Tuesday, June 21, 2011

CBR-III: Book #20-36

Uhhhhh. I’ve been debating for the last hour about how to actually write this. Much like when I did the Women’s Murder Club; I’m about to attack an entire series. Sixteen books…to be exact. I suppose I should start this, ideally, by saying that there will likely be plenty of spoilers. Not because I want to spoil anything for you, rather, it will kind of be hard not to. The series? James Patterson’s Alex Cross series. Along Came a Spider, Kiss the Girls, Jack & Jill, Cat & Mouse, Pop Goes the Weasel, Roses Are Red, Violets Are Blue, Four Blind Mice, The Big Bad Wolf, London Bridges, (Mary, Mary), Cross, Double Cross, Cross Country, (I, Alex Cross), and Alex Cross's Trial. I was actually finishing I, Alex Cross at the bar last night and every time someone asked me what I was reading I would respond with, “The next to last book in the Alex Cross series.”
Naturally, they would give me a confused look. My next response was, “Have you ever seen Kiss the Girls with Morgan Freeman and Ashley Judd? How about Along Came a Spider with Morgan Freeman.”
“Oh! Yeah!”
“Yeah. Freeman plays Alex Cross. Those films were based on the first two books in the series.”
I guess I can start by saying that, once again, Hollywood fucked up. They fucked up first by doing the films out of sequence. As listed above, Along Came a Spider should have been the first film. Also, while I love Morgan Freeman, he was entirely miscast as Cross. Did he have the wisdom/personality that Cross carries with him? Somewhat. Well, let me describe Alex Cross and maybe you’ll understand.

Dr. Alex Cross, the Dragon Slayer, homicide detective in Washington, D.C. He grew up poor. Raised by his grandmother, Nana Mama, from a young age. Nana Mama was a teacher, stands five feet tall, and has more authority in Cross’s life than anyone else. She’s the ruler of her house and she rules it with an iron fist (Alex still lives with her in the same house he grew up in). She’s also supposed to be an amazing cook and extremely cultured and knowledgeable. Coming up with him since childhood is his on again-off again partner, Detective John Sampson, the Man Mountain. Sampson himself stands 6’9” and weighs around 245lbs. Even he is afraid of Nana Mama. He has a habit of calling Cross, “Sugar.“ Cross himself is 6’3” and weighs around 200lbs. He is often described as looking like a young Muhammad Ali. Before becoming a cop he went to college and got his PH.D. in Psychology. He is, currently, the father of three children: Damon, Janelle, and Alex Jr. He has also been widowed and recently remarried. In the first books he would be in his late 30’s/early 40’s and by the last book he is in his mid-to-late 40’s. Hence why the 60 year old Morgan Freeman wasn’t a very good choice. In many ways the boxing trained, piano playing, Cross, relies on his power and athletic abilities. He also plays heavily on his charm. Even though he is supposed to appear relatively modest he is constantly being hit on by women…and hits on them back. The only thing I would say that has become considerably annoying with Cross is repetition.
In every book he “realizes” that he needs to be there more for his kids. In every book he “realizes” that his job is too dangerous. In every book he “realizes” that he doesn’t want to answer the phone. In every book he “realizes” that he is not giving his relationships enough attention. In every book he “realizes” that he doesn’t know if he wants to be a cop anymore. Get my point? The repetition is annoying. By the end of the third book I wanted to punch him in the face.
It’s not just in his mind though…Cross is repetitious elsewhere…particularly with the ladies.

Cross is a hopeless romantic. He wants to find love, desperately. His children want him to also. In fact, every single fucking woman he brings home they love and want him to marry. For real. Also, despite his romantic nature and general sense of “I suck” that he seems to portray, he constantly has a lady friend. Not only that, but every single one is either the most beautiful woman he has ever seen, or the smartest, or both. For a guy that would certainly consider himself to be a romantic loser…he sure has no problem getting the ladies. The dude never strikes out. Ever. If only those ladies knew that dating him would basically be a death wish. I feel the need to take you down the Cross lady tree. Let’s begin.
Ellie Randall/Cox: while you technically aren’t introduced to her until Cross Country I felt the need to throw her in here first. She dated Cross in his academic days. Oh yeah…she gets murdered.
Maria Simpson Cross: His wife. Mother of two of his children. Murdered.
Jezzie Flanigan: An FBI agent…who wasn’t what she seemed. They did some love making. Executed.
Christine Johnson: The principal at Damon and Janelle’s school. They get it on…he wants to propose to her…she gets kidnapped by a serial killer and disappears for around a year. During that disappearance she has Alex Jr. She comes back pretty fucked up.
Betsey Cavalierre: Worked with Cross. They get it on. Murdered.
Jamilla Hughes: A detective on the West Coast. They date for a little while and break up because they can’t do the long distance relationship. She’s a lucky one!
Kayla Coles: A doctor who treated patients door to door. He was technically still dating Jamilla when he started flirting with the good doctor. During their relationship she is almost murdered by a crackhead. In the aftermath she moves back home to North Carolina. Does he fight for her, try to stick it out? No. He’ll date a woman that lives across the country from him, but he won’t go after one that lives 4-5 hours away.
Bree: A fellow detective with the MPD. He’s actually married to her now.
Adanne Tansi: While technically still dating Bree, cross traveled to Africa in Cross Country. While he never had sex with her they did become quite intimate and even sleep in the same bed together a few times. She was tortured, murdered, and then raped.
The ladies sure know how to pick em. I pretty sure that if I was Cross I would never date…ever.
Don’t forget his nieces. Naomi Cross (kidnapped) and Caroline Cross (murdered).

