"Along Came A Spider" By James Patterson

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 10th grade October 2001

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"ALONG CAME A SPIDER" By James Patterson.

"Along Came a Spider" by James Patterson is an intense crime thriller. I am investigating whether furnishing Gary Soneji with two personalities contributes to the novel's dramatic ending. The novel had a slow start but turned drastically into an exciting and incredibly suspenseful.

Having read previous crime thrillers by Ian Rankin, Tom Harris and Tom Clancy, I was looking for a master of suspense with an imaginative and intellectual lead character. I found both in James Patterson's thriller "Along Came a Spider." His main character, Dr. Alex Cross, filled this role admirably.

Alex Cross is a lead detective with the Washington Police Department. He is also a very able licensed psychologist. While investigating a serious of murders, he is called out to take the lead in the investigation of the kidnap and murder of a politician's son, Michael Goldberg, and the abduction of a movie star's daughter, Maggie Rose.

It is not long before he finds out the murderer and the kidnapper are one in the same. He is called Gary Soneji. This cold-hearted man was a well respected teacher at the private school from which he kidnapped the two children. The manhunt for Gary Soneji and the search for little lost Maggie Rose and Michael Goldberg have Alex Cross teamed up with the FBI and the Secret Service. Soneji proves to be evil incarnate with a master plan and a high I.Q. The plot thickens and surprises abound, keeping interest at a high level after the first couple of chapters. James Patterson delivers what every suspense reader wants and that is a vulnerable and loveable good guy along with a loathsome, bad guy which makes enthralling reading so much so that you cannot put the book down. It is compelling reading.

"Along Came a Spider" has very well developed characters considering it's quick pace and the fact that there are more twists in the plot than a corkscrew. When the romance elements involving Alex Cross and an FBI agent (Jezzie Flanagan) become boring, James Patterson turns it around. The context of the story is believable, which is rare in a novel. Although most of the chapters are short, each of them contains a surprise in store for the reader. You are desperate to read on and find out what happened next. In chapter 4, you find out that the person who kidnapped the two children was everyone's favourite teacher who had a very relevant name, "Mr Chips". This nickname was coined as he always took part in computer competitions and was a very good computer engineer. This was a shock as Gary Soneji was the friendliest teacher around. The book contained a prologue in which the reader is reading about someone who is re-enacting the famous Lindbergh kidnapping in 1932. This is where idealism is introduced in the book with the idealistic Gary Soneji, because he is so enthralled with the Lindbergh kidnapping. The reader is told the details of this event. Finally you read that the person is wishing that he was the man who kidnapped Charles Lindbergh's son, Charles Jr. You find later that the dreamer was Gary Soneji. His grounds for kidnapping the children were that he wanted to be famous just like Bruno Richard Hauptman, who kidnapped Charles Lindbergh Jr. This is important because as you read further into the book you begin to understand the reasons why Soneji is imagining himself as the Lindbergh kidnapper. To this day this notorious crime remains unsolved.

Gary Soneji is finally caught in Chapter 42 when he snapped and held the customers in the MacDonalds fast-food restaurant hostage. He is sent to prison where psychologists are called in to see him. This is where Detective Alex Cross has his name changed to Dr Alex Cross. When he visits Soneji he is surprised, as Gary Soneji has changed his personality from an evil kidnapper to a kind, soft-spoken gentleman. The idea of Gary Soneji as a different personna goes back to Chapter 31 when we know him as Gary Murphy. He is married and has a five year old son. When Alex Cross speaks to Gary Soneji/Murphy we do not know if he is telling the truth when he says that he does not remember kidnapping Maggie Rose and Michael Goldberg. It is hard to believe that he could not remember kidnapping the two children, but he passes a lie detector test and it remains an unsolved mystery. My question "Does furnishing Gary Soneji with two personalities give the novel a dramatic ending" has made me think more about the way James Patterson has created Gary Soneji. To me, he is an extremely well crafted character. He is also one thing many serial killers are not: smart (maybe not smart enough not to kill, but pretty intelligent) He is also hopelessly past all possibility of rehabilitation. James Patterson transforms Gary Murphy from being polite and gentle towards Alex Cross to the evil-minded Gary Soneji in an instant. Gary Murphy turns into Soneji in chapter 55.

"Why did you stop coming to see me, Alex?" Gary Murphy asked.

"They wouldn't let me see you for a while." I told him. He looked hurt. He was nibbling on his lower lip and staring down at his prison shoes. Suddenly, his face contorted and he laughed loudly.

"You know, you are one hell of an idiot." He said. "So easy to manipulate. Smart, but not smart enough." I stared at him. Shocked.

