One of my co-workers is an enthusiastic James Patterson fan, and has been urging me to give his Alex Cross series a try. I have a vague memory of having read one of the later books and enjoying it, but I wanted to go back to the beginning and get the full background on the characters. This is the first book in the series, and does an effective job of drawing the main characters: Detective/psychologist Alex Cross, his partner, and his family. All of them are engaging characters that i felt I’d be happy to spend more time with.
The plot, featuring a psychotic child kidnapper and murderer, was less successful. There’s little suspense in discovering the bad guy; the twist comes with trying to prove whether he committed the crimes while sane or as a “split” personality. Having just read a handful of well-written legal thrillers, I found Patterson’s trial scenes to be less convincing, and I realized I didn’t really care about the technicalities of whether the killer was sane or not since he obviously committed the crimes. More interesting was the smattering of political intrigue within the Washington, D.C., police department and its interactions with the FBI and other agencies. I hope that area is more fully developed in future Cross novels.