Thursday, November 18, 2010

Book Review: Along Came a Spider

Last summer I flew out to Colombia, Missouri for the 21st North American Symbiotic Nitrogen Fixation Conference.[1] It was hosted by Gary Stacey at the University of Missouri. While on the plane, I glanced through the magazine that was stuffed into the pocket on the back of the seat in front of me, along side a Sky Mall and a barf bag. One of the articles caught my eye. It was about an author, named James Patterson, who holds the World Record for most hardback bestselling novels.[2] This intrigued me since I'd never even heard of him. So I made a note to read his first novel, Along Came a Spider.

The characters are rather flat and alternately uninteresting and unbelievable. The courtroom scenes were a bit hard to swallow. Either Patterson wanted the trial to go a certain way, reality be hanged, or he actually has no idea what an attorney would and wouldn't object to during a trial. And the villain seemed patterned after Hannibal Lecter, only with a higher kill count. At least Patterson was smart enough not to make him a cannibal—that would've been too obvious.

Patterson's writing is rather like Dan Brown's, but without the avalanche of facts and opinions-presented-as-facts.[3] In fact, he was pretentious enough to include the line, "The plot thickened and thickened."[4] This was said in repsonse to a new plot twist, of which there are a few. But I guessed most of them in advance. It's hard for me to know if that's because it's poorly written or because I do some writing myself, so I know the tricks. The prose is a little hokey, at times, but not as awful as some reviewers claim.[5]

My verdict: If you're bothered by profanity, definitely avoid this novel because there's a lot. If you like fast-paced psychological thrillers with plot twists, you might enjoy this one. Personally, I wasn't hooked enough to feel like I need to read any more of Patterson's books. But time will tell.


[1] If you'd like to know what nitrogen fixation is, see my post What Is It That Matt Does, Anyway?

[3] But he's a step above John Grisham, whose writing really is quite simplistic.

[4] Patterson, James. (1993) Along Came a Spider. New York, NY: Warner Books, Inc., (paperback) ISBN 0-446-36419-3, p. 421.


  1. In other words, the movie was better?

  2. I haven't seen the movie. And after reading the book I'm disinclined to do so.