Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Book review - Merry Christmas Alex Cross

Merry Christmas Alex Cross – James Patterson           
After being underwhelmed by the last three books I have read, all of which had received positive reviews, I started to think I was in a bit of a funk with my reading. Was I reading too much? Had I just saturated myself with the amount I was reading? Or was it merely the fact I didn’t not enjoy the books as much as others had?
Whenever I feel like that, the only solution is to fall back on one of my favourite authors and read a story that you know you are going to enjoy. James Patterson is that man and his new Alex Cross novel has been released at just the right time.
The blurb:
It's Christmas Eve and Detective Alex Cross has been called out to catch someone who's robbing his church's poor box. That mission behind him, Alex returns home to celebrate with Bree, Nana, and his children. The tree decorating is barely underway before his phone rings again--a horrific hostage situation is quickly spiraling out of control. Away from his own family on the most precious of days, Alex calls upon every ounce of his training, creativity, and daring to save another family. Alex risks everything--and he may not make it back alive on this most sacred of family days.
Going into this book, I was aware that James Patterson was releasing another Alex Cross novel in April. I expected this book to be short and boy is it. I read it in less than a day, in a couple of hours in fact, which is fast even for a James Patterson book.
The good news is that it is a terrific read. In my previous reviews, I stated that the series was crying out for a change to shake up the characters. Instead, James Patterson has gone in a new direction with this novel and stripped everything back to a good old fashion story.
“Merry Christmas Alex Cross,” is essentially two stories in one, told over the Christmas period. The other problem with the series is that Alex Cross has become so well known by the public that each new book contains a villain more uber-powerful than the last and the situations he encounters are now global emergencies rather than local issues. That is why the first of the stories in “MCAC” is so refreshing. It deals with a local man that has gone insane and is holding his ex-wife and family hostage on Christmas Eve.
Alex is drafted away from his family to help and Patterson does a terrific job of portraying the tension in the scene as Alex is called upon to negotiate their freedom. The villain is plausible. The reasons behind his rash actions make sense and the terrible situation is really brought to the fore.
What is also nice is the reaction of Alex’s family to his need to respond to the crisis. Normally his home life is serene and sanguine. The love they have for each other is always over the top that it feels stupid sometimes. This time his family are irritated over their father’s decision to leave them and you actually feel sorry for Alex and question his judgement. It is a nice touch as normally Alex is presented as the flawless hero.
The second scenario is more familiar to regular readers. This involves a terrorist cell attacking Union Station. Alex is called into action but only as a bit part player to begin with. Again, this is nice to see. The story is engrossing, and the antagonists feel real rather than cartoon like.
James Patterson also manages to do something that he hasn’t managed to achieve in many books and that is to genuinely shock me. His brutal description is spot on and I can honestly say he really moved me in one scene.
Both stories are concluded well. Hopefully they will have repercussions going forward on Alex and his family, but that remains to be seen.
With such a short read the depth of character might not be there but after 19 books it could be argued that it does not need to be. This is a classic example of how a short book can be excellent. In short  - a great addition to the series.
My rating: 9.2