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When two children are kidnapped from an elite private school, Washington DC detective Alex Cross is assigned to the case. The kids had Secret Service protection, but that didn't stop their teacher from snatching them.
Gary Soneji is a murderer masquerading as a favorite instructor. He fosters dreams of being the most feared serial killer of all time. For his command performance he kidnaps the daughter of a Hollywood star and the son of a powerful politician.
Along Came a Spider chronicles the developments of Soneji and the missing children. This novel also marks the introduction of no-nonsense cop/psychologist Alex Cross in Patterson's breakthrough series.
All the author's trademarks are present including heinous crime scenes and stunning story developments delivered in short chapters. Cross even has a forbidden love affair with a beautiful FBI agent.
Most of the suspense is derived from the interaction between Cross and Soneji. Patterson pins good versus evil in such a way that readers will be shocked when they learn the truth.
Patterson's well-developed introduction of the much-loved black detective is quite impressive. Alex Cross is a family man who can kick criminal butt when needed. He curses a lot and is angrier here than in later series installments.
Along Came a Spider is a great novel for any suspense-starved reader. The series debut is a great way to meet Alex Cross. You don't have to read the series in order to follow along, though it may spoil some surprising developments if you don't do so.
If you like detective novels, give James Patterson's work a try. The stories are suspenseful without being complicated. His short chapters make for quick reading and there's always a shocker at the end.