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Hope to Die

Detective Alex Cross is being stalked by a psychotic genius, forced to play the deadliest game of his career. Cross's family—his loving wife Bree, the wise and lively Nana Mama, and his precious children—have been ripped away. Terrified and desperate, Cross must give this mad man what he wants if he has any chance of saving the most important people in his life. The stakes have never been higher: What will Cross sacrifice to save the ones he loves?

Widely praised by the greatest crime and thriller writers of our time, Cross My Heart set a jaw-dropping story in motion. Hope to Die propels Alex Cross's greatest challenge to its astonishing finish, proving why Jeffery Deaver says "nobody does it better" than James Patterson.

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The First 4 Chapters

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Part One

Chapter 1

WHEN MARCUS SUNDAY ARRIVED at Whodunit Books in Philadelphia around seven that evening, the manager told him not to expect much of a crowd. It was the Tuesday after Easter, lots of people were still away on vacation, and it was raining.

But Sunday and the manager were pleasantly surprised when twenty-five people showed up to hear him read and discuss his controversial true-crime book The Perfect Criminal.

The manager introduced him, saying, “Marcus Sunday, who has a doctorate in philosophy from Harvard, has hit best-seller lists around the country with this book, a fascinating look at two unsolved mass-murder cases explained by a truly original mind focused on the depths of the criminal soul.”

The crowd clapped, and Sunday, a tall, sturdy man who looked to be in his late thirties, stepped to the lectern wearing a black leather jacket, jeans, and a crisp white shirt.

“I appreciate you coming out on a rainy night,” he said. “And it’s a pleasure to be here at Whodunit Books.”

Then he talked about the killings.

Seven years earlier, two nights before Christmas, the five members of the Daley family of suburban Omaha had been slain in their home. Except for the wife, they were all found in their beds. Their throats had been cut with a scalpel or razor. The wife had died similarly, but in the bathroom, and naked. Either the doors had been unlocked, or the killer had had a key. There had been a snowstorm during the night, and any tracks were buried.

Fourteen months later, in the aftermath of a violent thunderstorm, the Monahan family of suburban Fort Worth was discovered in a similar state: A father and four children under the age of thirteen were found in their beds with their throats slit; the wife, also with her throat slit, was found naked on the bathroom floor. Once more, either the doors had been unlocked or the killer had had a key. Again, owing to the storm and the killer’s meticulous methods, the police found no usable evidence.

“I became interested because of that lack of evidence, that void,” Sunday informed his rapt audience.

Sunday said that the dearth of evidence had confused him at first. He talked to all the investigators working the case, but they were equally baffled. Then his academic training took over, and he began to theorize about the philosophical world-view of such a perfect killer.

“I came to the conclusion that he had to be an existentialist of some twisted sort,” he said. “Someone who thinks life is meaningless, absurd, without value. Someone who does not believe in God or laws or any other kind of moral or ethical basis to life.”

Sunday went on in this vein for some time, reading from the book and explaining how the evidence surrounding the murder scenes supported his controversial theories and led to others. The killer’s disbelief in concepts like good and evil, for example, “perfected” him as a criminal, made it impossible for him to feel guilty, which was what allowed him to commit such heinous acts with dispassionate precision.

A man raised his hand. “You sound like you admire the killer, sir.”

Sunday shook his head. “I tried to describe his worldview accurately and let readers draw their own conclusions.”

A woman with dirty-blond hair, more handsome than beautiful, raised her hand, revealing a sleeve tattoo that depicted a panther in a colorful jungle setting.

“I’ve read your book,” she said in a southern accent. “I liked it.”

“That’s a relief,” Sunday said.

Several people in the audience chuckled.

The woman smiled, said, “Can you talk a little about your theory of the perfect criminal’s opposite, the perfect detective?”

Sunday hesitated, and then said, “I speculated that the only way the perfect killer would ever get caught was by a detective who was his direct antithesis —someone who believed absolutely in God, someone who was emblematic of the moral, ethical universe and of a meaningful life. The problem is that the perfect detective does not exist, and cannot exist.”

“Why is that?” she asked.

“Because detectives are human, not monsters like the perfect killer,” he said, seeing some confusion in the audience.

Sunday smiled, said, “Let me put it this way. Can you imagine a real cold-blooded, calculating mass or serial murderer suddenly turning noble, doing the right thing, saving the day?”

Most of the audience shook their heads.

“Exactly,” he went on. “The perfect killer is who he is. An animal like that doesn’t change.”

Sunday paused for effect.

“But how hard is it to imagine a noble detective brought low by the horrors of his job? How hard is it to imagine him abandoning God? How hard is it to imagine him so beaten down by events that he finds life meaningless, valueless, and hopeless to the point that he becomes an existential monster and a perfect killer himself ? That’s not hard at all to imagine, now, is it?”

Copyright © 2014 by James Patterson

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Read by Michael Boatman & Tom Wopat

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