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I, Alex Cross is (it seems) about the billionth book in the ever popular series created by James Patterson. Inevitably, it's starting to suffer from the law of diminishing returns and recent entries have been at best mediocre, at worst downright poor.
I, Alex Cross sees the titular detective take on a more personal mission. When his niece is found murdered in gruesome circumstances he starts to investigate, uncovering a high class prostitution racket with a client list consisting of the rich, famous and powerful. But someone is hiding a dark secret and are willing to kill again to make sure they remain undetected.
My first thought on reading the cover blurb from Alex Cross was that it could be a welcome departure for the series. Whilst previous attempts to break out of the tried and tested formula have met with mixed success (Cross Country), you do feel that Patterson needs to try something different to prevent the character from becoming stale. Sadly, whilst I, Alex Cross appears to offer that change of direction, it soon finds itself heading along familiar tracks.
Patterson is definitely starting to write to a formula and whilst he is still more than capable of telling an exciting yarn, he is no longer really able to surprise or shock. In his early books, he often pulled the rug from under the readers' feet, springing a last minute twist that revealed the killer to be someone completely unexpected. Regular readers of the Cross novels are now expecting that and will see it coming a mile off. Previously you read Patterson novels to see what novel spin he could come up with this time; now you simply read them to confirm that you have correctly identified the killer.
The general drift of the plots is also becoming formulaic. You know that in every Cross novel he is going to face a killer with whom he becomes obsessed and that he will face a family crisis and agonise over the impact of his work on his home life. Unfortunately, you also know that Patterson lacks the courage to kill off any of the members of Cross' extended family, so no matter how much danger they appear to be in, they will make it through to the final pages, ready to appear in the next Cross book.
Worse still, there's no real sense of emotion. Even though it's one of his own relatives that has been murdered, you never really get any sense that Cross is really grieving and other aspects of the book also lack any real emotional wallop.. The main reason for this is that most of the characters are so superficial. They just exist to act in whatever way the plot requires and there is little depth, warmth or emotion in them, leading to a vacuum at the book's heart.
I, Alex Cross also suffers by taking Cross out of his usual environment. Normally, the Cross books deal with gritty murders in less than salubrious circumstances. Whilst this book has its sordid elements, it is set in the more rarefied world of Washington DC politics and so feels a lot more artificial. It also means that the sense of threat is far more nebulous - Cross is not pitting his wits against a serial killer; instead he battling through a tangle of bureaucracy, cover-ups and obfuscation. This is just not as exciting as the "chase" element which is the strongest feature of other Cross novels.
Whatever its shortcomings at least the book remains readable and reasonably quick paced. It contains Patterson's trademark short chapters and punchy style so that whilst the plot might not be the most complex or gripping in the world, you never feel like the book is a complete waste of time and it keeps you mildly entertained. It's an ideal book to read when you are tired, don't have a lot of time to read, or simply are not in the mood for a complicated book. I, Alex Cross is the very definition of easy reading: you barely have to concentrate, the chapters fly by and, before you know it, you've reached the end, vaguely satisfied, but also rather frustrated. Even if you don't really enjoy it, at least it's not going to waste a great deal of your time: even reading slowly, there's probably not more than 5 hours' reading from start to finish.
On the whole I, Alex Cross continues the downward trend of Cross novels and it's certainly a long way from the grittier early entries like Along Came a Spider or Kiss the Girls. Thanks to Patterson's easy reading style it just about keeps its head above water, but only just. Even so, I wouldn't recommend buying it new, as it's definitely a one-read book. Pick it up second hand (it's widely available in charity shops less than £2) or borrow it from your local library.
I, Alex Cross
© copyright SWSt 2012
I must confess to having lost track of the chronology of Alex Cross books, the plots melting into one with the only difference seeming to be the name of the main villain. James Patterson makes no bones about the easy to read nature of his books, and the fact that they fly past does mean that a week later you're likely to have forgotten a large amount of the plot.
