Sunday, April 26, 2009

Cross Country - James Patterson

2008; 406 pages; 158 chapters. Genres : Action-Crime; Airport Novel. Overall Rating : C.

   .When two families in Washington D.C. are hacked to pieces with machetes, it's up to Detective Alex Cross to track down the killers. And he's determined to do so, since one of the victims is his ex-GF. The trail leads to Africa, where the tables are turned, and Cross finds hinself treading on the home turf on a lethal, well-connected foe.

.What's To Like...
    Not enough action in the last book you read? Then this one's for you. It's no exaggeration to say that every page has some sort of killing, beating, shooting, chase, or other assorted danger.

.It's also obvious that Patterson wanted to write about the plight of Africa, a continent that seems to be cursed by God. He manipulates the story to take Cross to places like Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Darfur. He also manages to avoid blatant stereotyping. Our hero is a black cop, raising two kids, and living together with his GF. And Al-Qaeda terrorists don't get blamed for any of killings.

.OTOH, there are some serious lapses of believability. Two families get the benihana treatment, and the CIA says, "Back off; we'll handle this"? Sorry, but that would never happen. Then Cross decides to handle it on his own (cliché!) and flies to Nigeria, but without seeing any need to contact the authorities there for help? Uh-uh; not a chance.
Finally, there's the Ultimate Evil himself. Most of the foes in the earlier Alex Cross stories are complex, crazy, and diaboloically clever. Our UE here has all the personality of Idi Amin.

.The Bane of Authors - Airport Novels.
The best way to read this book is as an airport novel. Pretend you're boarding a plane; shut down your brain; and go with the flow. You'll be done in no time - the PCQ ("Patterson Chapter Quotient") here is about 2½ (406 pages ÷ 158 chapters), and half of each Chapter Title page is blank space. If you try to read it as anything else (say, as a piece of literature), you'll rate this book very low.

.So I'm giving Cross Country a "C", because it was enjoyable escapism, and because Patterson deserves kudos for trying to give us a glimpse of the horrors going on in Africa. But if you've never read one of Patterson's Alex Cross books, this is not the one to start with. Instead, pick up Pop Goes The Weasel, Jack And Jill, or Along Came A Spider to see how good of a story he used to write.

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