Cradle and All

James Patterson, Author
James Patterson, Author Little, Brown and Company Inc $32 (336p) ISBN 978-0-316-69061-4
Reviewed on: 05/22/2000
Release date: 05/01/2000
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His Alex Cross series (Pop Goes the Weasel, etc.) has made Patterson a top-selling author, but his most interesting work lies elsewhere: in his debut mystery, The Thomas Berryman Number; in last year's SF thriller, When the Wind Blows--and in this exciting and moving religious thriller about two pregnant virgins, one of whom may carry the Son of God and the other the Son of the Devil. If that plot line sounds familiar, it should. The novel is a reworking of Virgin, Patterson's second novel, published in 1980 by McGraw-Hill and long out of print. The narrative features the first-person/third-person narrative mix that's Patterson's trademark. The ""I"" belongs to ex-nun Anne Fitzgerald, now a PI. Her latest case for the Church involves investigating--and guarding--Newport, R.I. (i.e., rich), teenager Kathleen Beavier, who's eight months pregnant but, by expert medical testimony, a virgin. The Church is particularly anxious about Kathleen's condition because the Third Secret of Fatima (a real-life secret guarded by the Church since the Virgin Mary allegedly revealed it in 1917) prophesied two pregnant virgins: one bearing the Savior, the other the Devil's child. Anne eventually learns that indeed there's a poor girl in Ireland who's also pregnant, yet a virgin. Which girl carries which child? For texture, Patterson throws in some romance between Anne and a priest, but the novel's considerable suspense arises from his treatment of the central question as he speeds the action from America to Ireland to the Vatican, complicates it with a media frenzy over Kathleen, sharpens it as supernatural forces come into play and spins it with a wicked twist. While not subtle, this novel tackles issues of faith with admirable gusto. It could be a massive bestseller, appealing not only to Patterson's fans but also to those of the apocalyptic thrillers of LaHaye and Jenkins. 1 million first printing; $1 million ad/promo; Literary Guild main selection; author tour. (May)
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