real Mastermind is. Cross convinces Cavalierre and then the two convince Kyle Craig. Cross and Cavalierre head to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. More FBI agents are there to meet them. Alex was remembering the picture of Dr. Bernard Francis. Dr. Francis met the description of the silhouette that matched Brophy's description. Francis had been Szabo's therapist for nine weeks in 1996 and five months in 1997. The FBI puts around the clock surveillance on Dr. Francis, who is entertaining a prostitute. A call comes in and the agents listen. It's from one of the nurses at Hazelwood. She warns Dr. Francis that the FBI was back and going through all the files.

The next day Cross and Cavalierre get an idea and run it past Kyle, who approves it. The FBI arrests the nurse, who claims not to be in contact with Dr. Francis or been involved in the robberies. A search through her apartment shows a diamond used as part of the ransom. She then confesses to knowing about the kidnappings, the robberies, Francis and Szabo. Dr. Cross and Betsey Cavalierre go to Francis' house to arrest him. He opens and acts surprised. Francis had learned about how to rob a bank from Szabo, who had shared his ideas and blueprints. Szabo had also made notes of the sessions. Francis makes his way to the roof and jumps off landing in the pool. Cross and Cavalierre go after Francis who is trying to make his way to the parking lot, but the FBI is there waiting for him. He takes out a bottle of poison and drinks it, falling on the ground. He is still alive and with his last words he tells Cross that they have the wrong man.

The detectives finally obtain a solid lead that takes them to Hazelwood Veterans Hospital where Frederic Szabo is a resident. Szabo has a paranoid personality disorder which causes him to entertain the idea of revenge. His targets are banks and insurance companies who he feels are harmful to the average person. Szabo makes intricate plans for plausible robberies, but does not have the resources to conduct them. He is manipulated by his physician, Dr. Francis, who has more options available to him. In an unexpected last minute twist, the ultimate Mastermind is revealed as Kyle Craig, who had been posing as Alex's friend and coworker throughout the story.


The events continue in Violets Are Blue.