Monday, October 17, 2016

along came another patterson book ...

My cousin is on a James Patterson rampage, and has been dragging me along, mostly willingly. I have had so many things going on my life recently, that a lightning fast mystery read is about all that I can handle. in fact, I think it is proving a bit therapeutic.

I can't blame my multiple Pattersons completely on my cousin, however. His books are not just a quick read, but also mostly fun, whether written on his lonesome or with one of his many collaborators. I just finished two, The Beach House, from 2003, which he wrote with Peter de Jonge, and his first Alex Cross novel, Along Came a Spider, which he wrote in 1992. They are different in structure. The more recent collabo-Pattersons that I have read have a definite format: super-short, concise chapters, heavy on dialog, and usually with a page-turning thrill or cliffhanger. The Beach House follows this structure to the letter. While I didn't always buy the convoluted action, particularly at the end of the book, I have to admit that the characters were compelling. The most interesting of the lot was actually the victim, Peter Mullen, who was sadly quickly introduced and then as quickly dispatched in the first few pages of the book. His brother Jack Mullen spends the rest of the book trying to unravel his brother's life and death among the rich and kinky of Montauk. Peter's life sounded fairly interesting, if a bit sordid, but The Beach House never really gives its readers enough information to care about its primary victim.

I never saw the film adaptation of Along Came A Spider, but I couldn't help but picture a young Morgan Freeman in the role of Alex Cross, the tough-talking but tender-hearted D.C. detective and psychologist. The book, the first in his Alex Cross series,  is a high-speed chase for a serial killer. Serial killers have become almost passé in books and film, but I will say that Patterson's glimpses into the mind of his antagonist, Gary Soneji, are unsettling. And the fact that his preferred victims are children helps bring the creep meter up even more. It was interesting racing around '90s D.C. with Cross and his partner Sampson, too. Some things have changed, and many haven't. There's also a romance for Cross thrown in, with a Secret Service agent named Jezzie Flannagan. Some of those scenes were less convincing, espcially for this ex-D.C.-er - I don't care what time of night or day it is, being able to speed around the Beltway at 100mph, on a super-fast motorcycle or not, seems frankly out of the realm of possibility. That quibble aside, I enjoyed the read and will no doubt check out Alex Cross and Patterson in future.

After reading a few of these co-authored books I had to look up how he runs his writing factory. It's pretty interesting.


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