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Alex Cross's Trial, by James Patterson and Richard Dilallo

Alex Cross's Trial
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Realizing that his children understand little of their ancestors' struggle to survive the bigotry and hatred of the Jim Crow era, Alex Cross decides to write a novel based on his great uncle's life. The result is the story that becomes the core of this audio book. Cross's main characters are Ben Corbett, a compassionate young white lawyer and Alex's great uncle, Abraham Cross. As a defender of the underdog in Washington, DC, of the early 20th century, Ben Corbett attracts the attention of President Theodore Roosevelt, who commissions him to investigate the increasing Klan activity in the Deep South. Since Ben was born and raised in Eudora, Mississippi, the President feels that Ben is the perfect choice for this covert mission, and for assistance, he refers him to an old and respected member of the black community, Abraham Cross. When Ben returns to his former home, he is appalled to find that what he'd remembered as an idyllic community of southern gentility is really a hotbed of murder, intimidation and injustice. Lynching, torture and mutilation have become a sport enjoyed by his boyhood classmates and neighbors, while the former slaves cower in their quarter, hoping to avoid death by becoming invisible.

This is unlike any of Patterson's earlier books; the only connection to the Alex Cross character found in many of those novels is title of this book. The elderly black gentleman could have been anyone, and the fact that he's named Cross does not make the horrific events any more or less compelling. As difficult as it is to listen to some of the descriptions of the physical violence and the emotional abuse, Patterson and Dilallo have done readers a great favor by reminding us of this dark period in our history. While the witnesses to the atrocities of that era are no longer around to testify, it is important that the facts are not forgotten, nor the price of freedom minimized. Dylan Baker's narration adds to the emotional appeal of the book, because he is able to create distinct voices among the southern speakers. He infuses his characters' comments with the appropriate amounts of venom or gentility as the occasions demand. From the horror of the lynching parties to the hopefulness of the slave gatherings, Baker gives the listener a front row seat.

Alex Cross's Trial is a book that should be read by everyone, but the descriptions are too graphic for young readers. For older teens and adults, the information about racial prejudice, violence and the struggle for social justice that Patterson and Dilallo present can't help but prove to be thought-provoking. The fact that so powerful a message can be presented in such an entertaining way is a testament to the skill of Patterson and Dillalo and shows that popular fiction can evolve from an unpopular topic. Highly recommended.

Ruth Mormon

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