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Patterson's Alex Cross series

March 22, 2011 - Jodelle Greiner
James Patterson is a very talented storyteller, but if you’re going to read his Alex Cross murder/mystery series, you’ll need a strong stomach and thick skin.

Patterson doesn’t mess around with weak storylines. He deals with the baddest of the bad, starting with “Along Came a Spider”, which deals with two children being kidnapped. Patterson spares no detail, so if you can’t handle shows that feature every bloody detail of an exam, surgery or victim’s fatal injuries, you’ll probably have a hard time with Patterson.

Unlike some authors, Patterson gives his villains a voice and the reader is in their heads as they hunt their victims. You hear their thoughts of why they want to do this and how much it thrills them. If you’re the type that figures all people have some redeeming quality, that they’re doing the wrong thing for a noble reason, be warned: Patterson doesn’t do ambiguous villains. These guys are creeps and you’ll probably want to take a shower afterwards or go shoot something — or both.

Be that as it may, you don’t read the books for the murders, you read it for Alex Cross.

Patterson’s strength is his characters and his writing talent allows him to paint a clear picture of this psychologist/police detective who is superhumanly dedicated to his job as much as he is frustrated by the bureaucracy and horror of it. Alex is good at what he does: matching wits with some of the craftiest and most cunning criminals, but he’s weary of the horrible things he witnesses. He continues to shoulder the load because he can and it needs to be done, but he’s constantly at war with himself over whether he should quit the force and go back into private practice.

Alex is an interesting character study himself: he chooses to live in the bad part of Washington D.C. with the grandmother who raised him and his two small children. He’s still reeling from his wife, Maria’s murder, which was never solved, but he is open to finding love again. He works cases with his childhood best friend, John Sampson, who always has Alex’s back.

I love the dialogue that Patterson writes; it’s snappy, intelligent and humorous. Alex’s Nana Mama is sharp and keeps him quick on his feet. Alex is silly and loving with his kids, Damon and Janelle. His conversations with Sampson are honest and blunt and show the long history between these two and the dedication to solving even the most heinous and puzzling crimes.

That Alex is black is another layer to the story. Patterson gives that fact the right touch: not too heavy-handed, but it does have a place in the storyline and the action. giving the reader an insight into the obstacles a person of color faces.

Patterson knows how to keep a story moving. Just like in real life, Alex’s life is constantly moving and changing as his personal story continues from book to book and Patterson has a special talent for always being able to spring a surprise, right up to the end.

If you want to know why Patterson is perennially on the top of the best-seller lists, read the Alex Cross series. I’ve read the series through “The Big Bad Wolf” and there’s more to follow.

Along Came a Spider Kiss the Girls Jack and Jill Cat and Mouse Pop Goes the Weasel Roses Are Red Violets Are Blue Four Blind Mice The Big Bad Wolf London Bridges Mary, Mary Cross Double Cross Cross Country Alex Cross’ Trial I, Alex Cross Cross Fire


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