Review of ~ James Patterson – Cross Country (Alex Cross #14)



Hello again Alex Cross. I saw this book in a charity shop yesterday and the hardback edition cost me a measly 33 pence. I was left unsure on the Patterson/ Cross dynamic after Kill Alex Cross but the fact I read this thoroughly in 24 hours in front of the other 400 books I have to read must say something for how much I have enjoyed how these novels are created and presented.

Recently, in the story – the superstar Alex Cross has been working as a psychologist more so than as a intense deductive detective on the homicide team. Yet, he witnesses the aftermath of a crime which I can say (and I love grim and brutal as much as the next person) is pretty damn horrible. Whole families are killed, chopped up, decapitated and body parts of 6 year old children are then piled up for the investigators to well, figure out what they hell has happened. Like a bloody and macabre game of Jenga. One of the families who have been horrifically decimated and decapitated include Alex’s ex-girlfriend and potential first love Ellie Cox/ Randall. Alex has never seen a crime this grotesque and has never been emotionally as involved as he is here… when he studies the aftermath of the grimmest scenes you can portray – he witnesses a picture of the two of them together on her bookcase from many moons ago. Sentimental. But sentiments and using your heart over your brain can get you in to a world of trouble.

The antagonist is a 6”6′ 250 lbs killer who believes in life that if you lose, you die. He has been the kingpin and the lynchpin of a group of Nigerian killers. What makes it so horrific is that these killers are very often under the age of 12 but have no restraints, no fears and will cut a child to pieces for no reason whatsoever apart from the fact that is the orders they are given. They frequent in gangs of often dozens for the darkest actions you can predict with no regrets and no cares. If you are weak of heart or don’t like what we would consider as needless violence then maybe this is not for you. If a target is presented, chances are everyone in obliterated. Including bairns, animals and the innocent (after they are normally raped – anyone over 6 at least) ladies.

I do not want to say too much of the tale. Essentially, Alex follows the antagonist ‘The Tiger’ all over Africa to make him pay for his crimes but Alex soon realises that Africa, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Darfur are a metaphorical beast that he has never come across and makes him question how horrified he has been by past cases when the actions that are happening here are so so so much worse. He gets his nose broken a lot, gets tortured, meets a nice reporter who he sort of falls for.

Some of the vileness is quite upsetting. A few examples, we hear about a girl who got fucked with a spade, a girl who was raped after she was killed which Alex helplessy has to witness, families who collect wood for warmth but more often than not that equals a death sentence. This is dark, I will not deny it. Like the other A. Cross books I have read, relationships with children take the forefront of the presentation on the novel. The stories thus far that I have read, the children have been the victims (kidnapped and such, perhaps murdered), but here they are also the perpetrators. We see both sides of what certain socialisation can do to effect the youth so differently.

A few things I analysed when reading this is that Patterson makes a point of presenting scenes with sizes of the rooms, buildings and dynamics. I think this device was used to create the view that whatever cabin, hut or castle you are living in, you are not safe from the ongoing tragedy of a potential Nigerian civil war (or could this be a world war?) . I thought it was an interesting perspective and I have to admit. When we met say, Senior X with money and power who lived in a house that was 5000 x 5000 we thought he would perhaps get away from the brutality of a murdered family. Alas.

He uses two devices does our (heartless but talented) director of words. 80% of the book follows Alex in a first person perspective. Even though I didn’t care much for Kill Alex Cross, I loved the character of Alex. He is so well created, invented and portrayed. The other 20% is third person, which is sometimes weird in the way it quickly switches. These scenes highlight the actions of the killers and also Alex’s Girlfriend Bree and his policeman sidekick. This all happens whilst Alex is suffering all sorts of dynamic degradation in Africa. Yet through these we get to know what is happening elsewhere before say – Alex calls his girlfriend Bree again or meets the Tiger. We, as readers are essentially one up on the knowledge that Alex has.

To finish. I never read reviews before reading a book as I know it is simple for our mind to be swayed by other peoples viewpoints. Before I pressed the post button I had a quick analysis over this book and people are negative of this tale and I can’t really see why. I guess for keyboard cowboys – people are more happy to post negative viewpoints than to give praise when it is due. – When these people become the best selling thriller writer of all time. I might listen to their opinions. Until then, I will take it as I see it and enjoy it as much as I can.

Detective James Lafayette Tivendale – just back from Africa. Thank you for reading.


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