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Home > Diversions
Too much of a good thing

Bikram Vohra / 18 November 2011

Can you have too much of a good thing? Fans of James Patterson would probably say, no, just bring it on. Remember Dan Brown? He started right up there at the top, an instant mega-success, then the enthusiasm in the reader simply flip-flopped and we were into fatigue mode with the theme’s variance being so light you felt you had read this before.

Well, Kill Alex Cross, kind of waffles on in much the same vein, providing the reader very cold comfort. Although Cross has become legendary as a fictional hero to a vast number of the Patterson fan club, this one has a broken wing. In a scenario where the President’s children are kidnapped in the most unconvincing way (from school, through a vent… where was the Secret Service?), the search is clumsy and too much time and pages are exhausted in sub-plots that end up in cul-de-sacs that you begin to feel oh, get them already, they’re out there, somewhere. The agony of the First Couple is poorly presented and the whole alphabet soup of US Intelligence is like tinned clam chowder… and tasteless and dull witted.

Patterson always makes for a good plane read. But this is one book you might put down and pick up the crossword instead. It does finally make a valiant attempt to pick up slack about three quarters into the book but by then you are only reading it because it is there and because you are reading it... if you get the drift. Even Nana who is now nearing a hundred is not much fun and the Cross household fails to entice warmth or affection as it usually does, in spite of the arrival of a homeless girl who goes through the paces from petulance to perfection on a predictable timetable. There is also a pastiche of emotions used to create this ‘terrorist’ family and make them an alter ego for the Cross homestead. Everybody is not bad. Where have we heard that before?

In the interim there is also some foiled bid to contaminate the city water supply and this is avoided at the last moment.

What is probably happening is that Patterson is finding it tough to create new plots. How many times can you pull out your hero to solve kidnappings, threats to the US from terror attacks, dirty bombs and the likes? This is one of the single largest reasons why top-selling authors are losing their hold: they all have begun to sound like they are rehashing each other’s material.

The big twist here is that Alex, dear Alex, hero of a dozen novels and buddy of the President is actually a suspect in the kidnapping and has enemies in high places determined to get him (and at times, you wish they would), which kind of gives you a fair concept of how desperately thin the plot is and maybe it is time to let Cross leave for the farm, having had 18 novels centred on his derring-do.

Physically, the book has that thickness like you have got your money’s worth but the big print trick with spacing between paragraphs that chews up most of the pages does give you a jolt when you find you have reached page 100 in twenty five minutes. On Kindle, it would clearly dwindle. Did I just say that?

Die-hard Cross lovers will probably loathe this review and put it to sour grapes. So be it. They are certain to find enough virtue in the book because they won’t see beyond the author and if you aren’t particularly picky about your reading habits, the well-paced, easy to read, been-there-read-that intimacy will survive. And suffice.


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