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Along Came a Spider by James Patterson

Posted by RB Kollannur on October 7, 2012

Note: This review is part of a weekly book review column that I write for City Journal, an English newspaper based in Thrissur, Kerala.

Published on 06/10/2012

Publisher – HarperCollins; Year of Publication – 1993; Pages – 433

“Along Came a Spider” is my favourite novel from the Alex Cross series of books that I have read. Alex Cross is perhaps the most recognizable fictional detectives in the world today with nearly a score of books and two movies (third is pre production). However, the Cross novels rely more on detective work than the classic whodunit scenarios.

In “Along Came a Spider”, two children from wealthy families have been kidnapped by their teacher. In another part of Washington DC, two black prostitutes meet a horrific death with their breasts cut off with a razor, the second set of such murders in the space of two weeks. Deputy Chief Alex Cross and his partner, John (John) Sampson have to catch both the criminals before the fatality count increases.

But increase it does.

One of the kidnapped children turns up dead and a teacher at his school is killed in the manner similar to prostitutes. Both Cross and Sampson have to use all their wits to catch this serial killer before the other kidnapped victim, a young girl, is also killed. They have Secret Service agent Jezzie Flanagan for assistance as the kidnapping story becomes a darling of the media.

James Patterson tends to adopt a flashier type of writing. The success of Cross is perhaps an indication of the preference of writing style of crime readers, especially in US. However, it teeters towards behavioural psychology than forensic research. For making a good detective novel imbibed in psychology you need to have a crazy villain which Patterson delivers exceptionally well by pouring down enough ounces of dementia and fanaticism into his story. There will be blood and gore, but also good detective work. “Along Came a Spider”, which was the first of the Alex Cross novels, is fortunately less on gore and violence than the later novels.

Although “Along Came a Spider” is a crime novel, it pulls off a masterpiece by having the criminal captured midway through the book very much against normal convention. However, the fate of the other kidnapped victim is left untold and the readers are left with the sneaky suspicion that things are not what they seem. There are twists and turns from then on and what appeared to be straight forward plot would prove to be anything but.

The movie had veteran actor, Morgan Freeman, portray the role of Alex Cross and while there are some minor plot changes, it still manages to extract the level of suspense presented in the book.


One Response to “Along Came a Spider by James Patterson”

  1. […] Published on 22/09/2012 29) The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold – Published on 29/09/2012 30) Along Came a Spider by James Patterson – Published on […]

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