If you have not read one of James Patterson’s Alex Cross books recently, then I would respectfully suggest that you revisit the series. Patterson has stated unapologetically that his purpose as an author is to advance the story with every sentence; this he has done with great success. There are some who feel that, in doing, so he has sacrificed his art at the altar of brevity. I’m not going to get into that discussion here (one could go back and forth for days), but I would note that of late the Cross novels have gotten, for want of a better term, deeper and --- at a point in his career when Patterson could phone the story in --- better.
ALEX CROSS, RUN, which arrives a scant few months after MERRY CHRISTMAS, ALEX CROSS, is an excellent example of this. All of Patterson’s trademark tools are in place, up front and center: short chapters, a nice balance between Cross’s personal and professional lives, and an intriguing set of crimes for Cross to solve. The plots and subplots, however, are a bit more complex; there is a lot on the line here, and not all of it ends prettily.
"Patterson, 20 books into the series, shows no sign of slowing down and gives every indication that he has nowhere near exhausted his supply of ideas or, more importantly, unforgettable characters."
Throughout his career, Patterson has consistently created and presented antagonists who are way out there. No one else even comes close in the sheer number of dangerous, creative and homicidal freaks who populate his books, and this is particularly true in the Cross novels. In this latest installment, Cross is tasked with investigating two very different sets of serial killings that are taking place in the Washington area. As is revealed very early on, the murders are being committed by a pair of lifelong friends, each of whom is operating independently in a friendly competition to see who can outdo and outshock who in the murder department. There is somewhat more to their actions than that, of course, but all is eventually revealed.
At the same time, Cross comes under criticism for his crime scene handling of another, unrelated murder. Chief among the second-guessers is an anonymous blogger who seems to have a grudge against the D.C. Police Department in general and Cross in particular. He, in fact, does, and his main goal is to ruin Cross’s life. And believe it or not, he does, in ways both minor and major, temporary and permanent.
The conclusion is a bit of a jaw-dropper. My initial reaction was that the apparent ending to the book is just that --- apparent --- and that the real denouement will be revealed in a future novel. In any event, it’s a shocker, even as Cross and his family and friends soldier on. What is important, though, is that Patterson, 20 books into the series, shows no sign of slowing down and gives every indication that he has nowhere near exhausted his supply of ideas or, more importantly, unforgettable characters. I can’t think of two better reasons to keep reading an author’s work, no matter how prolific he may be.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on February 22, 2013