Mrs Cross is murdered

James Patterson
Trade Paperback

Cross is yet another reminder why I’m not a James Patterson fan. The latest entry in his long-running Alex Cross series, like its predecessors, this is a childishly simplistic suspense novel masquerading as a police procedural, written in a simple almost kindergarten-level prose that any intelligent reader ought to find downright insulting, short, choppy sentences that even ad copywriters would be embarrassed to write, wafer-light chapters shorter than this review, and suspense that even a heart patient could safely endure.

Personally, I like my crime novels with much more depth and texture, far better writing and characterisation, and stories that are also social snapshots of their time and place.

That won’t bother Patterson’s fan base a whit. This guy’s the heavy hitter of the suspense genre today, the heaviest of them all in fact.

His books sell well over 2 million copies in hardcover, and he brings out three or four each year, at least two written in collaboration with other lesser-known authors. He’s the only author in the Warner Books stable who gets to ride the Warner Bros.

company jet to his book signings, and he basically earns so much per book that his royalty statements are more likely to make your heart pound than his suspense plots.

So what’s the story? Well, Patterson is that old holdover from the days when bestsellers were just that, books that you picked up, read on the train or bus ride home and tossed in the bin a couple of hours later. Mindless, quick reads that didn’t tax your brain or bend your wrists or linger in your head for days afterwards.

Take Cross for instance. Written in Patterson’s usual combination of first-person and third-person points of view, it reads more like the script of a voice over for a Hollywood PI movie.

You can even imagine the fine actor Morgan Freeman voicing these lines in the film adaptations Kiss The Girls and Along Came A Spider, both based on Patterson’s novels.

In fact, Cross, like all the other books in the series, makes for a nice hour-and-a-half of TV-level suspense. Patterson aims to make it more ‘personal’ with the eponymous police detective investigating the murder of his own wife this time out.

Cross’s stalwart old partner John Sampson—aptly named, for a 6’9″brute of a lawman—sets things rolling when he calls Alex out of retirement to track down a serial rapist in Georgetown. The connection to the murder of Maria, Cross’s wife, soon surfaces, and the hunt is on.
As a Patterson suspense thriller, the book delivers I guess, although it’s not as good as the early Cross novels, or the Gary Soneji serial killer books in the series.
Which is not saying much really. Even among the simple-read best-sellers, Patterson is no John Grisham. Hell, he’s not even a good David Baldacci or Jeffrey Deaver, who does FBI procedurals pretty well and with slightly more intellectual muscle.
He definitely isn’t a patch on that other great contemporary crime novelist who writes about the same Washington, D.C. beat with such panache, George Pelecanos. Nor can he match the police procedural masterpieces of a Michael Connelly, or a Joseph Wambaugh—who, by the way, is back with a new police thriller after donkey’s years.

And I’m ashamed to even whisper the name of Ed McBain in a review of a Patterson book.

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