This is the first ‘Alex Cross’ novel by James Patterson which I read and I will admit starting with this one may have been a mistake (more about that later). Whilst I am an avid reader of crime fiction/thriller novels this one sort of left me in two minds over it but this was mainly my fault not the novels.
It is now 4 years since Alex Cross saw a former friend and colleague sentenced to death for a spate of murders which Alex had helped to solve. Alex’s former friend had sworn revenge on Alex and his family and no prison will stop him all he has to do is escape from the modern day Alcatraz…..
Alex has put himself back into the police after spending the past few years as a therapist. A new cereal killer, with an Alex Cross obsession, has one very strange tendency – he commits his crimes in full public view. You would think with so many witnesses it would be quickly solved…...
With his former friend’s sworn revenge in the back of his mind and this new killer on the loose will Alex and his new girlfriend, Bree, ever really feel safe again?
What I thought of it
My main bug bare with this novel is that it is written in 127 chapters – each one being about two to three pages in length. Then at the start of every chapter there is about a quarter of a page of blank space at the top of the page and at the end of chapters the rest of the page is blank. Taking all this into account the 308 pages (in my edition) becomes more like 250. Although the short chapters do have their advantages (again more later).
As a stand alone novel this simply did not really work for me. Whilst there is strictly speaking nothing wrong with the plot of the novel it is mainly due to the fact that I felt it was rather formulaic and it is assumed you know who Alex Cross is and his past history etc. This sort of character development is missing from this novel. This I will forgive as I will put this down to the fact that it would have been done in the earlier Alex Cross books (which I have not read as yet). The novel is written in the first person in the parts with Alex and the third person at all other times. I feel, personally, that the novel would have read better if it was entirely in the third person. Really if you are going to read this it would probably be best to read some of the earlier ‘Alex Cross’ novels first then this problem would be alleviated.
The pace of the plot is good and the tension does at times build then fall back again before building again. This is in part helped by the short chapters which do give a sense of pace and urgency to a good part of the novel. There is also a feel about the way the plot is put together which does make it seem that parts of it could happen. Whilst there is a main plot and a sub plot the two do work well together and both give a sense of danger for Alex Cross.
The writing style of the novel is perhaps rather simplistic and therefore not heavy going. I found I was reading this novel fairly quickly and I have to say wasn’t all that easy to put down as you are easily draw into the plot. Also if you do put it down and then go back to it a couple of days later due to the simplistic style you can easily pick up the story again without having to flick back through the last couple of pages.
Whilst the final few chapters at the end of the novel do work as a dramatic climax of sorts it has also, as most cereals do, left a few things up in the air in order for a sequel to pick it up. I some respects I found the conclusion of the main plot to be a bit of a disappointment even though most things were tied up I had a sort of impression writes block had begun to set in.
There are a few minor characters in the book some mentioned in passing and others who, like Alex, would have had their characters built up in the earlier novels. This did make some of those in Alex’s life almost instantly forgettable as there was nothing to remember them for. However, the more important secondary characters appear often enough not to need to flick back through the book to find out who they are.
I’ve given this novel 3.5/5
My reasons for doing so are that it is well written and has a good pace to it as well as the good use of building the tension at various parts. There are not too many minor characters and the soppy romantic guff between Alex and Bree is kept to a minimum.
I haven’t made any deductions for the lack of background of some of the characters as I realise this would have been done in earlier novels of the series.
I took one mark off as the first person – third person writing style switches did grate on me slightly. I still think it would have been better if it had been written entirely in the third person.
Whilst I did enjoy reading this novel I felt a bit out of the loop regarding Alex Cross’ background. This was due to not reading the earlier books in this series – my fault not the novels. Whilst the writing style is perhaps a bit simplistic this does make it easy to read and not heavy going. Hence it is a perfect holiday read or one for train journeys or long flights. Patterson’s skill as a writer is clear and the tension is built up a various points in the novel especially during the climax of the novel.