Book Review: ‘The Spire’ by Richard North Patterson

Posted on June 2, 2010

Yes. I read two books over Memorial Day weekend. Here’s why I picked up ‘The Spire’. I had finished up ‘People of the Book’, and I was staring down delays in Chicago, so I thought I would pick up something at the airport. Last year it was Bob Woodward’s book about the Iraq war leading up to the surge, and it was awesome. I was thinking about picking up the book about Facebook founder and pudgy redhead, Mark Zuckerburg, but I didn’t want to pay $17 for something I would finish in 2 hours.

Then, I thought, you know, I keep hearing about James Patterson. Maybe I should read something of his, just to see what all the hype is about. So I picked up ‘The Spire’ along with a pack of cheese curds (yes, this was at the airport). It was only about 50 pages in that I realized that what I had purchased was not, in fact, a James Patterson novel.

‘The Spire’ is a mystery. It follows the life of Mark Darrow as he tries to solve the mystery of a murdered black woman. Unfortunately his bff, Steve, was blamed for it.

I was not a fan of ‘The Spire’. Yes, Patterson, your ghostwriter got me to plow through all 450 pages. But, I was at 35,000 ft in a metal tube with a child next to me, running on 12 hours of sleep over 4 days. Here are a couple things that stood out to me. Within the first 54 pages, the phrase ‘mercurial and short-tempered’ was used twice(Spoiler Alert: ‘mercurial’ gets used 2 more times in the book). The death that concerns the plot had been alluded to at least 6 times, but it had not gone down. And I had had the basics of Nietzsche explained to me thoroughly. Just so you know, I have never interacted with a work of art that directly or indirectly quotes Nietzsche that I have remotely enjoyed. Philosophy has no place in fiction. Or anywhere.

The writing was downright awful. There was no flow, and every plot point seemed contrived. Yes, I was reading fiction, I am well aware that everything seemed made up. However all of the things that happened quite definitely fit into an equation that makes for good pulp writing. There was racism, bondage, sex, murder, money, drugs, rape and fast cars. Yessir.

The main relationship in the novel is between Darrow, the protagonist, and Steve, the guy that’s locked up. Everything that Darrow does, practically, in this book is out of his friendship for Steve. Unfortunately, the author gives us absolutely no reason to think that those two were remotely friends.

Lazy writing abound, but there are things that any writer can learn from this. If you put enough money, violence and rape into a novel, you can get people to pay you money. Or, you can take the high road.


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2 Responses to “Book Review: ‘The Spire’ by Richard North Patterson”

  1. Evie on June 3rd, 2010 5:26 pm

    Heath – noticing repetitive, unusual words in books is SO annoying. When I read The Perfect Storm, I still remember how irritated I became with the word “exponential” – what’s up with that? Glad you made it home safely.

  2. Heath on June 3rd, 2010 5:28 pm

    yeah. I’m sure this dude had his thesaurus by his side at all times.

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