James Paterson, Cross The Line. Book Review.

Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating * * *

A hero can become tiresome, their continued exploits a cause for concern as the writer makes their lives more fantastic, more appealing and even if they take the most severe of beatings in the pursuit of their chosen profession, they somehow come up smelling not just of a single rose, but a whole field of red blooms.

The point sometimes is missed that a hero needs to be fallible, they need to have a weakness and whilst Alex Cross’ love for his family is undoubtedly one, it means that he has no place to go but always on the side of the angels, the go to safety net that means that he must never Cross The Line.

James Paterson is in terms of best selling detective fiction, a true hero of the genre, a man of absolute drive and one who knows how to get the best out his readers and his fellow writers, yet you can have too much of a good thing, and in Alex Cross, as the Detective gets older, the more he has to be seen to dance in the light, this is a far cry from the wonderful days of London Bridges, of the excellent Pop Goes The Weasel and the fantastic Along Came A Spider and whilst the novels still retain their allure, after all who does not want to have Washington’s finest on the book shelves, the sense of overwhelming virtue is at times detracting from what could be essentially a very superb thriller.

Cross The Line is the latest of these novels and again the idea is there, the sense of moral obligation is overpowering but it truly needs to have an adversary who can test Alex Cross, and perhaps James Paterson, on just how evil the world can be, how dark a political ideal their nation has become in recent years and whilst for many of us, America remains one of the most interesting, absorbing and beautiful of countries, its fiction, its detective writing is not following its progression in the more dangerous and seedy sides of its character.

The personification of this was always the character of Gary Sonje but of course such things become stale in the end, it might take a character of equal quality to bring Alex Cross back into the world and away from the sense of always being one of the most fortunate men around, a quality that is admirable, wholesome but one that does not reflect the anguish and turmoil facing the country.

Cross The Line doesn’t do as it suggests, it stays safe, the old adage of why people like crime fiction is that it redresses the balance, that it restores the world of order, yet sometimes, and in a writer of the calibre of James Paterson, such order sometimes has to be crossed.

Ian D. Hall