The killers.
I think I mentioned when I reviewed the Women’s Murder Club that I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to face serial killers…all the fucking time. I also didn’t see how it was realistic. Oh, sure, I understand that Alex Cross is the Dragon Slayer. He’s the dude that fucks up serious criminals. He always gets his man. But…he’s a fucking cop. Sure, for like a three book stretch there (from The Big Bad Wolf to Cross) he’s no longer a detective but works for the FBI. I also understand that he “helps” the FBI in some cases when he is a detective (and that little stint as a psychologist when he still worked for the FBI and MPD as a consultant). No dude goes after what appears to be every fucking serial killer. From East Coast to West Coast and everything in the middle.

He’s a detective, Patterson. Why don’t you, I don’t know, have him solve multiple, individual, murders in his city? You know, instead of spending a whole entire book where he tracks down another serial killer (in some cases, fair enough, you’ve had him go after numerous serial killers in the same book…at the same time.). I mean, a quick search on the internet just pulled up that almost 200 people are murdered a year in D.C. I’ll get off my soapbox though.

There are three notorious killers in the Alex Cross series; The Mastermind (Kyle Craig), Weasel (Geoffrey Shafer), and Gary Soneji. These are the only killers to have a multiple book arch. The longest running would be The Mastermind…what with Kyle Craig actually making his appearance in the second book of the series and currently still going. Two of them, The Mastermind and Gary Soneji, even escape prison to come after Cross again (although it takes The Mastermind 5 books to do so).

Some other little things of note that I found interesting?

In the book Cross Country the villain goes by the name of Tiger. Tiger is listed as being 6’6” and 250lbs. In other words he’s almost the same size as Sampson…in fact, he’s just 3 inches shorter. Yet, even with them being in the same vicinity of each other, Patterson neglects to give us a brawl. Damn’t. I was waiting the entire novel for that fight to happen. Way to disappoint.

"The great jazzman Hilton Fenton came over to our table and told us a funny story about the actor Morgan Freeman." -Cross
"Or maybe some choice line of Morgan Freeman's from The Bucket List." -I, Alex Cross

If he mentions Morgan Freeman more than that I didn’t realize it. I tried to take a note every time his name was mentioned, but I read some of these books, while drinking, to the point that I got double vision.

"Tom Clancy had mentioned the bar in Patriot Games, but in the novel he said there was a picture of George Patton on the wall, which upset the bar's regulars, especially since Clancy had made a career out of being in the know. The Command Post was a Marine's bar, not Army." -The Big Bad Wolf (which is after Four Blind Mice).

Was that a burn? It feels like a burn to me. That you would pick out a singular offence like this and call it out in your book. Not to mention it wasn’t some huge error…it was a picture hanging on the wall in a bar. Now, the reason why I made a note of Four Blind Mice to go along with that quote is this. In Four Blind Mice Cross is on the trail of a group of killers. The killers like to hang out in a cabin in the woods, where they have nice games (where people can’t be heard screaming), and where they go hunting. That place was Kennesaw Mountain in Kennesaw, GA. I live about twenty minutes away from Kennesaw Mountain. It’s a State Park…which means there is no hunting. It is surrounded by roads…think of it like an island. Surrounding the park are sub-divisions and smaller roads that are lined with houses. In other words…there are no rural areas of Kennesaw Mountain where someone can hunt and no one can hear you scream. Kennesaw itself is a college town. So, Patterson, before you go insulting someone about a little error about a picture in a bar…maybe you should make sure that on of your major plot settings is…I don’t know…actually feasible.

I waited to discuss Alex Cross’s Trial until the end because it is kind of a stand alone book. It’s supposed to be written for you to believe that Cross himself is writing it. The story follows Ben Corbett (6‘4“ height always seems to play a role in the Cross series), an often times pro-bono lawyer who specializes with trials regarding racism. He is tasked by President Roosevelt to go to Mississippi (Ben’s hometown) to see if an overwhelming number of hangings were occurring (as he'd been hearing). There he is told to find Abraham Cross (Cross's 6'7" great-uncle) to aid him in his task. I think I liked this story the best because of the time period; otherwise it’s like every other Cross story. All the women want Ben but he’s got a wife and two kids back home that he really loves. Basically replace Cross with Ben…they’re pretty much identical. Except Ben is white.

So that’s the Alex Cross series in a nutshell. If you actually finished this entire review…I salute you. The books aren’t bad, honestly. I could read one in about 4 hours. I have no doubt that they would make for an excellent vacation/airplane read.

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