Tuesday, December 1, 2009

31. Alex Cross's Trial by James Patterson and Richard Dilallo

I placed a request for this book at my library after coming across the title somewhere. As previously mentioned, I enjoy James Patterson and his Alex Cross series especially. There were a lot of people in line ahead of me, so I didn't think I would be able to read this one for a couple of months. But I got the call, and so here I am with another James Patterson response.

Alex Cross tells the incredible story -- passed down through the generations -- of an ancestor's courageous fight for freedom.

Separated by time.
From his grandmother, Alex Cross heard the story of his great-uncle Abraham and his struggles for survival in the era of the Ku Klux Klan. Now Alex passes the family tale along to his own children in a book he's written -- a novel called Trial.

Connected by blood.
A lawyer in early-1900s Washington, D.C., Ben Corbett fights against oppression and racism -- and risks his family and his life in the process. When President Theodore Roosevelt asks Ben to return to his hometown to investigate rumors of the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan there, he cannot refuse.

United by bravery.
In Eudora, Mississippi, Ben meets the wise Abraham Cross and his beautiful daughter, Moody. With their help, Ben discovers that lynchings have become commonplace. Ben vows to break the reign of terror -- but the truth of who is really behind it may break his heart. Written in the fearless voice of Detective Alex Cross, Alex Cross's Trial is a gripping story of murder, love, and unparalleled bravery.

Plot summary courtesy of jamespatterson.com.

I didn't know anything about the plot before I picked up the book and read the book jacket. Based on the title alone, I thought Alex Cross's Trial would be about Alex Cross being put on trial (right? and that sounded good to me). But no, this is really a book called Trial by Alex Cross. Okay, got it. My first reaction? Alex Cross and James Patterson have remarkably similar writing styles. I have a feeling that Patterson had this story in mind and the use of the Alex Cross name was just a way to guarantee book sales. He certainly got me, although I almost always go to the library first and bookstore second. There really wasn't any other good reason for the Alex Cross angle. Patterson could have cut back and forth between scenes of Alex writing and his chapters or included a chapter at the beginning and end showing Alex decide to write and finish up. Instead, there was a short introduction from Alex explaining why he wanted to write the story. Take that page out, and the book can stand by itself. Don't get me wrong, this doesn't take away from the book. It's just funny to me that Patterson even bothered with the pretense of Alex Cross as the author.

I highly recommend this book. It was a good read with a good message, although it's not a mystery per se (as I was expecting). However, you might want to skip this one if you're squeamish. Patterson really didn't shy away from the grotesque in this book. There are graphic descriptions of lynchings and corpses, as well as ugly instances of discrimination. It serves its purpose of awareness, but is fairly disturbing. The only complaint that I have is pretty minor -- I thought that Patterson/Cross didn't really follow through on the problems that Ben was having with his wife; after setting up a marital crossroads of sorts, the book ended as soon as Ben returned home from his trip south to his wife's apparently waiting arms. I would have liked to see them begin to address their differences.

Actually, I do have one more complaint. In the plot summary above, Moody is mistakenly identified as Abraham's daughter when in fact she is his granddaughter. Let's get some fact-checking on that website, Patterson!

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