Monday, April 6, 2009

Review - Cross Country


That's my initial reaction to the new Alex Cross detective novel, Cross Country (2008). James Patterson made his bones on the series featuring Washington detective/psychologist Cross in books like Along Came a Spider and Kiss the Girls. Those were riveting thrillers, Cross a fascinating character.

But Cross Country is dreck, amateurish and uninteresting dreck (what, you thought that was a good Wow? - no way). Here's the plot: someone close to Alex is killed; Alex gets mad, but can't stave off several more brutal killings; Alex decides to follow the killer to Africa; Alex is tortured; Alex gets out; Alex gets tortured; and repeat (if there's a reader alive who won't say, "Alex, don't go out for that run"...). There isn't a moment in this 406 pages that is believable or involving.

One hears about the James Patterson writing factory, how he churns out outlines at the beginning of the year, takes a couple for himself, parcels the rest out to other writers. While this may serve Patterson's goal of making big money, hitting the bestseller list several times a year, making appearances on television shows (ABC's Castle), it's done nothing for his writing.

To be fair, what I think happened here is that Patterson read about the horrific violence in Africa, particularly Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and the Sudan, and decided something needed to be done. And what better way of drawing attention to the violence, even genocide, than to involve his most popular character in it? But how do you get someone from Washington, DC, to sub-Saharan Africa?

A good writer would find a way that would be in the nature of the character and credible. Patterson didn't go that way, so Cross Country ends up being bad, so bad as to tarnish his main character. It will be hard to accept the Alex Cross we've come to know from the earlier books after witnessing his immense stupidity here.

I will say this, however. If you insist on reading this book (if only for completeness), it won't take long. The 406 pages feature so much white space and so many chapter breaks (there are 158 of them) that the book can easily be labored through in a couple of hours.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm finishing Atlas Shrugged. It really has made me even more capitalistic. I think it will make a cool movie.


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