This week’s Monday Mystery is the first in James Patterson‘s Alex Cross series, Along Came A Spider. Alex Cross is not only a deputy chief of detectives in the Washington Police Department but is a qualified psychologist who is able to read suspects and witnesses and put together a picture of a killer’s motives and mindset. There are more than 25 books in this acclaimed series, the first eleven taking their names from nursery rhymes.
From the back of the book:
It begins with the double kidnapping of the daughter of a famous Hollywood actress and the young son of the Secretary of the Treasury. Gary Soneji is a murderous serial kidnapper who wants to commit the crime of the century. Alex Cross is the brilliant homicide detective pitted against him. And Jezzie Flanagan is the female supervisor of the Secret Service who completes one of the unusual suspense triangles in any thriller you have ever read.
It was the Prologue that captured my attention right away — it features a 1st person alternative theory to the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby from his home in Hopewell, N.J. in 1932. With the beginning of the current story there is an abrupt switch to 1992 Washington, D.C. and the life of Alex Cross.
Cross has 2 young children and his grandmother lives in and cares for them since his wife Marie was killed in a drive-by shooting 2 years earlier. They live in the Southeast of D.C. — a poor black area where folks are suspicious of the police, even of Alex who is one of them. He volunteers weekends at the area soup kitchen and has great compassion for victims like the ones he gets called to see early this particular morning. His partner is John Sampson, also black, and 6’9″ tall. They’ve been a team for a long time and can read and anticipate each other’s moods and reactions.
When Cross & Sampson get called off the Southeast murder investigation, Alex is really angry that the abduction of 2 white kids from a fancy private school is going to take precedence over the murder of a black family. The mayor wants him on the case for political reasons and he’s to collaborate with the FBI and the Secret Service on whose watch the kids were taken. The Secret Service agent in charge of assigning the details, Jezzie Flanagan, is a rising star in the service — divorced, tough, and a bit wild on her black BMW K-1 motorcycle. While the kidnapper/killer leads law enforcement on a merry chase, Cross and Flanagan develop a romantic interest, the first he’s had since his wife’s death.
This is a fast-paced story that takes many twists and interesting changes of perspective. We get to see into the twisted mind of the killer and his double life and possible multiple personalities. We experience the mind of the kidnapped little girl first buried alive, then a slave with some foreign family in an unnamed, isolated location. The interviews in prison between Cross and the killer, dissension between areas of law enforcement and politicians about his sanity and the best way to prosecute Soneji, and his manipulative methods all combine to keep the reader on the edge of the seat.
The character development was really well done and the frequent harking back to the Lindbergh kidnapping added some context to the mind of the killer. The change of scenes from the poor area of D.C. to the wealthy suburbs, to the Caribbean, to Disney Orlando and the broken down, isolated farm in New Jersey near the 1932 home of the Lindberghs, the settings were almost as interesting as the characters. It was all very realistic and more than a little scary at times, for me anyway. I’ll probably read more as I’m interested in seeing Alex Cross solve more crimes and I liked the pace. Very easy to read and hard to put down. * * * * 1/2
If you, too, are a fan of mysteries, I hope you’ll not only enjoy my Monday posts but will contribute by publishing your own Monday Mystery, mention my meme, then come to my blog, comment on your mystery (or mine) briefly, and include the link directly to your mystery review. You can also copy my MMM badge to your post or your sidebar. (Links to books are Amazon affiliate links!)