"The lights are on, but there's nobody home" he commented on the expression that must have been on my face.

I had just met Gary Soneji again.

"Caught up with reality, have we?" The terrible smirk remained across his face. The child-murderer sat before me.

"You okay?" he asked. He was mimicking my earlier concern for him.

"You feeling all right, Doctor?" "I'm great." I said.

"You don't seem okay to me. Something is wrong isn't it?" Now, he seemed deeply concerned.

"Hey, listen!" I finally raised my voice. "Back off, Soneji. How's that for reality testing?" "Wait a minute." He shook his head.

"Why are you calling me Soneji? What's going on Doctor." I watched his face and I could not believe what was going on. He'd changed again. Snap. Gary Soneji was gone.

Afterwards Murphy is hypnotised into Soneji to answer the kidnapping questions, which were being lunged at the man. This event took place at the court case to decide Gary's guilt. The quotation above is successful in showing how expert Gary Soneji is, at unexpectedly changing personalities. The ending of "Along Came a Spider" is dramatic because of the multiple personalities. Gary Murphy's theatrical change into the malevolent Soneji, decides his fate. In a way, you don't really know if Gary Soneji/Murphy is innocent or a lying coward. It is as much an enigma as the real kidnapping that he is trying to emulate.

Alex Cross becomes emotionally involved with the kidnapped children in Chapter 12.

"My sleep was restless and agitated the first night of the kidnapping. In my dreams, I replayed several bad scenes at the school. I saw Maggie Rose and Michael Goldberg again and again. I could picture both of their sad eyes staring out at me, asking for help, getting none from me." After this point Alex Cross gets more enthralled with the case. He becomes more protective with his own two children, Damon and Janelle. As a result of this Alex has more motivation to catch Gary Soneji/Murphy and find Maggie Rose and Michael Goldberg. I feel great sympathy for Alex because as the book reaches the end, his life is in mortal danger. His children and his mother are placed in a dangerous situation.

Gary Soneji/Murphy has an unfortunate background. As a child he was locked inside a cellar by his mother and father. The way he was brought up has to be the key reason for his actions. In Chapter 32 Soneji/Murphy tells Alex Cross "Why should I have had to live a life in the cellar while two little rich kids like Maggie Rose and Michael Goldberg get anything they ask?" This explains Soneji/Murphy's actions. Or does it? Gary Murphy lives a happy married life with three children. So why should he have reason to kidnap two rich children. I think that Gary Soneji/Murphy is driven by idealism because he sees kidnapping Maggie Rose and Michael Goldberg as a dream come true due to his obsession with the Lindbergh kidnapping. Some people would sympathise with him but others, like Alex Cross, would do anything possible to throw Gary Soneji/Murphy off the Earth.

The character I feel sorry for the most has to be Gary Murphy's wife, Missy. She does not suspect a thing or even think that Gary Murphy has a "split personality" she is unaware of the persona Gary Soneji. From her first appearance until the end of the book, she stands up for her husband whom she believes is an "ordinary family man" She is determined to save her marriage with Murphy despite money problems. When the police knock on the door of her house looking for Murphy, she feels embarrassed by her defence of her husband who has been charged with murder.

Gary Soneji/Murphy is involved in different suspenseful moments towards the end of the novel. The suspense creates tension between Gary and Alex Cross. The first of the two climaxes is when Detective Alex Cross goes home from work and finds that his two children Damon and Janelle are missing. He looks all over his house and finds Gary standing in the cellar with his two children. Suddenly, Gary pounces at Alex, tackles him to the ground with a knife and stabs him in the shoulder. In response Alex grabbed a pair of scissors which were lying on Janelle's paper doll house and lashed out at Gary cutting the flesh of his cheeks. After being badly hurt, Gary ran out of the house. This was the first real dramatic climax in the book. The second and biggest climax was where the two men finally met for the last time. Despite Alex being injured, he followed the trail of Gary's blood to the White House. Gary was holding two twelve year old children, who were walking to school, with an automatic weapon - charged. The SWAT team were at the scene as Alex Cross decided to talk to Gary himself. Alex was walking closer and closer to Gary when a gun shot rang out behind him and hit Gary Soneji/Murphy who flew back and landed on the pavement. Alex ran across to him shouting "Don't shoot". Gary lay in a crumpled heap on the pavement. As Alex turned his body over Gary's eyes suddenly opened. He whispered in a quiet voice "Help me, Dr. Cross. Please help me." Alex responded "Who are you?" "I'm Gary"¦. Gary Murphy." He said.

This was an ideal ending to the book as James Patterson has succeeded in giving Gary Soneji/Murphy two personalities as by doing this, he creates suspense and a dramatic ending, which adds depth to the story.