Along Came a Spider
(1993) is the first book in the Alex Cross
crime thriller series by James Patterson. Cross is a psychologist and detective working with the FBI to hunt serial killers, kidnappers, and other dangerous criminals. Currently, Patterson has written nearly thirty books starring Cross, and the series is ongoing. Several of the titles have been adapted into films, including Along Came a Spider
and Kiss the Girls
. A prolific author of fiction for children and adults, Patterson holds the Guinness World Record for the most New York Times
Alex Cross and his partner, John Samson, are investigating a murder in a poor neighborhood in Washington, DC. An African-American prostitute and her two children have been killed. When they are suddenly called away to help find two children who have been kidnapped from an elite private school, Cross is angry. Himself an African-American, he resents being ordered to prioritize rich, white children over victims of color. However, he is also a widower and a father, and he empathizes with the frightened, desperate parents of the missing children.
During the investigation, Cross learns that the two children, Michael Goldberg and Maggie Rose Dunne, were kidnapped at school by Gary Soneji, a math teacher. Cross meets Jezzie Flannagan, the supervisor of the children’s security team, and they begin dating. Despite the bad timing of their relationship and the pressure building around the case, they find themselves falling in love.
The kidnappers chose Cross to deliver the ransom money, but the exchange fails. Cross is then the target of criticism when Michael is found dead and Maggie Rose disappears. Soneji later murders a teacher, and as Cross investigates the mutilated body, he realizes that Soneji is responsible for killing the prostitute and her children, as well as several other murders in the poor neighborhood.
The FBI arrests Soneji as he holds several people hostage in a McDonalds, and Cross questions him to find out where Maggie Rose is being hidden. Cross hypnotizes Soneji, finding that he actually has two personalities: Gary Murphy (a gentle, devoted husband and father) and Gary Soneji (the remorseless sociopath). Soneji hints that someone has been following him and knew about the kidnapping.
Cross suspects several members of the security team, and upon investigation, learns that Jezzie is behind everything. When he confronts her, she tells him that she and her team were collaborating with Soneji for the ransom money, but they never intended to harm the children. Michael died accidentally, so Maggie Rose was sent to live with a family in South America for safekeeping. Above all, she insists that she truly does love Cross. She and her accomplices are arrested.
Meanwhile, Soneji escapes from prison and attacks Cross at home. Cross defends his children and chases Soneji across the city. Samson arrives in time to shoot Soneji to stop him from killing Cross. Soneji is sent to a mental institution, and Jezzie and her accomplices are executed for their crimes.
Throughout the series, Cross is always at odds with his work and the frequency with which it puts his family in danger. He is also typically unlucky in love, but he remains devoted to his family and his community. In fact, he refuses to move out of the poor Southeast quadrant of Washington, DC despite the fact that he makes more than enough money to do so.
Cross's wife, Maria, was murdered prior to the start of the series, and he has long been chasing her killer. In the 2006 novel Cross
, he finds that he has been chasing the wrong person all this time. The real culprit is a man named Jimmy Hats, who was killed before. Cross finally makes peace with Maria's death and decides to move on with his life.
In the 2007 novel Double Cross,
Cross falls in love with Bree Stone, a fellow detective, while helping her catch the DC Audience Killer. They are married in the 2009 novel I, Alex Cross,
after hunting down the killer responsible for the death of Cross's niece. Although their relationship is strained at times, Cross and Bree love each other and sometimes work together on cases.
The primary villain of the series is Kyle Craig, "The Mastermind." Craig is first seen in the 1995 book Kiss the Girls
, but becomes the main antagonist by the 2000 novel, Roses Are Red
. He is typically threatening or taunting Cross and his family in the novels. Sometimes, he even gives Cross hints to help him solve his cases.
Bree succeeds in wounding Craig in Double Cross
, but he returns in the 2010 novel Cross Fire
after assuming the identity of a dead plastic surgeon. Cross and Bree battle with Craig, and once defeated, Craig kills himself rather than be forced to go back to prison. This brings a great deal of closure and peace to the Cross family, although Cross's work catching murderers persists and new threats continue to present themselves.