33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on January 18, 2000
This is James Patterson's first novel starring his well rounded hero Alex Cross. A brilliant African American detective with a higher moral agenda than your average suspense novel protagonist. In Along Came a Spider we are introduced to Patterson's seamless blending of first and third person narrative that works so well with a many faceted character such as Alex Cross. This book succeeds on many levels: as the villian Gary Soneji is trully vile but not unbelievably so, the supporting characters such as Alex's family are made interesting and revelant to the story, and it progresses quickly with twists and turns that lead to a surprisingly emotional ending. Along Came a Spider has a little of everything: criminal psychology, courtroom drama, love, murder, kidnapping, insightful family interaction, and the kitchen sink! This is a smartly written, superior book!
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on October 31, 1999
This has not been the first time I've read a James Patterson piece. His amazing piece, Cat & Mouse was one of the quickest and most enjoyable reads I have ever had. Because of this, my expectations for this book were extremely high. However, Patterson exceeded my expecations in an unbelievable way. This is a true tale of good versus evil, pitting a Washington detective (Cross) against an abused and inteligent psychopath (Soneji). However, this story is not nearly as straight forward as one might expects, as it is filled with plot twists. Many of these revelations left me in complete shock only as James Patterson can. And although 500 pages may seem never-ending, the pace makes it quite the contrary. It is a must read for anyone who enjoys the suspense/mystery genre of writing, and a high recommendation for anyone else.
31 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on August 17, 2000
I read this book in the wrong order because I first read Cat and Mouse which is an unbelievably enjoyable novel (Read my review) so I already had a small idea of what happened in Along came a Spider. I will just say that this novel was like reading two different novels. One was a very intelligent suspenseful mystery about a kidnapping carried out to go right where the Lindbergh kidnapping went wrong. The scenes of Alex Cross trying to find Gary Soneji, the court scenes, and the conversations between Cross and Gary Murphy are wonderful. This part of the novel gets 5 stars.
However,I subtract two stars for the unbelievably boring and uninspired romantic twist to the story, there was a point where I just decided to skip whole chapters that didn't add anything to the story. I got through the first three hundred pages faster than I did the last two hundred. It was just mesmerizing to think that the same brilliant mind that came up with the suspenseful mystery came up with the other garbage. Don't get me wrong I do enjoy romance in a mystery novel, in fact I think its an important part but Patterson should ask Jeffery Deaver, who writes so well about the relationship between Lincoln Rhyme and Amelia Sachs, or maybe ask Ridley Pearson, who does so well with Lou Boldt and Daphne Mathews, to give him a few tips on mixing romance with suspense.
My reccommendation is read this novel but if the mood starts getting romantic don't waste your time, at least not until the end where the romantic scene is important.Alex Cross is a great character and Gary Soneji is the perfect nemesis, I just feel that Patterson did a better job of mixing his romantic chapters with the story in Cat and Mouse than what he was able to accomplish in this novel.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on September 22, 2001
Along Came a Spider is the first installment in the detective Alex Cross series by Patterson. I did not read these books in order, but that has not detracted from the flow of any of the books. Since I have read the other books first, and the first book last, Detective Alex Cross has changed somewhat into a mellower, more likeable character. I did not see the movie, but had envisioned Denzel Washington to play the smooth and sophiscated Alex Cross and was disappointed in the choice of Morgan Freeman. But after reading this book, Morgan Freeman fits Alex Cross in this book perfectly - for this book only!!!
I love Patterson's books and have read just about all of them. I find them to be engrossing, suspenseful and I just can't put them down. He foils me with the ending each and every time!!
In this book, Patterson has a serial killer at large, Gary Soneji, who has kidnapped two children, and who wants to be known as somebody. Jezzie Flannagan from the FBI, is also on the case, giving Cross support to capture the killer. Three great strong main characters, exposed to the reader so as to get into their psyche, yet intertwined with each other to make for one incredible story.
The ending is a blow out, which is what I love about Patterson - hanging on to the edge of your seat with each and every page, and giving you the shocker at the end. I love it! His books are definite thrillers and shockers!
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on October 26, 1997
I am at a loss to understand how this book even managed to get published. I purchased this with high expectations, and immediately sat down to read it, expecting (from the reviews I had heard) a taut, tense thriller. I've never been so wrong in my life. Fifty pages into the novel (if you can call it that), I couldn't stand it any longer.
Let me give you an example of the narrative: "The sergeant was a jelly-roll-belly type, probably left over from the Civil War. His face looked like a wedding cake left out in the rain. He didn't seem to be buying my tweed jacket ensemble." Scintillating, huh? Half the time I couldn't understand what he was talking about; his writing was actually distractingly bad. Usually this might be cause for not publishing a story, but no, James Patterson just goes right on selling those books, despite an apparent disregard for tenses (which he regularly switches) and any sort of clarity. It's as if he's actually *trying* to confuse us. And if he is, it's certainly working.
