This month's’ book review is my first time reading award-winning author, James Patterson. My wife's family are avid readers and go through books like crazy. When Linda's mother gave us two large boxes full of books her family had already read, roughly half of them were from James Patterson. Lets just say, Mister Patterson’s books have made the rounds in my extended family!
I chose this book because I have been debating for months whether or not I should take the writing Masterclass, so I decided to read one of James Patterson’s books to see what his style was like. The main character, Alex Cross, did not grasp my interest, but this is probably due to the fact that I was never previously exposed to him and this is the 17th book in the series. However, I fully understand how Patterson’s writing style earned him the title of Bestseller on multiple occasions. The story flowed really well and it felt as though I went through this book in record time (by my slow reading standards).
In the novel, we see psychologist and police detective, Alex Cross, planning his wedding to his girlfriend, Brianna 'Bree' Stone. However, their plans are put aside when Alex gets called in to a murder case involving snipers. The murderers, Mitch and Denny, seem to be targeting political, yet infamous figures. Their goal is to make the public believe they are acting as vigilantes, when in reality they are simply taking money from an unnamed source. Meanwhile, Alex gets a request from one of his closest friend, asking for assistance in a series of murders with numbers on the victims' faces. To add to the suspense, former FBI agent and serial killer Kyle Craig, who seems to be the nemesis of Alex Cross (like I said, I haven’t read the other books) uses a clever disguise to get close to the detective in order to kill him.
Various covers of the same novel. The book can be found on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Cross-Fire-Alex-James-Patterson/dp/0446574716
Back of the book:
Wedding bells ring
Detective Alex Cross and Bree's wedding plans are put on hold when Alex is called to the scene of the perfectly executed assassination of two of Washington D.C.'s most corrupt: a dirty congressmen and an underhanded lobbyist. Next, the elusive gunman begins picking off other crooked politicians, sparking a blaze of theories--is the marksman a hero or a vigilante?
A murderer returns
The case explodes, and the FBI assigns agent Max Siegel to the investigation. As Alex and Siegel battle over jurisdiction, the murders continue. It becomes clear that they are the work of a professional who has detailed knowledge of his victims' movements--information that only a Washington insider could possess.
Caught in a lethal cross fire
As Alex contends with the sniper, Siegel, and the wedding, he receives a call from his deadliest adversary, Kyle Craig. The Mastermind is in D.C. and will not relent until he has eliminated Cross and his family for good. With a supercharged blend of action, deception, and suspense, Cross Fire is James Patterson's most visceral and exciting Alex Cross novel ever.
What I learned:
- Mastery of the narrative drive: What stood out the most for me in this book, is how much I was motivated to just keep reading. Never have I felt the urge to just read one more page, it’s like I couldn’t put the book down. It was not just a question of how good the story was, but a combination of style, content and even page layout. I finally realise this is what “narrative drive” truly is. James Patterson has mastered how to grab the reader's attention and keep them motivated to continue.
- Leaving out information: One of the things I constantly see mentioned in writing lessons, is to always remember to tie up all loose ends before the end of the story. This is not the case in Cross Fire. By the end of the story, we are still left with questions (SPOILER: such as the identity of certain characters). So why does a master like Patterson do this? Simple: cause he has a plan to use that question to fuel his next book. This technique should only be used in well established storylines, like the Alex Cross series. Renowned authors like James Patterson can afford to pull something like this off, but I would not recommended this for beginning writers.
- Less is more: James Patterson’s writing style is super tight, to the point it could almost be considered minimalistic storytelling. He does not use superfluous vocabulary or long winded descriptions, yet the ideas he wishes to convey still manages to get across. This proves he has also mastered “word economy” when writing. This is especially apparent when Alex gets married; the most important event in the detective’s life, and it is boiled down to these simple words; and the priest said “Dearly beloved…”. Six words, just six words, and the reader not only knows what's going on, but has the entire scene painted in their minds. Now THAT is an impressive use of word economy.
- Master of Disguise: Having a character impersonating another is one thing, having your arch-nemesis interacting with the main protagonist while in disguise is another. Having the character of Kyle Craig take over the life of another operative, just so he can get close to Alex shows just how determined the man is. It also demonstrates just how talented Kyle is, since the task is a lot harder than it seems.
James Patterson has sold over 350 million books worldwide, and he currently holds the Guinness World Record for the most #1 New York Times best sellers. He is known for writing thriller novels, as well as children, middle-grade, and young-adult fiction.
For those interested in reading more books from James Patterson, please check out his website and wiki description, where you can find a complete listing of his published works and all other pertinent information:
In closing, I would like to thank my wife Linda and her family for lending us these books and for the tremendous amount of encouragement they have shown me since the beginning.
Until next time!