23. A book by an author you’ve never given a fair shot: Along Came A Spider by James Patterson
List Progress: 15/30
There are a lot of good pulpy novels out there. Just because something is popular doesn’t mean that it is lesser. But if Along Came A Spider is representative of the quality usually produced by very-prolific author James Patterson, then I am not terribly impressed. It is not an actively bad example of the crime thriller genre, but there is very little about it that feels special or inventive.
Along Came A Spider is the first novel featuring detective and psychologist Alex Cross, star of twenty-nine novels and counting. He gets involved in a twisted case when two children of famous parents are kidnapped from a prestigious private school by their teacher, Gary Soneji. He is frustrated to be pulled away from the brutal murders taking place in the Washington DC projects, but there is more to the Soneji case than meets the eye. Well, not that much more. Soneji checks all the boxes for psychopaths as portrayed in media, down to the ranting point-of-view chapters spent with him, which undercut some of the surprises the book throws at Alex. Most of the book takes place from Alex’s perspective, but just enough is spent in other character’s heads to sap tension out of Alex’s journey. And with a time span of over two years across the book, tension was going to be hard to maintain to begin with. Combine this aversion to genuine mystery with workmanlike prose, and Spider just lacks the thrills needed for a thriller.
There are some good aspects throughout; it is a perfectly serviceable book and it reads quickly. But there is so, so much detective fiction out there, and it would not take much work to find something better than this. Alex Cross is fine as a cop with a tragic backstory, but he lacks the tortured nature to make him riveting or the charm to make him engaging. Add in a Strong-Yet-Vulnerable Love Interest and there just isn’t enough charisma at the center of the story to move it along. There are authors I’ve used for this category that I’ve been surprised by, but I don’t think I’ll be returning to the Patterson section of my library anytime soon.
Would I Recommend It: No. If you want a crime novel inspired by the Lindbergh Kidnapping, go for Murder on the Orient Express.