I know that, since I didn't read the whole book, or even most of it, I'm probably being unfair to the plot (what there is of it), but I think that I've read more than enough of his work to shy away from anything he writes in the future.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on July 14, 2003
Edition Reviewed: Warner Books Paperback, February 2001, 520 pages (including the brief excerpt from _1st to Die_ at the end of the book)
My personal enjoyment rating: 8 out of 10
My recommendation rating: 7 out of 10. Explanation of recommendation rating: "Genre fans should enjoy it as well as a lot of people with a more passing interest in the genre. Flaws are starting to show. Serious literature fans (someone who reads a few books per month but doesn't have special feelings for the genre) should give these more consideration before spending their time or money. Casual non-genre readers (who read one book per month or less) should generally stay away from 7's or anything lower."
The good news is that James Patterson's _Along Came A Spider_ is fairly unpredictable, and quite a page-turner. It is also very interesting structurally. The bad news is that, at least in this book, Patterson's writing style occasionally comes across as mildly hack-like. However, some of the hack-like mannerisms are peculiar enough that they almost become endearing by the end of the book, and if indicative of Patterson's writing style overall, could turn out to be an attractor for long-term fans rather than a set of annoying quirks that would turn a reader away from his work.
_Along Came A Spider_ is Patterson's introduction to what has turned out to be a continuing character in a series of suspense/mystery books, "Detective/Doctor" Alex Cross (to date, the character continues in the novels _Kiss the Girls_ (1994), _Jack & Jill_ (1996), _Cat & Mouse_ (1997), _Pop Goes the Weasel_ (1999), _Roses are Red_ (2000), _Violets are Blue (2001), and _Four Blind Mice_ (2002)). In _Along Came a Spider_, we begin with Cross investigating the latest crime executed by a serial killer who is striking targets in the ghettos of Washington, D.C. Cross, who still lives in the ghettos himself, despite the fact that he's a bigwig on the D.C. police force and has a Ph.D. in psychology, is suddenly called away, with his partner John Sampson, to investigate the kidnapping of two rich and famous kids by one of their teachers, and it all happened right under the nose of Secret Service agents. Patterson weaves all of these threads and more together as we delve into the mind of the kidnapper, discover whether maybe there's some connection to the ghetto serial murders, and discover whether there is more than one villain.
Structurally, _Along Came a Spider_ is very interesting in that for quite a few chapters in the beginning of the book, Patterson alternates one chapter of first-person, writing as Cross, with one chapter of the more traditional third-person omniscient, which at first is primarily concerned with the villain, Gary Soneji. On the negative side, for some readers, this technique might be distracting as it breaks up the flow more than a mere change of setting does, and at first Patterson seems to have laid out a plan saying, "All of the even numbered chapters will be first-person; all of the odd numbered chapters will be third-person". However, as the book progresses, one gets used to the flip-flopping perspectives, and Patterson eventually finds a more natural flow to the changes, letting a number of chapters at a time continue from the same perspective, as fits the story.
For a first-time reader of Patterson, at least--and that includes me--the first few chapters might also prove to be relatively rough going because of Patterson's hack-like quirks. One place this is easily evidenced is in his titles. We could even come up with probable future names of Patterson books on our own. _Kick the Can_, _Follow the Leader_, _Hickory Dickory Dock_, and _Pocketful of Rye_ are likely titles, if they're not already taken. Patterson puts many "slangy" and clichéd phrases in his writing, like "Cool beans", "Cold as a meat locker", "A lot of sound and fury, signifying _nada_", etc., and they often come across as if he's thinking, "I need to put some slangy, hip, street lingo in the story here". His descriptions meant to provide character depth often seem calculated and choppy, and he gives characters odd quirks like playing Public Enemy songs on a piano, which seems like maybe Patterson just quickly did an Internet search for urban bands that were supposed to be hip at the time. He also has a middle-aged black man wear, say, a Hoodoo Gurus baseball cap, with no character background that would give it a believable context. It ends up reading like maybe Patterson likes, or knows someone who likes the Hoodoo Gurus, and decided to stick the name in the book. These kinds of quirks occur very often--a few times per chapter on average. We might also count as a flaw that there are too many characters, and some, such as Sampson, seem like they should either have been fleshed out more and made more important or dropped altogether.
On the other hand, when we get down to the bare bones of the narrative, Patterson certainly knows how to compose, and more importantly, propel, a good suspense/mystery novel. The overall flow of the writing works well enough, and the basic plot is well constructed enough, that you keep reading despite the flaws, and you soon get hooked on the story as well as the characters. The hack-like quirks almost start to become charming in a goofy way. And even though Patterson occasionally slows things down with a chapter or two, his chapters tend to be very short, so it's not long until you get back to "action", exciting plot developments and revelations, including a few nice twists.
The most telling comment, however, is that I just finished _Along Came a Spider_ this morning, after reading it fairly quickly, and this afternoon I'm going to stop by the bookstore to pick up _Kiss the Girls_. That overrides any negative criticism about _Along Came a Spider_ being a less than perfect book, and should be compliment enough.