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I don't go out of my way to read the Alex Cross series, as I find them really badly written. The characters in them are a bit one dimensional and although the plots can be interesting, they are a bit like fast food, they deliver a quick hit but don't leave you nourished in any way afterwards.
The plot of this book is quite an interesting but extremely violent one. From the first horrific opening scene, you get the sense that this is not the typical run of the mill American cop thriller storyline. The hero of the plot, Cross investigates the death of an old lover (yes another one) which leads him to travel to Africa. There he meets and overcomes all sorts of bureaucratic and more deadly obstacles but seems to somehow come out of them due to the compassion of an otherwise unthinkingly trigger happy killer.
I found that the plot was quite involving, as it dealt with issues of foreign politics and organised crime that aren't often seen in this type of novel, but the way the prose is written really let this book down. Firstly, the chapters are about 2 pages long each and seem to read like a primary two pupil wrote them for a homework assignment, eg- "Then I saw a gun! It shot me!" This really interupted the flow of the story for me, as I spent most of the time berating the author for being so rubbish at describing events.
Overall, a quick read with some interesting facets, but certainly not Dickens.
Recent Alex Cross novels have been something of a disappointment and rather bland and generic. They've involved a killer with a silly nickname committing lots of murders, entering into a personal battle of wits with Cross who slowly deduces who the killer is and stops him. This blueprint-based approach to the thriller genre has resulted in mildly entertaining, but ultimately empty books.
James Patterson obviously feels the same, as Cross Country takes Alex Cross outside his comfort zone. He's still on the trail of a ruthless, nicknamed killer (this time "The Tiger"), but has to leave his native America and travel, alone and unauthorised, to Nigeria and other troubled places to track him down.
It's a transformation which is partially successful. At first, I thought I wasn't going to enjoy Cross Country. The plot seemed contrived and unlikely. However, as I read on, I found myself becoming more and more engrossed in the subject matter. The consideration (albeit briefly) of police corruption, brutality and torture contrasted with the suffering of refugees in camps in the Sudan give Cross Country a darker edge. Somehow it all seems a little bit more real than his more recent "popcorn" efforts and brings home the fact that there really are such awful places in the world. It's always brave to try and weave serious issues into a novel which is essentially light entertainment, but Patterson deals with them in a pretty sensitive manner. You don't feel these issues have been introduced purely for exploitative plot reasons, but because Patterson genuinely cares.
By widening out the storyline and removing Cross from his usual network of friends and colleagues, Patterson creates a genuinely tense atmosphere. Danger appears to lurk everywhere and, as Cross is left increasingly on his own, you genuinely start to fear for his safety. There is a darker, edgier feel to this outing, which adds an extra dimension goes some way towards answering the criticism of superficiality which has been levelled against recent books.
At the same time, however, these new aspects require some fundamental changes to the character of Cross, which don't sit comfortably with the person we have grown to know through numerous adventures. Previously, Cross was depicted as someone who used his intelligence to outwit opponents, a man who builds up psychological profiles of the killers, and uses that information to track them down. Whilst he was always capable of handling himself physically, he was not an action hero.
This changes in Cross Country: Alex is involved in countless gun battles, fights, chases and other tricky situations. It's clear that Patterson has looked on with envy at the success of the Bourne films (even referring to them at one point, to make the link explicit) and wants to try and ape the fast-paced action. Effectively, the book is little more than a series of set-pieces, held together by a loose linked theme of trying to catch a killer. Any air of mystery or detective work - Cross' original strengths - are gone. Here, he is just there to chase down the bad guy.
This is the area where the transformation doesn't work too well. I couldn't help feeling that this was a book which needed a new and different character; someone Patterson could mould and shape as required. Taking an existing character and making him act in a way which is contrary to anything we've seen before occasionally has the effect of making it all seem very false.
Once and for all Cross Country sees the final abandonment of the cerebral psychological expert we first met in Kiss the Girls and Along Came the Spider. This process has been on-going for some time, but it now appears complete. And that's a shame because the early Cross novels were easily the best, and whilst this reinvention helps with fast flowing plots, the main character no longer feels like a real person.
Still, the breathless action combined with Patterson's normal writing style (short, to the point chapters, regular cliff hangers, quick cutting between different aspects of the tale) all serve to keep interest levels high. There's nothing especially challenging here (although the descriptions of conditions in the refugee camps may make you stop and think) and you'll whizz through the book in just a few hours. Occasionally, you may stop and think it is all rather silly, but for the most part you will be mildly entertained.