I, Alex Cross has a plot that hits the ground running, literally as we get a short chapter following a young girl who is running for her life through the woods. We then flip to other action as first of all the plot reveals a secretive 'club' where high society members can come and indulge the strongest of their sexual desires at a price. Then we get Alex Cross at home, a detective with notoriety whose heart is as big as his recognition, shown as his Nana gets ill and provides a different plot track to the book. but the main link is when Alex's niece is found mangled, with strong links suggesting the 'club' had something to do with it.
It's pushing on for 500 pages, and as the action is so fast, this is just as well considering how fast the pages fly by. Patterson also spatters the book with short chapters, often three or four pages long, providing you with easy stopping points throughout the book. The problem is that he also manages to give mini cliffhangers at the end of many of these chapters, so it makes it hard to put down!
As Cross investigates the murder of his niece, others transpire as well, and it takes him down the path that indicates the club and the host of famous people who frequent it. We know this a lot sooner than he does, with Patterson flicking between various viewpoints to tell the story and keep us interested. Cross' passages are a narrative, whereas everything else is from the first person. I liked how the variety of storytelling kept it interesting, despite the very shallow nature of the plot. It certainly maintained my interest throughout.
Yet none of the excitement can hide the fact that this is too shallow to challenge some of the best novels around. The reason Patterson is successful is through the simplicity, and for this reason I find there's a time and a place for his books. They're an ideal throwaway holiday book, for example, and there are many Patterson that have come and gone in our house in days, finding their way to other family members, a car boot sale or a charity bookshop while still only a few days bought, such is the speed in which you can read this.
At times, I felt like I wanted some more depth, as I could tell there was going to be a twist as the end promised to reveal the identity of the main villain, known only as Zeus. Patterson does usually throw you a curveball and so this is to be expected. I thought this one was very clever, and not quite so predictable as some of his other ones. However, the way the book itself ended was very abrupt and a bit anticlimactic. In comparison with his other books, this was too quick, as if he didn't want to draw it out at all, and this to me was disappointing. The main point for me was how the whole thing petered out, and it left me a bit annoyed at the sudden downturn it took.
Overall, an enjoyable read, nothing special and exactly what I had expected. Disappointing ending, but another book worth a read from Patterson.
I, Alex Cross is the umpteenth thriller in James Patterson's Alex Cross series and once again takes us back into the life of one of his most successful characters to date. Patterson has a bit of a decidely dodgy reputation amongst his peers for putting his name to no end of mediocre efforts and seems to churn out novels like he pops out poop (there are those that claim books "co-written" by him are mostly written by his selected guest writers but because they sign a confidentiality agreement, this is mostly just conjecture) and not all of them very good, but I, Alex almost feels like a return to form!
I have always enjoyed the Alex Cross novels though some of them of late have begun to feel a little tired. I think around the time of Pop Goes The Weasel they began to get repetitive and certainly the last couple of his I read were more than just a little disappointing. But this is certainly right up there with his very early novels such as Along Came A Spider and Kiss The Girls and that was a pleasent surprise!
This time around, Alex's neice (not the same one from Kiss The Girls) has been murdered and put through a wood chipper; her remains found in the trunk of a car driven by a Mafia henchman. Hers is just one of a series of murders and, as Alex investigates, he discovers links toThe White House and a conspiracy of silence in place. At the same time as Alex is involved, so to are several Secret Service Agents and as their two paths cross he soon begins to realise that his neice's death was just one more piece in a very complicated jigsaw with heavy political ramifications.....and all this at the same time as Nana Cross is very ill.....
I love the way that Alex's two worlds collide in this book and it switches between his personal and professional life! It is one of the things that has always made this series so great! What I don't like is the almost fast-food style of writing that makes this a very easy read and one that at times just flows a tad too quickly off the page. This is not a thin book and yet I finished it in two days. Justin Cronin's The Passage, by comparison, though double in length nonetheless still took me way over a week to get through. Even if you doubled the amount of time it took me to finish Cross, it would still have only taken half the time it took me to read The Passage.
