Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Double Cross

James Patterson should just stick to the Alex Cross and Women's Murder Club novels. The prolific author's collaborations with other authors(like 2007's You've Been Warned, which is now my least favorite Patterson novel ever, beating out Violets are Blue for the dubious honor) have never matched his solo efforts in these two series. Double Cross, the latest in the Alex Cross series, pits Cross against two psychopaths, one old and one new. While it doesn't match the quality of Patterson's earliest novels, it has enough chills, thrills and suspense to be a fast read.
When the novel starts, Alex Cross is a psychiatrist now that he has retired from the DC Police force. But he is dragged back to his old job when a psychopath, going by the name DCAK, starts committing shocking murders in full public view. Meanwhile Cross' old friend-turned-foe Kyle Craig, who was with the FBI before being unmasked as the killer known as the Mastermind, escapes from prison and is itching for revenge on everyone who was responsible for his arrest.

While the quality of his books has slipped quite a bit, Patterson has rarely, if ever, written a book that was not a fast read. The same is true of Double Cross too. With his trademark short chapters, each of which still manages to end with a nice hook, and multiple story lines, the novel zips along. There is enough suspense in DCAK's motives and clues(he leaves keepsakes like unsigned greeting cards, a bottle of sauce, etc. at each murder site) to keep us hooked till he is unmasked and both he and Kyle Craig are diabolical enough to make Cross' pursuit interesting. The encounters, both close and not-so-close, between Cross and his foes are suitably thrilling and it helps that the detours into Cross' family life are kept to a minimum.

Patterson's earlier books had some fantastic twists that caught us by surprise. Books like Cat & Mouse, Kiss the Girls and Cradle and All(an average book but contained one of the best twists ever) thrilled us with revelations that came out of the blue. Such twists have been missing in his newer books and things haven't changed in Double Cross. There is one very surprising twist but it is revealed too early and after that, the books is pretty much one long chase. There are a few surprises fed to us at regular intervals but none of them deliver any big shocks.


At 8:42 AM, Blogger KayKay said...

Dear Balaji,

"quality of his books has slipped quite a bit" are far too diplomatic,sir!


Patterson peaked with "Cat & Mouse" and since then it's been a steady and ever steeper down slide into mediocrity that started with "Pop Goes The Weasel", a thriller that reslutely failed to thrill and had the temerity of leaving the reader with a villain that wasn't caught, just so Patterson could drag the Weasel through 4 other Cross books before dispatching him in the space of a paragraph in "London Bridges" (my vote for the lamest Cross book ever).
And the fact that Patterson has had TWO books ending with a cliffhanger(Roses Are Red & The Big Bad Wolf) only to off load a cheap, badly written sequel(Violets Are Blue and London Bridges respectively) that had plots which read like they were doodled on a napkin while Patterson waited for his order of Burger and Fries at the local diner, is a money grabbing stunt of the lowest order, even in the heavily commercialised field of thriller writing.

He's fast becoming another Tom Clancy, franchising his name out in numerous writing collaborations and knocking books off an assembly line, and the "mass produced" quality shows.

I've "Cross"-ed (sorry couldn't resist that one!)Patterson off my reading list.

If you enjoy police procedurals, I would highly recommend writers like Michael Connelly, Dennis Lehane,Robert Crais and Lee Child.

At 10:51 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

kaykay, the books u mention -'london bridges', 'violets r blue' in particular, almost made me swear off patterson too. while he hasn't regained his old lustre, i think he has shown some improvement starting from 'mary mary', which was a good, old-fashioned murder mystery.

i believe i have read michael connelly and dennis lehane but haven't come across books by robert crais or lee child. will keep an eye out :)


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