Fear No Evil (Alex Cross #29), by James Patterson

Six Stars

Just as readers sometimes find themselves in a rut, the same can be said of authors who try to churn out something worthwhile. Many who follow my reviews will know that I have a love/hate relationship with James Patterson and his novels that appear to sell based on his name, rather than on any level of quality. I came into this book knowing that the Alex Cross series was one that had not been sullied with subpar writing or delivery. However, after reading this book, I am beginning to wonder if Dr. Cross may have overstayed his literary welcome and ought to hang up the cuffs for good. I could not connect with the book, the characters I have come to love, or even the action. Others may disagree, and I welcome it, but I am left wondering if it’s time to stop and let others fight crime. One of the cornerstone series for James Patterson, this one may have finally lost its steam and needs to be shelved for good.

While I usually offer a detailed summary of the storyline for other reviewers to enjoy, I can’t be bothered today, preferring to offer a quick summary of my sentiments so that I can move along. Patterson resurrects an old nemesis of Dr. Alex Cross’ and places the detective in the middle of a serious manhunt. Cross is his usual go-getter self, swooping in to help as best he can, while also rescuing his wife from danger as she investigates something over in Europe. The tension and action that is usually built up with short Patterson-esque chapters is gone, leaving the reader feeling flat and underwhelmed. Don’t get me wrong, there is action and some heart-thumping suspense, but I did not feel the push to keep reading well into the night or caring much about what was going on. I need that on occasion and this novel did not deliver.

While some authors can use their name to sell a book, I cringe at that, as the reader is left wondering if the quality is there. With another Cross novel on the horizon, I can only hope this was a stumbling block for Patterson (or if I am just out of sorts with my reading these days), and that Cross can return to his earlier glory. That being said, thirty novels may be a sign that Cross should enjoy time with the family and let the likes of Bennett and Boxer, other stalwart Patterson detectives, take the reins and keep things going. But, what’s do I know, right?

Kudos, Mr. Patterson, for finding new ideas to challenge your protagonist. It just did not impact me as I had hoped.

Deadly Cross (Alex Cross #28), by James Patterson

Seven stars

Alex Cross is back for yet another adventure along the streets of D.C., which means James Patterson has been at it again. When the former wife of a high-ranking politician turns up dead, Cross is on the case. He’s also working with his partner to discover who’s been kidnapping and murdering a number of young women. This is sure to be one summer that will keep Cross busy. A decent addition for series fans, but there’s something lacking in this latest novel.

Alex Cross loves nothing more than spending time with his family, but when work calls, he knows where he’s needed. The former wife of the current vice-president has been found murdered and Cross is willing to step up to help. It would seem that their past acquaintance is not going to help as much as Cross had hoped, as tabloid journalists try to use it to smear her and leave Cross in an awkward position.

While working that case and taking direction from the Chief of Detectives—Cross’ own wife, Bree Stone—Cross and his partner, John Sampson, begin working on a series of kidnappings of young women. What’s worse, some of the women have turned up murdered, leaving little doubt that there’s a serial killer on the loose. Cross and Sampson begin a thorough analysis of the case, but a personal tragedy strikes, sidelining the affable Sampson.

As Cross splits his time between cases, he’s not getting the traction he had hoped, which is causing a significant amount of pressure up the chain of command. Bree is feeling the heat from her own superiors and loses it at one point, wondering if police work is really for her. It’s no easy decision, but, like Cross, family comes before the badge.

After Cross finds himself in rural Alabama working some leads, he learns something that could solve the case that has those on Capitol Hill buzzing. It could be a red herring, but there’s no time to leave anything to chance. What Cross learns blows the case wide open, forcing everyone to question what they know and who they can trust.

Back in D.C., it’s anyone’s guess who could be killing young women, but Sampson bounces back, using work as a salve, and discovers a few breadcrumbs of his own. With so much set to chance in the Cross sphere, solving these cases might help with what’s on the horizon.

I have long enjoyed the work of James Patterson on this series, one of the few that he has kept for himself. While Cross does not seem to lose his finesse, there’s something about this book that left me less than fully enthralled. I have mentioned it before and will do so again, might it be time for Dr. Alex Cross to hang up the cuffs and let others handle things?

Alex Cross returns to reprise his role as protagonist, though there is little backstory or actual development to be had. Cross lives for the moment, watching his family continue to grow and the cases pile up. He’s still likeable, works hard, and loves his family. I guess I expected something new to rejuvenate him as a character all his own. I did not dislike him whatsoever, but there’s something lacking that left me almost indifferent throughout the novel.

With a core of close knit supporting characters, Patterson does well to keep the large story arc going. There are the requisite new faces who appear to keep the cases flowing well and leave the reader with others to explore. A little backstory appears here and there, but the reader gets much of their narrative development with the police work that is being done throughout the book.

