With the expert craftsmanship that his fans have come to expect, James Patterson's latest is an apocalyptic thriller that brilliantly melds intrigue with religious hysteria. Boasting a genuinely unnerving premise and hugely amplified with Patterson's fast-paced, uncluttered prose, Cradle and All pits the intensity of Faith against the certainties of Science within an arena of Millennial tensions. In the midst of a series of unexplained plagues and famines, two teenage girls are heavily pregnant, despite being virgins. According to the sacred prophecies of Fatima, one will bear the child of Christ and the other, the spawn of Satan. Both Anne Fitzgerald, a former nun turned private detective, and the Vatican's Father Rossetti are sent to investigate. But which girl carries which child? The possibility of miracle will be tainted with great suffering before the awful, unexpected truth is revealed. As the action speedily moves from the hallowed halls of the Vatican to the media frenzy of America to the small-town hysteria of Ireland, Patterson divines considerable suspense from the novel's central premise, tackling issues of Faith with admirable aplomb: "All over the world...so many people still believed. Everywhere, people talked of the Apocalypse, perhaps the end of the world...Which perhaps explained why so many people were suddenly going to church." A relentless, captivating pace culminating in a superbly twisted ending makes this a hard one to put down. Fans of The Excorcist's brand of religious horror will find this highly compelling. --Danny Graydon
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