Book Discussion Guide: Along Came a Spider by James Patterson: Reviews
From Publishers Weekly
This second big winter thriller by a writer named Patterson features a villain (a multiple-personality serial killer/kidnapper) whom the publisher hopes will remind readers of Thomas Harris' Hannibal Lecter, and a hero who is compared to those of Jonathan Kellerman. Unfortunately, the novel has few merits of its own to set against those authors' works. Hero Alex Cross is in fact a black senior detective in Washington, D.C., who is also a psychiatrist and has a facile but not entirely convincing line of sentimental-cynical patter. The villain is Gary Soneji/Murphy (read Hyde/Jekyll), who kills for recognition, and finally kidnaps the kids of prominent parents. Alex is soon on the case, more enraged by Gary's killing of poor ghetto blacks than by the Lindbergh-inspired kidnapping, and becomes involved with a gorgeous, motorcycle-riding Secret Service supervisor who is not what she seems. Soneji/Murphy is eventually captured--but can the bad part of him be proven guilty? There is even a hint at the end that he may survive for a sequel, though the reader has virtually forgotten him by then. Spider reads fluently enough, but its action and characters seem to have come out of some movie-inspired never-never land. If a contemporary would-be nail-biter is to thrill as it should, it urgently needs stronger connections to reality than this book has. Come back, Thomas Harris!
From Library Journal
Alex Cross, a black Washington, D.C., police detective with a Ph.D. in psychology, and Jezzie Flanagan, a white motorcycling Secret Service agent, become lovers as they work together to apprehend a chilling psychopath who has kidnapped two children from a posh private school. The psychotic villain, who aspires to become more notorious than Lindbergh baby kidnapper Bruno Hauptmann, is effectively nightmarish. Atypical characters, sex, sometimes shocking violence, and several surprising plot twists are all attention-grabbing, while short chapters with a shifting viewpoint add brisk pacing and genuine suspense. Patterson's storytelling talent is in top form in this grisly escapist yarn.