Paperback, 435 pages
Library Binding, 528 pages
Published August 1st 2003 by Grand Central Publishing (first published January 1st 1992), Turtleback; Bound for Schools & Libraries ed. edition (December 1, 1993)
For quality I give Along Came A Spider a 3Q and for popularity I give it a 4P.
I think this book deserves a 3Q for quality because while it is a very readable book and easy to pick up and put down, there were some serious defects within the plotting and characterizations. The plot was a little convoluted and disjointed, the middle section in the court being completely different from the first and last sections, and the characters being either too thin or extreme cliches outside of Alex Cross.
As for popularity, it is clear that Patterson is a very popular author, and this was one of the first books that launched his career. It was so popular, in fact, that it was made into a movie.
Senior detective Alex Cross of Washington D.C. is confronted with a fame hungry madman who has kidnapped two famous children. Will Alex be able to save the children and capture the madman at lose?
In this suspenseful thriller, senior detective Alex Cross of the Washington D.C. police is confronted with the kidnapping of two children from powerful families: the treasury secretary’s son and an actress’ daughter. At first Alex is disgruntled and upset having been pulled from the grisly murders taking place in Washington’s poorest, black neighborhood. He and his partner start to work on the case aided by Jezzie Flanagan, the head of the Secret Service. As pressure from his superiors mounts, and his relationship with Jezzie heats up, the stakes become that much more high as the body of the secretary’s son is found.
The kidnapper Gary Soneji/Murphy is an over the top psychopath who fantasized about committing the Lindbergh baby kidnapping as a child and wishes to be even more infamous. His plot and his sanity unravels when his kidnapping plot goes awry. He challenges Alex at every turn to a final showdown in a McDonalds.
In a complete change of pace, we’re taken to Gary Soneji/Murphy’s suspenseful trial. Patterson tries to convince both the audience and court that Gary Soneji is just a split personality or Gary Murphy, saying that Gary Murphy is as innocent as Gary Soneji is guilty. This plot twist comes across as forced and unconvincing.
Once Gary Soneji/Murphy is convicted, Alex becomes obsessed with finding the little girl he kidnapped. He visits Soneji/Murphy in jail trying to get the information out of him. But as he talks with the man who is slowly becoming unhinged, he discovers that what happened to the little girl is as mysterious to the psychopath as it is to him.
This book is a pulpy, messy, over-the-top thriller by one of the most popular and prolific authors today. I disliked this book strongly. Its not a particularly well written book, its plot comes off the hinges several times and the twists seem like they were written because the book just wasn’t twisty enough! More twists! All the twists! The book overall needed some restraint and editing.
The three distinct parts of the book were disjointed. The court scenes were more compelling than the tracking down of Soneji/Murphy or the “shocking” ending. However more compelling it was, it was completely unbelievable. After getting chapters written through Soneji/Murphy’s point of view, it was crystal clear he was a psychopath and trying to convince the audience that he wasn’t what he was was completely unconvincing. Just because we didn’t get any more chapters from Soneji/Murphy’s POV during the trial doesn’t mean that suddenly everything we read before was suddenly forgotten.
I’d say the only character who was three dimensional was Alex Cross. He was a fully fleshed out character who we could relate to and his reactions were compelling and based on his characterization. Jezzie was barely a presence, but she was the clear love interest with something to hide. Soneji/Murphy was an over-the-top extreme BAD GUY. He was way too over the top to be believable and seemingly evil just because.
My reaction to the book can be summed up thusly: UGH. I wasn’t moved by the characters or stirred by the plot or its twists. It was a weak book.
I’d say it would work for its intended audience. Its a generally easy read, and pretty thrilling (though completely over the top). Its written with mass consumption in mind and it will be mass consumed.
Patterson’s first NY Times bestseller, first big success and first Alex Cross book. Was turned into a moderately successful movie with Morgan Freeman.
If I should die by Grace Edwards
Mind Prey by John Sandford
Privileged Information by Stephen White
Awards and Lists
I chose this book because James Patterson is a really popular and prolific author. I also chose him because I had preconceived notions about his writing and figured I should probably read one of his books before judging him. I chose Along Came a Spider because it was the first big book of Patterson’s and spawned a movie and a 22 book series.