I always find it hard to stay loyal to a series when things seem to taper off. Not that this collection has fallen into horrible disarray, but it lacks what it once had, hardcore crime work and cliffhangers that leaver the reader wondering. Patterson is able to keep his protagonist moving and guessing, though there is a lack of spark that I remember from earlier novels. Surely, Cross is aging and his family is getting more independent, but if that means it’s time to fade into the sunset, let’s take that route and move along. Other series that have lasted this long have their protagonist moving into retirement. I wonder if this is an option that Patterson’s considered. Not that he’s not busy enough overseeing others writing books with his name on it.

The writing itself is still fairly strong and the story he’d my attention throughout. I was eager to see how Cross would handle things and was happy to see the narrative’s momentum did not lag. Short chapters kept me pushing ahead, wondering what was to come next, though I was not as riveted as I would have liked. Those who have dedicated themselves to the series may also see the writing on the wall. I’ll keep reading, but I can only hope that Patterson ties things off with dignity for this long-serving detective, and we don’t have him perishing in an alley, blood pooling around him.

Kudos, Mr. Patterson, for keeping Alex Cross going. Perhaps it’s time for a mega crossover (with Women’s Murder Club and Michael Bennett) before calling it a career for the Metro detective.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Criss Cross (Alex Cross #27), by James Patterson

Eight stars

James Patterson returns with one of his foundations series, exploring the further adventures of Alex Cross in this intense crime thriller. As the novel opens, Dr. Alex Cross is on his way to the execution of a man he helped put away for some gruesome murders. While the man’s family professes this is a frame-up, Cross is sure the evidence tells a different story. After watching the electrocution, Cross and his partner are called to the scene of a crime, one that makes he wonder if he might have made a major mistake. A crime scene awaits him, similar to those the aforementioned killer appeared to have left, along with a mocking note signed “M”. Cross scrambles to understand what’s going on and how this will reflect on him. As Cross thinks back to the case from years ago, he is forced to wonder if he got wrapped up in a quick solve, rather than weighing all the evidence. As he tries to crack open the ‘M’ case, Cross is faced with a few more copycat killings from other notorious killers he’s put away. Nothing is more disturbing than a few sightings of his greatest nemesis, Kyle Craig, who apparently died right before Cross’ eyes a few years before. As Cross seeks to uncover the great ‘M’, he is taunted repeatedly and is surely being watched from afar. When terror strikes within the Cross household, ‘M’ claims responsibility, but will stop at nothing until Alex Cross is permanently neutralized. An interesting addition to the series, which has gone on for quite a while. One must wonder if Cross might want to hang up his cuffs and enjoy a quieter life. Recommended to those who enjoy Alex Cross and his various adventures, as well as those who find solace in James Patterson’s work.

I admit that I have long been a critic of Patterson’s work, as I find it is usually rushed and slapped together in haste, selling so well because of a name and not the quality of the story. The Alex Cross series has usually been quite well written and the stories remain believable throughout the many novels that are pieces of this collection. There is little room for backstory with Alex Cross, but Patterson os keen to show how he is always on the ball to catch a killer in new and interesting ways. Cross is a family man to the core, balancing work, marriage, and his children as best he can. Patterson offers up some added information about the youngest Cross, Ali, which likely parallels his decision to create a young adult collection featuring Ali going forward. The reader gets a little more about the middle child, daughter Jannie, who is set to make some major academic decisions, fully supported by her father. Other characters find their spots in the narrative and keep the reader on their toes, while never distracting from the larger plot. The use of ‘M’ as a copycat-cum-new villain will have interesting impacts, should the series continue for the foreseeable future. The story was well written and in line with much of the past novels in the series, with Patterson using his quick chapters to lure the reader to “read a little more”. While not the best of the collection, it will keep me reading this series. On that note, one must wonder if Cross is ending his run soon, as he has reached a large number of adventures. If so, perhaps he, Michael Bennett, and Lindsay Boxer could work together, even once? It has been my long-time plea.

Kudos, Mr. Patterson, for another good read. I hope series fans are satisfied and that you will focus your attention on these stronger series and keep the vapid writing for others to pen.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

