14/08/2013 by Siddiqui Fayesal
Book: Along Came a Spider
Author: James Patterson
After talking so much about James Patterson I think it is only prudent that I write a review before I start questioning my equation with his books. Along Came a Spider is the first book in the Cross series that consists of, at last count, 21 books! Yeah, that IS a lot to go on writing about if the central character is the same. But in my opinion he’s done a decent job. Alex Cross is a Homicide Cop with the Washington D.C Police Department. He’s a cop with a Doctorate in Psychology. I suppose this was the main reason why I picked up the book. I was pretty much taken in by this entire cop-cum-shrink-cum-family guy solving brutal murders.
Patterson wasn’t recommended to me by anyone apart from the guy who sold it to me. He said: Sa’ab, bahut favourite hai sab ka. Murder hota hai bahut sara. (Sir, it’s everyone’s favourite. A lot of murder in there.) Hence, I picked it up and was never sorry for my decision. Patterson’s book is characterised by small chapters. I think they span not more than 5-6 sides. It really helps with the pace. I don’t think he needs help. The book starts with the murder of two black prostitutes and a child in the ghettos of Washington where such murders are a common sight. Alex Cross and his partner John Sampson take up the murder with gusto. They’re sick of how murder of the black population is never a source of discomfort for the upper echelons of the peace keepers. As if reading into their irritation and anger Alex gets a call from his higher authorities and he is shifted to another case. Maggie Rose Dunne and Michael Goldberg, two kids from a posh private prep school, are kidnapped by their math school teacher Gary Soneji.
And thus begins the chase for the ‘Child of Lindbergh’.
The novel starts with the (in)famous kidnapping and subsequent death of the Lindbergh child that baffled authorities for years. Soneji’s dream is to commit the ‘crime of the century’ by committing flawless murders and escape. He almost does! Soneji is one of the most psychotic of murderers and killers in the fiction world who plays his card close to his chest and keeps Alex on his toes. Alex keeps getting close to him but never on to him.
The head of the Secret Service in Washington is the beautiful Jezzie Flanagan, and she happens to be the first ever woman to hold that position. Alex and Jezzie work together on Soneji and, obviously, they fall for each other. One thing about Patterson is that he never made it obvious that Alex was an Afro-American. Yes, in retrospect, his feelings for the ghetto, the involvement with the kitchen and crime fighting in the poor African American district is a sure indication, but it wasn’t such that jumps out at you. Jezzie happens to be a strong woman and manages the stares from the general public much easier than Cross.
The whole chase goes in overdrive when the little boy’s corpse is discovered along with a 10 million ransom note. This is also the time when the department starts getting tentacles of doubt of a mole in the department. The hostage situation is spiraling out of control and Soneji is turning out to be what he promised. Meanwhile, on another track of the story, Alex and Sampson realize that the murder of the 2 prostitutes in the ghettos was also connected to Soneji. Alex is ordered to give in and pay the ransom. Alex is flown to a small island and is cheated into giving the money without being able to secure Maggie.
Soneji is caught when he holds people up in a Mac Donald’s and is almost killed but Cross saves him expecting to find out more about the murdered boy and the kidnapped girl. After a lot of painstaking effort of profiling and hypnotizing Soneji he is astounded to realise that he is just one half of the puzzle. Gary Murphy is a calm, timid person doing door to door selling while his alter ego is a raging maniac and a psychopathic killer. The sexual and physical abuse meted out at him by his father and step-mother is at the core of the Soneji mystery!
Soneji pulling off another stunt? You read and find out!
Patterson has written a brilliant first book to his famous Cross series. It is every bit as thrilling as one can expect a thriller to be. His character development might not be eccentric to catch hold of you but he has enough detailing to enable the reader to conjure up physical features, if not a face, to every character. The relationship between Alex and his partner and friend John Sampson is very well thought of. In the times when we only read of men who wouldn’t wince if you remove their gut or who are bordering on the bisexual it is a breather to come across such love between two friends. John and Alex grew up together in the ghetto and rose above all by getting into the PD.
Nana mama, Alex’s grandmother, Damon and Jannie, his two kids are his only vulnerabilities. Alex Cross kicks butt during the day and is a doting father by night. To unwind he plays classics on his piano and teaches his kids how to kick box.
I can easily give 4/5 to Patterson’s first Cross!
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