Much as I DID enjoy this, it is a book of very little substance. Think here of the literary equivalent of a Big Mac meal, more so than even with Dan Brown. Patterson tries hard to be a real and proper writer and combines elements used by much more masterful examples of his craft but ultimately never quite brings it all off. What we are left with then is yet another Patterson light-bite thats only concession is that it is better than most of his other fare. I do not kike the way an old enemy "pops" up at the end but, aside from that, found this to be one of his better books in qite a while.
Just don't go expecting too much and you will probably enjoy this. The time is certainly right so this could well be considered as a perfect book to take with you on holiday. One thing is for sure, with this Alex Cross and his creator, Patterson, are as close to beng on form as they have been for a long while!
I, Alex Cross, is another crime thriller from James Patterson, featuring Detective Alex Cross whom we were first introduced to in 'Along Came A Spider' back in the early 90's.
In this novel which was first published last year, a member of Alex's family is murdered and the case catapults Alex into a very dangerous world. A world of power and evil which throws up a shocking revelation.
As Alex is called away from his birthday celebrations with his family and given the tragic news that his niece has been found brutally murdered, he vows to hunt down the killer.
He soon learns that his niece was involved with some dangerous and powerful people and she is not the only victim of a brutal killer.
Alex's search leads to a private club where it seems any fantasy is possible and he slowly realises he is facing some very dangerous people. People who will do absolutely anything to keep their secrets safe.
I have only read a couple of Patterson's books previously, which both feature Detective Alex Cross. It isn't necessary to read them in order to be able to appreciate or understand the Alex Cross stories.
I, Alex Cross could easily be enjoyed as a stand alone novel, as although the reader may not be aware of Alex's history, enough is touched upon to bring the reader up to speed on what has gone before, without going into too much detail.
Here Alex is trying to juggle his family life with his job, something which quickly becomes apparent to the reader that this is his usual way of life.
Alex has found happiness with Bree, who is also a detective, after the death of his wife. He shares his life with her, his kids and grandmother - 'Nana', who has been helping him to bring up his children.
The story sees Alex trying to find who was responsible for the brutal murder of his niece, whilst struggling with the added personal strain brought on by Nana taking seriously ill with her heart and being rushed to hospital, where it is unclear whether or not she will pull through.
I enjoyed reading this book. Its punchy writing style with short chapters added to my enjoyment, making it a gripping read overall.
From the start I was hooked, as the story begins with an exciting prologue which got my attention from the first page, leaving me keen to read on, before the story then shifts to Alex's birthday celebrations where he receives the news that his niece, Caroline Cross, is dead.
Although Alex had not seen Caroline for a long time, he vows to find the killer. What makes the murder even more gruesome is that he is informed it is her 'remains' that have been found. Whoever killed Caroline ensured her body was not going to remain intact.
Gruesome is probably a fitting word to describe parts of this book as there are some strong scenes along the way.
The characters, along with Alex and his family are both interesting and believable, which was a major factor in my enjoyment of this book.
A minor niggle is that I did struggle with some of the characters that feature from the secret service and the Whitehouse, in that it was difficult to remember who exactly they were at first. The manner in which they were introduced I found was a little confusing, which led to me having to go back a couple of pages to enable me to get it clear in my head who exactly was who. What didn't help was Patterson referring to them by their first names and then surnames.
Once clear in my head, it was once again an easy and exciting read, written in both the first person from Alex's point of view and also the third person.
The story flowed well and running alongside the hunt for the killer there is the sub storyline featuring Alex's family life and Nana's illness. This blended well into the story, but this is also where I have another minor niggle, as I did feel that Patterson spent just a little longer than was necessary writing about the family. This did highlight how difficult it was at times for Alex to cope with both the investigation and the possible loss of a much loved family member in the very near future, but I personally was keen to just concentrate on the hunt for the killer. Therefore on a couple of occasions when the story shifted back to his family, I found myself reading even faster to get back to the 'interesting' stuff.
