James Patterson has been one of the more versatile of best-selling authors. He seems to have written books on just about anything: detectives, doctors, dystopias, and more. Together, his books have sold over 300 million copies. If you count ebooks, that’s over 1 million copies. His works have spanned everything from serial thrillers to young adult fiction. Because of such notoriety, his works have often been developed into movies and TV series. Most notable of these adaptations have been his Alex Cross series, which was adapted into three films that have spanned from 1997 to 2012. By 2015, he received the Literarian Award from the National Book Foundation. By 2016, he was labeled by Forbes as one of the highest-paid authors out there, making $95 million from his book deals. As with most prolific authors, his bibliography is so towering. There are 27 Alex Cross books, 20 Women’s Murder Club novels, 11 entries in the Michael Bennett series, and 14 books in his Private series. With so much ground and genres to cover, it can be difficult to figure out where to start. With this in mind, consider the following list of some of Patterson’s best work as a great jumping-off point. Or, if you’ve already dabbled in a bit of Patterson’s material, take a gander at some of these novels you might have missed that absolutely essential reads of the noted author.
Along Came a Spider
Published in 1993
As the first novel of the Alex Cross series of thrillers, Along Came a Spider finds the criminal Gary Soneji seeking to accomplish one of the grandest of crimes. This doesn’t bode well for homicide detective Alex Cross and Secret Service supervisor Jezzie Flanagan finds themselves working together on a case while trying to hide their love for each other. Not only is Gary Soneji such a genius when it comes staging his crimes but he’s playing these deadly games right in Cross’s own district while outsmarting Jezzie’s men. The two will have to put their relationship on hold and their heads together as they scheme to take down the ultimate psychopath who dabbles in kidnappings and murders. The novel was adapted in a 2001 film starring Morgan Freeman and Monica Potter.
Kiss the Girls
Published in 1995
The second entry in the Alex Cross series finds the hero once more trying to solve a series of murders that is exceptionally confounding. The further he digs, the more he discovers a curious pattern in killers across the country, including the Casanova and The Gentlemen Caller. Casanova is known for targeting beautiful women for his collection of ladies he aims to rape and murder, regardless of age. The Gentlemen Caller has been murdering for quite some time, targeting couples and taking their chopped off body parts as trophies. They may even be in competition. But how can they be in contact with their kills when they’re on opposite coasts of America? It’s up to Cross to solve this layered case of serial killers on the loose before more people become victims of such vile acts. Kiss the Girls was also developed into a film, though much sooner than the first book for having a theatrical debut in 1997. The movie still starred Morgan Freeman in the role of Cross with additional actors Ashley Judd and Cary Elwes.
The People vs. Alex Cross
Published in 2017
The 25th book involving Alex Cross finds the investigator in a far different situation from his usual murder cases. He has been suspended as a detective and is now going to trial for being accused of a murder. The claim is that Cross was too trigger-happy and needlessly killed while on duty. Trying to busy himself with setting up a counseling service, Cross soon finds himself working again when his partner Sampson comes to him begging for his assistance in a new case. Cross and Sampson set off to uncover what happened to a missing blonde woman, probing into the darkest corners of the web to find the truth. The only problem this time is that Cross may risk his entire career by merely pursuing a criminal.
Published in 2013
In what has been dubbed one of Patterson’s scariest and sexiest of stand-alone thrillers, Mistress is an intense read of intrigue and paranoia. The story concerns Ben, a man with many obsessions in movies, motorcycles, and trivia. But he’s also very much interested in the lovely Diana Hotchkiss, whom he knows he can never be in a relationship with. When he learns of Diana’s dead body found outside her apartment, Ben takes it upon himself to investigate and find out what really happened to his beloved obsession. However, he might not be prepared to learn the truth as he soon discovers that Diana was not so much the innocent he envisioned her to be.
Published in 2012
As a collaboration between Patterson and Michael Ledwidge, Zoo is a thriller with a sci-fi twist of when animals rise up against humans. The young biologist Jackson Oz witnesses a slew of lion attacks in Africa that seem too calculated to be anything less than a coordinated ambush. The attacks don’t seem to be random as more violence from animals continues to spread throughout in shocking numbers. It’s up to Oz to convince world leaders that this is an issue to take seriously before it’s too late for the human race. This first entry in the Zoo book series was also adapted into a CBS TV series in 2015 starring James Wolk, Kristen Connolly, Nonso Anozie, Nora Arnezeder, and Billy Burke.
Sundays at Tiffany’s
Published in 2008
In this tale of romantic drama, Jane is a woman who grew up feeling mostly alone. Her mother was more present for her Broadway theater company than she was for her daughter. She does seek comfort in her friend Michael, even if it’s a friend that only she can see. Jane grows into her 30s and once more finds herself dealing with loneliness. It is then that Michael pops back into her life, appearing as dapper and witty as he ever was before. Yet Michael doesn’t quite know why he’s been thrust back into Jane’s life. Perhaps it is love that has drawn them back together. Sundays at Tiffany’s was made into a made-for-TV movie in 2010 on Lifetime, starring Alyssa Milano, Eric Winter, Ivan Sergei, and Stockard Channing.
Hide & Seek
Published in 1986
Maggie Bradford was one of the hottest celebrities of the moment, being a stellar singer-songwriter that was beloved around the world. So it came as a shock to everyone when she was put on trial for the murder of two of her husbands. The answers may lie in the story behind her second husband, Will Shephard, who was famous for being an athlete and film star. It seems, however, that Will also had a darker side that Maggie had no clue existed. The world is watching to find out just who could be behind such murders.
The Beach House
Published in 2002
Jack Mullen strives to study for a career in law while his brother Peter works as a car valet of the rich. One day, Peter’s dead body is found washed up on the beach. Jack is not convinced that his brother’s drowning was an accident. Seeking answers, he finds little help in a world where those meant to maintain order seem to have been bought off, where the likes of cops and judges offer no help in this case. Jack now faces an uphill battle in law when he realizes that the elite control so much sway in the justice system that the very notion of seeking it seems nearly impossible. It’s an intriguing and rousing thriller that’ll make you want to root for Jack to topple the corrupt billionaires who cover up the truth.
Jack & Jill
Published in 1996
The third book in the Alex Cross saga concerns the murder of a US Senator in Georgetown. The controversial figure was slaughtered and the only clue to his death is a note left at the scene of the crime. The note contains a rhyming message about this being the first of many murders and is signed by Jack & Jill. The duo continue their series of murders that target the wealthy and the powerful. Over in Washington DC, Cross deals with the murder of a little girl that hits too close to home. There just may be a connection between this incident and the Jack & Jill killer/killers. But it’s going to take all the detective skills of Cross along with robust courage to crack this case before more victims turn up dead.
Woman of God
Published in 2016
Patterson teamed up with Maxine Paetro to create this rousing mystery of intrigue and religion. At the center of this story is Brigid Fitzgerald, a physician who worked in southern Sudan. While working in such a dangerous place, she is shot and almost dies but also receives a message from God. For the rest of her life, God continues to speak with her as he struggles to navigate a life of great tragedy. Just when it seems her life is going in a positive direction by starting a family, she finds it all ripped away from her and tries to find meaning in continuing on when life seems so hard. Brigid then finds meaning in a religious cause which gives her life more purpose, even if it seems to create enemies that seek to undermine her at every turn. And things only get more hectic when it seems as though Brigid could be the next Pope. Woman of God not only offers up an enticing concept for religious drama but is pulsating with thriller suspense.