Unusually for a Patterson novel, I did feel that it ran out of steam before the climax was reached and I began to get a little bored. This is because Patterson repeats certain aspects of the plot several times and they start to become a little wearing. There are only so many times that you can read about Cross being kidnapped, tortured and unexpectedly released before you stop caring.
I was similarly disappointed with the ending, which was rather safe and sat uncomfortably with the slightly edgier tone in the rest of the book. Clearly, Patterson is a man with his eye on the future and wants to protect his intellectual property, so there's the same identikit happy ending characteristic of all previous Cross novels. Given the grittier plotline, a darker ending would have been far more satisfactory. The resolution of the final conflict is unrealistic and an anti-climax, whilst the revelation of the "big bad guy" will come as no surprise. Anyone who has read a couple of Cross novels will have had him fingered for the role at a very early stage.
I did enjoy this book and it offered something new for a character that had become stale. Even so, I still think Patterson would have been better off creating a new character, rather than re-inventing an existing one. For a quick, mildly entertaining read, this is worth it if you can borrow it or pick it up cheap. It's not one I would necessarily recommend paying top price for, though.
© Copyright SWSt 2009
James Patterson has made a name for himself when it comes to the Alex Cross series and this is the 14th in the series. With so many books centering around one character, it was hard to see where Patterson could continue the character to. With this book, he's taken it to a whole new level and i'm still not a hundred percent sure that it worked for Cross.
Alex Cross books can be read without reading the previous novels but as always, it's always better to have read them so you can follow any little mention of them that there may be. So to start with, a little background on Alex Cross and the series of books that surround him.
Alex Cross is a police detective who has a degree in psychology and is involved in a lot of the major cases. His cases usually revolve around serial killers and his life has been endangered on more than one occasion. In fact, some would say he's the luckiest man alive! Alex's life doesn't just revolve around work and he has a family to take care of. At the time of this book, he has his daughter Jannie and sons Damon and Alex. Sadly his wife, Maria, was gunned down and died in his arms so Alex has the help of Nana to bring up his children. Alex is constantly juggling work with his family in order to get the perfect balance, but he can't seem to let these big cases go, no matter how many times he resigns. (I've taken most of this from my previous review on 'Double Cross', afterall, the background stays the same!)
Cross has never quite managed to live out the peaceful life that he desires and this book is no different to the rest. A whole family is slaughtered and once again, it's personal. One of the victims is an old friend and Cross is desperate to bring her murderers to justice. The thing is, this is an ordered kill and Cross must find out who ordered the kill before the next order is given.
The trail lures him to Africa where he is determined to bring justice to her killer, no matter the cost to his life. Leaving his family behind thinking he's crazy, he sets off with the supposed help of the FBI in Africa. He ventures into a world that he know little of when he hits the Niger Delta and drug smuggling, slave trade and theft are at the heart. Just who is he hunting?
The biggest psychopathic leader you could ever meet known as 'The Tiger' is your answer. He's hot on his heels, but who will end up as the others prey?
Cross Country is a very apt title for this book as Cross literally has to venture across countries to hunt his killer. Patterson has very cleverly moved the location of his book in order to spark a new high and to give the reader a change of scenery. For me, this works extremely well as there are only so many serial killers you can have in one place in a short amount of time. This is a very refreshing change as one character, in one situation, with the same colleagues can only take you so far.
Alex Cross comes across as strong as ever and his flaws of the past become even more obvious. He's out of his own country, has no friends or colleagues around him that are interested and he has no idea who he can trust. As always, he encounters a variety of people but Pattersons' change of location has allowed for the element of complete surprise. I was left wondering who he could trust and whether he would actually survive or he'd met his match.
None of the other main characters from previous books really featured throughout the book - mainly at the start and end and other people passed through his life so quickly that there isn't really enough to give on any particular character. The only thing you can say for most as they definitely aren't what they first appear. Even a priest will have Cross in doubt as to whether he can trust him or not.
Patterson surprised me in this novel as to the lack of reference to Crosss' family. The previous books in this series had constant references to them and how hard his decisions were to leave his family behind. However, the decision to go to Africa didn't seem to be affected by the fact he would have to leave his entire family behind without a safe mode of communicaton. From what we know from previous books, Cross loves his family and he lives for them. That is definitely not the case in this book.