Maybe fans who have read all the Alex Cross books will enjoy the amount of time spent on his family life in this story, but as I have only read a couple of the other books, it wasn't something I was particularly interested in. The actual plot was far more exciting.
There was a major surprise revelation in the story but other than that, there weren't as many twists and turns as I initially expected. I did find myself wondering why Alex was allowed to be investigating this case and it seemed I was not alone with this thought, as Alex is up against powerful people and politicians who do not seem to want him on the case either. This leads you to believe there is some big cover-up going on which must not be uncovered at any cost.
Whilst I did not forsee the exact ending, my guesses took me along the right lines. This did not disappoint me in anyway however, as the book was written in a pacey, exciting style which kept me enthralled from start to finish and that's good enough for me.
I'm a big fan of James Patterson and couldn't wait for the next Cross book coming out. This was did leave me feeling as if something wasn't quite right though..
~~ Background ~~
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 'Cross Country', afterall, the background stays the same!)
~~ The Plot ~~
Alex Cross has never managed to find the perfect balance between family life and his big serial cases but this time he's determined to put his family life first. He's managed to find a woman he loves in the form of Bree who has more than settled in to family life. It's his birthday and they're about to cut the cake when the house phone rings - not his pager or his mobile so he assumes it isn't work and answers it.
Time for the devastating news that his niece has been brutally murdered and her "remains" have been found. "Remains"? Funny way to word a body but Cross can't give up this case, after all it's family.
Cross begins his trail and is soon uncovering evidence that points to the impossible. Could it really be? What secret has Cross uncovered that will rock the entire world? Will the secret be out or will Cross finally meet his match?
~~ My Opinion ~~
I, Alex Cross is a fantastic title for this book as it totally centres around him. His books usually include a character or two or pages from the killer without revealing the identity but this one seemed to have very little of that. There were a few pages from people at the Whitehouse but for some reason my brain couldn't figure out who was who and I kept having to refer back to the start of the book. This could have been sheer tiredness on my part or it could have been confusing on purpose, I just don't know.
Patterson has still included Alex's family in the book and you quite simply couldn't have the same book without it. There's a slight change in the family this time though as one of them battles for their life. What will Cross do? Someone he loves is possibly dying but his niece is already dead. Who do you get justice for? Any normal man would probably sit at the hospital bed day and night but Cross doesn't have that in his nature and instead combines the two. But can he possibly do that?
With so much going on his life it starts to get even more complicated. The FBI are shutting him out and people are trying to take his case away - why? Then comes the mysterious call from the Whitehouse that alerts Alex Cross even more to the possibilities of what he has uncovered. Sounds thrilling right? Well I was left disappointed as the big killer scenes that Patterson is renowned for were missing. There were no real big chases and I never actually felt that Cross' life was at risk. Definitely a disappointment for me as I love that danger feeling that Patterson usually manages to put in his book. It's a slightly different feeling this time of a cover up of something that would change the entire world. Not quite my scene but there you go. I did wonder if this had something to do with the amount of projects Patterson seems to have on the go at the same time.
His style of writing stayed the same throughout this one though with his short chapters that make you keep on reading when really you should put the book down and get back into real life. It took about 3 hours to read the book with a little break inbetween as I kept looking for the real excitement to start.
Was it similar to other storylines? Not really. Repetitive in parts? Not at all. Something i'd read again? Definitely!
~~ My Overall Opinion ~~
Whilst I've described feeling slightly let down by the book this time round, I still thoroughly enjoyed it. Cross' emotions came out more than ever with his family member in danger and the case of his nieces murder to solve. My only real criticism is that the amount of usual danger was missing and it did leave me feeling a bit disappointed. Would I recommend it to someone else? Definitely.
Little warning if you intend to read this - it can be graphic at times so be prepared!!
~~ Extra Bits ~~
Published in Hardcover from 22nd Oct (although I have my copy from asda in mid Oct? Who knows!)
Price: RRP is £18.99 but asda are selling it for £10 at the moment.