Book Review: Along Came a Spider by James Patterson

Posted June 22, 2015 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 13 Comments

Book Review: Along Came a Spider by James Patterson

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Along Came a Spider by James Patterson
Genres: Thriller
Published by Grand Central Publishing on August 1, 2003
Pages: 435
Format: Hardcover
Source: the library

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A missing little girl named Maggie Rose . . . a family of three brutally murdered in the projects of Washington, D.C. . . . the thrill-killing of a beautiful elementary school teacher . . . a psychopathic serial kidnapper/murderer who is so terrifying that the FBI, the Secret Service, and the police cannot outsmart him - even after he's been captured.

Gary Soneji wants to commit the crime of the century. Alex Cross is the brilliant homicide detective pitted against him. Jezzie Flanagan is the first female supervisor of the Secret Service who completes one of the most unusual suspense triangles in any thriller you have ever read.

Alex Cross and Jezzie Flanagan are about to have a forbidden love affair — at the worst possible time for both of them. Because Gary Soneji is playing at the top of his game. The latest of the unspeakable crimes happens in Alex Cross's precinct. It happens under the noses of Jezzie Flanagan's men. Now Alex Cross must face the ultimate test: How do you outmaneuver a brilliant psychopath?

Also by this author: Jack & Jill

First in the Alex Cross thriller series and revolving around Alex, a Washington D.C. detective with a background in psychology.

My Take

This is one of the few stories in which the movie adaptation is better. It wasn’t until almost the end that Along Came a Spider started to more closely resemble the movie. Yeah, I usually hate it when a movie leaves out so much of the book, but in this case, Patterson (or his editors) should have tightened this up. I do wish they’d left the main characters alone, as much as I adore Morgan Freeman. Aaand, yes, the movie adaptation was much more dramatic for the changes. Just don’t read it and think it will be the same.

I like Alex. He’s a realist and a caring single father who loves his kids, and they all live with his wise mother. She’s tolerant of Alex’s choices, but doesn’t let him get away with a thing. It helps make Alex more of a real person and pulls me in. And, yes, I suspect all this background is what helps make Along Came a Spider so much longer.

It’s an interesting start, one of revulsion as we look into the mind of the man who truly masterminded the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby back in 1932. A mind that highly resembles Gary Soneji’s, and it’s scary how well Patterson gets inside it. I’ll never understand how people like Soneji think, how incredibly selfish he is. I know, selfish is such an inadequate word for what a horror Soneji is.

It’s almost halfway through the book before we finally get to the good parts. A horrible beginning exploration of Soneji/Murphy’s personalities that makes you question everything. I didn’t care if Soneji would get the death sentence; he deserved it. Yet, you feel for Murphy and hope he can get help. Then Patterson introduces a new angle to it. A terrifying question with which Patterson teases us.

I find it interesting that while Patterson pokes at the prejudice angle against blacks, that the true emphasis seems to be on the politics. Making everyone look good without caring about true justice. It’s not to say that Patterson doesn’t portray life in the projects, but it’s more about selfishness, jealousy, and I don’t know, paranoia? A fear of exposing one’s dirty linen?

Why is it that keeping critical information to your own agency is so “important”? If they would share what they knew, so many more crimes could be stopped. What is it with human nature that the agent/officer/detective who arrests the perpetrator is the one recognized? Why don’t they recognize everyone who had crucial input?? Arghhh.

The Story

It was that article. Alex thinks it was the title that drove the upper echelon nuts … “The Last Southern Gentleman” …

While Alex sympathizes with the kidnapped children’s parents, he’s angry that the police, the FBI, the Secret Service, and everyone else are ignoring little Mustaf’s murder.

Meanwhile, it’s a hunt for the kidnapped children and Gary Soneji, a brilliant sociopath.

The Characters

Dr. Alex Cross is the Deputy Chief of Detectives, a homicide and major crimes detective in charge of S.I.T. with a doctorate in psychology and a skilled hostage negotiator. Nana Mama is Alex’s seventy-nine-year-old grandmother, Regina Hope, who still does volunteer work after she retired from being an English teacher. Maria is the wife whose death he still mourns. His children are the four-year-old Janelle and six-year-old Damon.

Washington D.C.

Washington D.C. Police Department
Officer Butchie Dykes and his partner discovered the Sanders’ crime scene. George Pittman is the chief of detectives, a real jerk who has it in for Cross, a.k.a., “The Jefe, the Boss of Bosses, Il Duce, Three Pits, George Porgie…” Lieutenant Don Manning is one of Pittman’s. Fred Cook is a failed Vice detective now working as Pittman’s administrative assistant. He really suits Pittman’s personality. Ack. Christopher Clauser is Alex and Sampson’s captain.

Special Investigator Team (S.I.T.) is…
…”supposed to be an opportunity” for its eight black officers to go on to better things. Alex is in charge. Senior Detective John-John Sampson has been Alex’s best friend since they were nine. Detective Rakeem Powell is another man on the team.

Secret Service
A workaholic, Jezzie Flanagan has a law degree and uses her motorcycle to relax. She’s also the immediate supervisor of the Secret Service agents who guard anyone not the President. She lives with her retired mother, Irene Flanagan, a killer bridge player. Dennis “the Menace” Kelleher is her bully of an ex. Victor Schmidt and Jeb Klepner are more agents. Charles “Jolly Chollie” Chakley and Mike Devine are the Secret Service agents assigned by Jezzie to protect Michael.

