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Thursday, February 15, 2007
Book Review: Cross by James Patterson
My brother, my mother and I are followers of Alex Cross. Usually among the three of us we'll end up with 2 copies of each because we'll see it and pick it up with out calling around first.

I don't remember when it started, but for years now, we have faithfully followed Alex Cross's adventures and escapades. His successes, and his dismal failures.

I do think that it started sometime after Kiss the Girls, because each time I read an Alex Cross story, I visualize Alex as Morgan Freeman. Just like every time I get a Jeffrey Deaver book on tape, I visualize Lincoln Rhyme as Denzel. But anyway, I digress.

Short version of the Alex/Morgan history: Very scholarly. Trained as a pshcyologist. He started in the Washington DC Police Department. Then went to work for the FBI. Along the way, first his wife was murdered, then his live interest was kidnapped for MONTHS. Not "months" but all caps - MONTHS. Like a year. He had two kids by his wife, and then a third by the chick that was kidnapped. After his wife was murdered, his mother insisted that he and the kids move into her house so that she could help take care of and raise them.

He has chased and caught serial killer after serial killer (some took longer than others), and he has gone toe-to-toe with perhaps the worst that the world has to offer.

Somehow, he has managed to raise 3 wonderful, well-adjusted children, and his mother, although getting older by the book, is doing just fine.

Cross is...in a word...desperate.

Alex/Morgan is desperate to live a life that doesn't threaten to take him away from his children (permanently), and also desperate to find love and companionship(again).

His mother and children are pretty much desperate for the same things.

James Patterson was desperate to get another book out.

His last few books have become a bit...formulaic. There's a cryptic and clever and very dangerous villain out there, and Alex/Morgan chases him down. There are late-night stakeouts. Taunting by the antagonists. Lots of posturing. Lots of deaths. Sometimes pretty grisly. In the end, Alex/Morgan wins. He may get beat-up, he may even get shot. But he lives for another day.

I think James Patterson may have gotten a little bored with that. When in doubt - tie up loose ends, fill in backstory, and answer the unanswered. An ongoing loose end through all of the Cross books has been the death of Maria Cross - Alex/Morgan's wife. In this book, the murder is solved in one of the most anti-climactic climaxes ever, and the killer is presumably killed. Alex finally leaves the FBI and decides to open his own practice, but this is accomplished the first chunk of the book. This book just desperately treads water.

The rest of the books have had sing-song, nursery-rhyme type titles - "Kiss the Girls", "Along Came a Spider", "Pop Goes the Weasel", "London Bridges"...the list goes on.

This one is simply titled "Cross". Something different, right? Perhaps even an end to the madness? No such luck. The closing moments of the book leave Alex with his private practice. His kids are happy. His mother is happy. The woman he could possibly spend the rest of his life with has moved from D.C. to North Carolina. He's footloose and fancy free, right? Maybe he'll move to N.C., and ride off into the sunset and live out his life in peace. No such luck.

He gets a call on the phone in the middle of a nice family dinner. Something to the effect of:
Hello! Cross residence.

There's been a murder.

What are you calling me for?

Because I'm the murderer.


Come on, James! Give us something new and exciting! Have someone bust in and kill his mother! Snatch up one of his kids. Give Alex/Morgan a reason to care, and maybe your readers will care too! Not more of the same crap that we've been reading for what - twelve books now? Really cheap, easy, and unimaginative there, Jimbo. Nice job.

Will I read the next book? Probably so. Will I be disappointed? Probably so. It's formulaic, but I guess the formula works. It's not groundbreaking, but then again, it's not supposed to be.

Grade: C- D

To James Patterson: If you care ANYTHING about your craft, instead of just pushing out books, do better next time.

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