The People vs. Alex Cross

Image of The People vs. Alex Cross
Author(s): 
Release Date: 
November 19, 2017
Publisher/Imprint: 
Little, Brown & Company
Pages: 
432
Reviewed by: 

James Patterson holds the Guinness World Record for the most #1 New York Times bestsellers. His books have sold more than 350 million copies worldwide. He was honored with the Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community. He has donated more than one million books to students and soldiers and has over 400 Teacher Education Scholarships at 24 colleges and universities. He has donated millions to independent bookstores and school libraries. What’s not to love about the man? Now, out comes his umpteenth novel, The People vs. Alex Cross

Since his latest Alex Cross novel is so new to the market, you’re not likely to have read the book jacket inside flap which is a mini-synopsis. It would be difficult to improve upon.

THE CHARGES ARE EXPLOSIVE. THE EVIDENCE IS BEYOND SHOCKING.

THE PROSECTUTION IS RELENTLESS. THE ACCUSED STANDS ALONE.

Alex Cross has always upheld the law, but now he’s on the wrong side of it. Followers of his nemesis Gary Soneji are dead, and Cross is charged with gunning them down in cold blood.

Detective Cross knows he acted in self-defense. But will a jury see him as another policeman gone over the edge?

As Cross prepares to prove his innocence, his former partner John Sampson brings him a gruesome, salacious video tied to the mysterious disappearances of several young girls. Despite Cross’s suspension from the department, he can’t refuse the case. The illicit investigation leads them to the darkest corners of the Internet, where murder is just another form of entertainment.

“Stay close,” Cross tells his family as they enter the federal courthouse. The prosecution presents its damaging case, and the national headlines scream for conviction. If Cross can’t convince his children that he didn’t pull the trigger with intent or kill, how can he hope to persuade a jury? And can he focus on his defense when the lives of innocents are in jeopardy?

His professional and personal lives are on the line, but Cross will do whatever it takes to stop a dangerous criminal . . . even if it costs him his freedom.

Even this synopsis doesn’t begin to describe all the scenarios and events that take place in Patterson’s latest novel.

Yet he seems to always manage to envelop his readers in two equally important major story lines—like a two-plot story in which the subplot is as relevant as the main. Not easy to pull off for any writer.

But Patterson is at his best when he takes his reader by the hand and leads them through the maze he so brilliantly constructs. Few authors do it more effectively.

He is able to take us from Alex Cross under scrutiny of murder, to the dark world of subterranean humans—even mix in his family relationships—and pull it all together, then wrap it up in a nice bow for the denouement. He does it time and again in his novels.

However, some of the characters make appearances far apart, and readers are likely to lose track of more than a few characters’ raison d’etre. With so many characters, and so many scenes, Patterson would serve us better if he included a list of characters and their roles in the front matter.

His sparse use of coarse language is refreshing and maybe tells us something about Patterson. For instance, some scenes and dialogue come so close to leaking Patterson’s deep faith in a supreme power that you wonder if Patterson himself wasn’t steeped in a religious upbringing.

There’s something else about Patterson’s writing in The People vs. Alex Cross that intrigues. He’s able to break the rules and combine first person singular with third person omniscient. 

Still, readers may have a couple of concerns, or maybe complaints, concerning The People vs. Alex Cross; it needs less setting description and fewer scenes that don’t drive the plot.

Maybe readers would be better served with more 60,000-word novels, instead of 110,000. Sometimes, too much description is, well, too much. A great two-plot story can be told in 60,000 words. The major publishers, they’re the ones who want more words. Not us. 

Think about this. If a 100,000-word novel takes an average of 5.5 hours to read, a 60,000-word novel takes about 3.3 hours. More time, more great stories every year!

Not until readers start buying more compact novels will we see tighter writing without the filler.

By the way, we must applaud Patterson for putting his money where his pen is. He’s been a major supporter in supporting reading development for children. His Jimmy Patterson series needs all the attention it deserves.