I’ve never read a James Patterson book before now. It wasn’t that I had anything against him. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I just didn’t have the time to keep up with his prodigious output. Actually, I’ve long admired Patterson in his strategies to produce as many books per year as possible and to generate new readers. That was why his Bookshots idea struck a chord with me. Patterson had the idea of writing shorter books, making them fast paced, and charging readers only $5. I liked the idea of creating smaller, faster reads for folks who may not have read a book since high school. That’s certainly not me, but I have come along for the ride.
The first book in the initiative is Cross Kill. It’s an Alex Cross story. The only thing I knew going in about Alex Cross was that both Morgan Freeman and Tyler Perry portrayed the character in movies. I’ve actually seen none of them. I’m not sure how many Cross novels Patterson has written, but I thought starting with Cross was a good idea. All the characters are new to me so, like the proverbial dude who hasn’t read anything since high school, I went in cold.
Police detective Cross and his partner, John Sampson, are working in a soup kitchen. Gunshots ring out and they investigate. When they get back into the preparation area, there’s a man waiting for them. He fires at both the police officers, striking Cross’s partner. But the really weird thing is that the shooter looks exactly like Gary Soneji, the main villain from Along Came a Spider. But Soneji is supposed to be dead a decade or so. According to Cross Kill, Alex Cross watched Soneji die in a ball of flames. But here Soneji is, seemingly back from the grave and ready to take out his vengeance on Alex Cross.
As if Cross didn’t already need a motive to investigate, Sampson is shot in the head and isn’t expected to survive. Now, Cross is even more driven to figure out who this shooter is and why he looks so much like his arch-enemy.
The story moves along at a fast clip. Even when Cross is hunting for clues or interviewing someone, the pace rarely slows. I went back and re-read some pages to figure out why. It turns out Patterson doesn’t spend a lot of time with description. He sketches a scene with a few words and leaves it up to reader to fill in the blanks. Not a bad way to write. I didn’t notice until I actually examined the prose. Besides, if it gets non-readers to read, who cares.
I’m a newbie to Patterson and Alex Cross so I imagine lots of the dialogue and thoughts would mean a whole lot more to folks who have already read the books or seen those movies, but I got through it. I was rarely lost because the gaps were mostly filled in and I could deduce the rest.
Then there the ending. It’s a cliffhanger. A pretty big one at that. In many of the self-publishing podcasts and blogs I read, a good deal of discussion is given to cliffhangers, both pro and con. While I don’t usually mind a certain type of cliffhanger—say, the end of Star Wars where Luke has blown up the Death Star but Darth Vader has escaped and you know he’ll return—this one is pretty out there. Even a tad aggravating. To make matters worse, there isn’t any “Come back in September for the exciting conclusion!” so I’m not sure when this sequel will land.
Other than the end, I enjoyed the book. Actually, truth be told, the ending didn’t bother me too much. I smiled at how well Patterson hooked me. And, yeah, I’ll be buying the sequel.
Job well done, Mr. Patterson.