Written by James Patterson
Grand Central Publishing, 2001; 502 pages
First published 1993
Along Came a Spider is the first book in James Patterson's long-running series about Washington DC police detective Alex Cross. It's a deliciously frightening and complicated tale in which a serial kidnapper/killer snatches the daughter of a famous Hollywood actress and the young son of the secretary of the Treasury.
Gary Soneji (no spoiler -- we learn pretty early on who's doing the snatching) believes he can commit the crime of the century, and is inspired by the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby back in 1932. Alex Cross isn't happy about being diverted from the case he's working on, involving the murder of two African-American women and an infant; but the DC police department knows they need to put their best cop on the high-profile kidnapping case. And that means Cross is getting reassigned.
As I said, it's a complicated plot, involving lots of twists and turns. Along the way, Cross gets involved with beautiful Secret Service agent, Jezzie Flanagan -- against his grandmother's advice and his better judgment -- and puts his own life, along with that of his partner John Sampson, in jeopardy before the mayhem comes to an end.
I loved the way Cross was presented -- a good man, and a good cop, but not a paragon; he's compassionate and intelligent, but definitely has his flaws. This was my introduction to James Patterson's writing -- somehow, I managed to avoid reading any of his books over the years. But I'd enjoyed the movies with Morgan Freeman as Alex Cross, so I decided to take a look at the novels. Read this one last August at the beach, and it was a perfect beach read; but it would be a fun read no matter where or when. This one really does deserve the "thriller" label.