The People vs. Alex Cross (Alex Cross #25), by James Patterson

Seven stars

After an apparent snafu with all the Alex Cross and BookShot releases to confuse many fans of the series, Patterson attempts to set things back on track with this much-anticipated novel. Alex Cross is on trial for two counts of first degree murder, stemming from an apparent unjustified shooting of a number of Gary Soneji lookalikes (see BookShot ‘Cross Kill’, eventually labelled properly as Alex Cross 24.4). However, he has been able to stay out of jail for the time being and is serving a suspension, allowing Cross to open a temporary private counselling practice. News hits the DC Police that blondes are being kidnapped, their photos eventually posted on the dark web, sometimes in apparent snuff films. Cross becomes personally involved when a patient comes to him, seeking help to locate his daughter, whom he feels may still be alive. Working under the radar, Cross learns more about the case and begins following up leads, much to the chagrin of his wife and Chief of Ds, Bree Stone. With the trial set to open, Cross is confident that he will be able to tell the truth and go free, but previously uncovered videos of the event prove highly damning, to the point that Cross begins to doubt himself. However, there are those within the Cross clan that will stop at nothing to prove Alex innocent and there has to be something within the footage and the forensic evidence to shed light on this travesty of justice. Meanwhile, a teenage girl hangs on by a thread, uncertain what awaits her and a killer with a strong dislike of certain hair colours continues a rampage that could dispel the myth that blondes have it better. A decent addition to the Alex Cross series, allowing fans to get some answers after a mess of poorly timed releases in Patterson’s attempt to pad his gold-lined pockets.

I have said it once and I will say it again, James Patterson can write well when it suits him, but he seems to use his name to sell books and not think of the readers who adore his series. I ranted previously about the muck that became the Alex Cross series with the novels and BookShots intermingling and keeping series fans leaping back and forth, worried that they had missed something. Timing is everything with this series, as the number of novels continues to climb, but it is only the patient and dedicated series fan who will not have tossed in the towel or f-bombed dear JP by now. When writing alone, Patterson can concoct some great characters, which he has done here, though Alex Cross may be looking to hang up those cuffs and turn to something more psychiatric or counselling-based to appease those of us who know he cannot be a spring chicken. Characters like Nanna Momma continue to inject much needed humour into the story, though there are times that I cannot help but dislike all the precocious and ‘gifted’ genes that Cross has somehow been able to find in his offspring. The dual (at least) premise of the story keeps the reader juggling both the trial and the search for the latest serial killer, which works well inside these short chapters. Patterson paces things well and in true fashion, one thread is tied off and leaves a single focus for the final 30 chapters. The trial premise worked decently, though the reader can always expect that Perry Mason moment when evidence that was previously missing someone comes together, but will it work in Cross’s favour this time around? I have stopped setting the bar so high for Alex Cross books, as I turn to them when I need a quick read and a rest from mental gymnastics. It served its purpose, but I am happy to say that I acquire these in such a way that I am not forced to pad the royalty cheque that dear James Patterson receives.

Kudos, Mr. Patterson, on another decent addition to the series. One can hope you and your publishers will pay attention to series fans who raged about the out of sync release dates on this series.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Detective Cross (Alex Cross #24.5), by James Patterson

Eight stars

After a hiatus, I am back reading BookShots and revelling in some of the superior work that James Patterson has to offer with one of his original series, Alex Cross. While out running, Chief of Detectives Bree Stone (married to the aforementioned Dr. Cross) receives a call that a bomb is set to explode. She calls in resources around the National Monuments and helps diffuse the situation. Meanwhile, Alex Cross is serving his suspension and awaiting trial, having returned to his psychology practice for the time being. After Stone calls him, he drops everything and tries to offer a psych profile of the sort of person who might be capable of this. Narrowing in on a homeless military vet, Cross and Stone think that they might be making headway, only to have more bomb threats called in, forcing the evacuation of the area. Some are simply threats, but others pack an actual explosive punch, leaving the authorities to play roulette with how to handle things. Cross has been seeing a patient who has a military past working with IED (improvised explosive devices) and seems to have a means of helping the investigation. With a pattern emerging, the bomber is likely soon to be in the crosshairs, but then things take a definite turn and no one can be sure of the next move, even this illustrious Dr. Alex Cross. An interesting piece that speaks not only to Patterson’s ability to write independently, but also tackles an issue that is close to the hearts of many. Series fans will surely enjoy this as they wait for the looming trial of their favourite fictional character.

I’ve often said that Patterson can be hit and miss, particularly when he teams up with others. This series, his longest running, is usually quite good and goes to show that he still had ideas to keep the reader hooked. Alex Cross has been through much in the more than two decades that he has graced the pages of novels, though he seems to have a need to remain front and centre. Still, with his wife as Chief of Detectives, it is difficult to keep her too far in the background. The Cross-Stone connection in this story is one that proves they can stand on equal footing, as well as when Cross utilises his patient to help, rather than string her along for the ride. The story itself seems plausible, which makes it all the easier to swallow. The issue, veterans’ rights and the proper recognition of those who have come back stateside, particular those with debilitating injuries, is front and centre throughout the narrative. Patterson handles it well and gets to the core of the issue without trivializing things. My second book today that pointed the corrupt and ignorant nature of Congress on such fundamental issues, so there must be a theme here. Thankfully, I need not get in the middle of this contentious issue and can remain firmly rooted on my Canadian reader perch, enjoying the view.

Kudos, Mr. Patterson, for enthralling your fans with this short story. While BookShots are supersaturating the market, it is nice to see that some are still of such high calibre.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons