Overall, good entertainment for a short spell. Yet, also utterly unremarkable and thus easily forgotten soon after.
When looking to add a new author to my rotation for recreational reading picking a successful, that is a best selling, author seems like a good idea. Several millions of readers cannot be wrong.
Maybe it’s just herding.
James Patterson is one of the most commercially successful authors, his Alex Cross series consists of 21 novels. Surely, they must be good. Let me modify this: they cannot be all that bad.
I have two major problems with Along Came a Spider. The first is the character motivation and development of the protagonist Alex Cross. I don’t get him. An African American psychologist with a doctorate from one of the world’s most prestigious universities moves from a private practice to a job at the police just because he doesn’t find clients in his neighborhood. Interesting career move. Instead of changing occupations I would have changed the neighborhood. And, of course, he is a sensitive, creative, caring, and charitable person, playing the piano to relax and volunteering at a soup kitchen and all this while he is single parent of two kids. A homicide detective? All in all a little bit too cliched.
The second problem is a result of a stylistic choice. The novel is narrated from the first person perspective of the novel’s protagonist. Cross/Patterson even breaks the fourth wall somewhere near the end of the novel, explicitly stating that he, Alex Cross, is writing the book. That is not necessarily bad. However, the perspective switches quite often to the third person narrator when the focus is on someone else. Parts of the story are told that the protagonist should not know, that he should not be able to report. Additionally this endows the protagonist with some kind of clairvoyance. The separate elements of the plot just happen to fall in place; his actions, his planing seem to be guided by the superpower of omniscience that a narrator may quite naturally have.
Still, there were a few surprises and plot twist that were not immediately obvious. So despite Patterson being a terrible writer he is not that bad. I felt appropriately entertained. I am not sure, though, whether this is already good enough for Patterson to become part of my ‘rotation’…