Detective Bree Stone is also left at home with his family as for once, Cross has managed to maintain a relationship. Despite this, it doesn't take Cross long to fall for someone new in Africa and i found this whole storyline touching but unnecessary. Yes, it showed Cross had insecurities and he needed comfort, but when we all know he's supposedly in love with Bree it really wasn't worth adding to the plot.
One thing that never changes is Pattersons' style of writing and this one was no different. The pace is fantastic and the short chapters he's renowned for featured yet again. This built on the suspension and made you feel like you could read just one more chapter before you put the book down. Who are we kidding? The book doesn't hit the floor until it's finished! I think this is especially the case with him being in Africa. There was a renewed sense of danger due to the change of location and Patterson seemed to leave most chapters on a cliff hanger.
So what didn't work for me? Part of the African storyline is the answer. I can't give too much away but at times it felt like Patterson was using his book to show the injustices in the world rather than concentrating on the serial killer. Don't get me wrong, i have all the sympathy in the world for people that are in Africa struggling through no fault of their own. If there was something we could easily do, then i would. What disgruntled me a touch was the fact it was forced on you in a series of books that you love. Patterson has added so much reality in it from Africa that at times, you just wanted to cry for them. It's maybe a clever ploy of his to gain interest in helping where you can, but i think he took it a bit too far for a book that's meant to be a thriller.
I mentioned in my last review on 'Double Cross' that some people have started complaining about the predictability of his books. I have to say, i didn't have a clue what was going to happen in this one as Patterson has taken the violence and deception to a whole new level.
Once again, Patterson has given cross a personal mission to solve the work of someone who orders to kill with the blink of an eye. It was a very refreshing change to see Cross out of America but the storyline did go of course and concentrate on the people of Africa for a while. It's energetic, violent and thrilling from start to end so i would definitely recommend it. I have to give readers a warning though, Patterson has a tendency to be quite graphic in his books, this one especially. If you can handle that, it's definitely worth a read, despite the flaws.
I bought this book for around £6 but prices can change so rapidly you could probably find it from anywhere from 1p to £5. It retails in most shops that sell books and the likes of Asda and Tesco.
James Patterson, Cross Country. Is the latest book in his line of many lately.
With books I don't like going into detail to much as it can spoil it, especially this mans books as they follow a plot and the odd old character would turn up again.
Its a very enjoyable read, and as the title states, Alex Cross ends up going Cross Country in an attempt to get his killer.
This time Alex ends up in Africa, and not the nicest of places.
He meets with many a punch on his way and even gets arrested himself.
He met a priest on his travels who seems to turn up every now and then when he needs help, BUT the FBI won't help him.....
On his escape/finding his killer trail, he meets some ladies in a village who have to collect wood.
Alex helps out and realises very quickly that you come under-fire.
Well, Alex manages to deal with things and moves on while poor Bree is stuck at home worried sick about him.
I won't tell you how it turns out but its a definite recommended read for the James Patterson readers.
Cross Country is the latest of James Patterson's novels to feature the former FBI agent turned criminal psychologist Alex Cross who has helped make James Patterson a household name. Of late, the crime thriller author has been turning out the books thick and fast, and with a few more to come out within the next few months, one may worry about the increased pace of the releases having an adverse effect on the quality.
However, this latest Alex Cross book doesn't disappoint. Fans of the Alex Cross books will be satisfied with the result, as Cross encounters a new breed of killer, one who would happily order the slaughter of a family and then continue killing in escalatory fashion. Cross tracks the killer to Africa, where he heads to catch him and bring him to justice at all costs.
Patterson does a clever thing in taking Alex Cross to Africa. Moving him around the world a bit ensures that the plot varies enough to keep his readers interested in the books as opposed to finding them just the same as the last one. There is an element of repetition, which is inevitable with any long running book character, but Patterson's quick paced plot and short chapters, which leave no room for long and descriptive passages, mean that the action flows fast and is entertaining.
The one thing you can be assured of with a Patterson novel is good action, and this tale is full of intense non stop action throughout. The foreign location for Cross adds another dimension, despite the fact that the basics of a plot do suggest we are on familiar ground with Cross.
I recommend reading this one. It isn't the best Alex Cross novel he has written, but it is very good and a nice change of scenery. Cross Country is currently available from amazon.co.uk for £6.99.