Agents Roger Graham, Reilly, Gerry “Digger” Scorse (Alex’s friend), Marcus Connor, Kyle Craig, and McGoey are all involved in the case. Pete Schweitzer and Todd Toohey are some of the crime scene techs. Harold Friedman is a technical officer. Special Agent Bill Thompson is from the Miami office. Kurt Weithas is a deputy, the number-two man at the Bureau.

Carl Monroe is the “jolly, hail-fellow-well-met” mayor. Don’t trust him.

Martin Bayer is a reporter with the New York Times. Joseph Denyeau was the pilot in Florida. Richard Galletta is a lawyer with the Justice department.

Maggie Rose Dunne is nine and the daughter of Katherine Rose, the movie star. Maggie’s father is Thomas Dunne, a prominent entertainment lawyer who had been heavily involved in environmental causes, is now the director of the Red Cross.

The Washington Day School in Georgetown is…
…a prestigious and very expensive school. Michael “Shrimpie” Goldberg is Maggie’s best friend, a brainiac, and the son of Secretary of the Treasury Jerrold Goldberg. Fellow students include Luisa, Jonathan, Stuart, Mary-Berry, and Brigid.

Ms. Kaminsky is the music and visual arts teacher. Mr. Guestier, a.k.a., Le Pric, teaches languages. Vivian Kim. Emmett Everett is the school porter.

Gary Soneji, a.k.a., Mr. Chips, teaches math and computer science and is the grand master of Nintendo video games — he’s also a sociopath who considers everyone not him as stupid. His alter ego is Gary Murphy, a loser who knows better than anyone for whom he works. Missy is his long-suffering wife. Roni is their daughter. Marty Kasajian is Missy’s brother and employed Gary as a favor to his sister.

Simon Conklin is a boyhood friend of Soneji’s. Anthony Nathan is Soneji’s lawyer. Federal Judge Linda Kaplan denies every defense request. Mary Warner is the prosecutor.

Jean “Poo” and her two children: fourteen-year-old Suzette and three-year-old Mustaf Sanders are murdered. Willie Mae Randall Scott had been a witness to a possible suspect; Quillie McBride is her friend. Nina Cerisier had been a Suzette’s best friend and her family were their neighbors.

Jimmy Moore runs the soup kitchen at St. A’s where Alex and Sampson volunteer. Bobbi is her new name. She frequently dreams of escape.

Salisbury P.D.
Lieutenant Edward Mahoney is in charge of the river scene.

Crisfield P.D.
Officers Artie Marshall and Chester Dils find the original holding place.

Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania
State Troopers Mick Fescoe and Bobby Hatfield were headed into McDonald’s for lunch.

Lorton Federal Prison, Virginia

Dr. Marion Campbell is the warden.

Fallston Prison

Dr. Wallace Hart is chief of psychiatry. Robert Fishenauer is a floor supervisor whose greed does him in. Laurence Volpi, Phillip Halyard, and Stephen Kessler are guards.


The Patinos are farmers.

1932, New Jersey

Charles Lindbergh and his wife, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, adore their son, Charles Jr. Bruno Richard Hauptmann is the man the real kidnapper framed.

The Cover and Title

The cover is beautiful with its sunrise of gradated purple into pink into yellow backdrop for a house that’s all lit up. It makes you wonder why the family is up this early at which point you notice the spider dangling from the “D” in “Spider”, hovering over the house. The title is huge in an embossed white font with the author’s name in an embossed yellow at the bottom. I love the series information at the top.

The title is about the execution of the plan and the most unexpected tangled web it becomes when Along Came a Spider.

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13 responses to “Book Review: Along Came a Spider by James Patterson

  1. RO

    I used to read James Patterson like crazy, then I moved on. (lol) I saw this movie, which was good,but did not read the book. Love the way you did your review. Totally awesome! Hugs…

  2. I used to love the Alex Cross books but I don’t think I’ve read one in 10 years or so. They were always great if seriously twisted! This does look like a good one so maybe it’s time to revisit Cross. I haven’t seen the movies but I’ve been tempted. It’s good to know they differ significantly from the books. If I know that going in it doesn’t bother me too much because I’m expecting essentially a completely different story!

  3. I’ve only read one of these books. It was one with “vampires”. I don’t remember the name, but it was an Alex Cross book. It was okay. I do like the movies better. I love Morgan Freeman. Great review.

    • Thanks, Melanie. Yeah, I’m curious to read more, if only because I like the Alex Cross character — both movie AND book, *grin*. Vampires, huh? Damn, now I’ll have to read more at least until I get to them, if only to figure out how they fit in with Alex Cross??

    • I’m looking forward to reading the next one, Kiss the Girls. Another Alex Cross book that got made into a movie. I’d better wait to see the movie after I read it!

  4. I read all of these in order-everyone at my work passed them around when they came out.I loved them. Along about five years ago I quit reading him.He sure can crank them out and it showed.I think I probably enjoyed this one more than you, but I am glad you enjoyed it enough to give it 4 stars 🙂

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