Thematic Review of Kiss the Girls

Kiss the Girls, written by James Patterson, was published by Little Brown and Company in 1995. It is the second novel about African-American Forensic Psychologist and Police Detective Alex Cross.
The plot of the Novel follows Alex Cross on a new adventure as he is called to North Carolina to investigate a series of mysterious kidnappings of women, when he is informed that his niece Naomi is missing. While investigating where she and the other women could be, he and detectives Sampson, Nic Ruskin and Davey Sikes come across a murdered woman who they find bound to a tree in the woods. Meanwhile, medical intern Kate McTiernan is kidnapped from her home and upon awakening in her drugged state, she is introduced to her kidnapper as Casanova who wears masks to symbolize his mood. He presents her with a set of rules that will keep her safe but if she breaks them, he would kill her. However she escapes by jumping into a flowing river and is rescued. In hospital she meets Detective Cross, who realizes that Casanova is not a killer but a collector of those he kidnaps, unless the kidnapped women fail to follow the rules he puts before them. They also learn that Casanova could be anyone and that another serial killer known as the ‘Gentleman Caller’ could be involved with these kidnappings, separately or in league with Casanova. Kate, despite a shaky start is determined to bring her kidnapper(s) to justice and joins forces with Alex Cross to save not only Naomi but also the other kidnapped women and stop both serial killers.
James Patterson, the creator of the Alex Cross series, is primarily a thriller novelist. He names most of his novels about his detective after nursery rhymes; some of the other famous novels being Along came a Spider, Big Bad Wolf, Jack and Jill, Pop Goes the Weasel and Roses are Red. All his books where Alex Cross features are detective thrillers. His style goes by the “Show don’t tell” form. The novels work to confuse a reader into coming up with their own conclusions and it seems almost as if that is a second intention that the Novel wants to carry out, while the story sets off a series of events that triggers off a journey that takes the character across a set of obstacles and puzzles that he has to solve in order to unravel the mystery. In this story, the notion that there are two shrouded antagonists and that the main one of them could be either further puts a complication into the story.
Patterson’s other works outside of the Alex Cross detective series are the science fiction and fantasy series called Maximum Ride which are mainly targeted at young adults.
 Patterson is an avid lover of nursery rhymes and names his novels about his character, Alex Cross, after them. In many aspects, nursery rhymes appear to have a melancholy tone or ending to them and the theme of each novel and its title suggests exactly that. In this story which is named after the famous ‘Georgie Porgy’ the main villain is a collector of women much as the rhyme’s main character is although his actions only upset girls whereas in the story, the villain collects them by kidnapping them which makes them ‘cry’.
In an interview with Burkes Frumkies (2000) in the magazine The Writer Patterson says “It would be easier for people to remember James Patterson, the one who wrote all those books with Nursery Rhyme titles. The titles nicely counterpoint the books’ contents which can be pretty scary”
The movement of the plot can be compared to that of other mystery texts such as the works of Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes) and Earl Derr Biggers (Charlie Chan) in that the story misleads the reader into a whole new development which takes the attention away from the original plot almost as if there is another matter at hand. Towards the end all complexities seem to be solved quite simplistically with clues which seemed obvious but went unnoticed.
 Written in modern English, it is set in 1990s USA. The setting is in Washington D.C. This was at the height the economic boom in the USA and at a time when the Electronic and Telecommunication age was beginning with the first personal computers, mobile phones and emailing. There were new developments in Technology for crime investigation as well. This Novel is a work of detective fiction which involves drama and mystery. Its genre is crime and is specifically a psychological thriller. The mode of this Novel is written text in the form of a book. It was also made into a (October 3rd) 1997 film of the same name (starring Morgan Freeman as Cross).
 The register of the novel is formal, however, in the conversational sequences there is informal, conventional use of language. Use of slang and offensive language in intense parts of the story is noted right through. Language is very similar to that used in American movies. The narrative tends to be quite graphic which makes the story thrilling. There is almost no evidence of jargon which makes the story an easy read.  The purpose of the story is to entertain by creating suspense and anticipation, thereby providing a sense of tension, thrill and expectation for the reader at nearly every point. As is evident from the Los Angeles Times which reviewed the novel as “Tough to put Down….Ticks like Time Bomb. Always full of threat and tension  
The novel is positioned in a social context which relates to feminism as well as anti-feminism. The plot focuses on the kidnapping of women and setting rules around them with the fear of death if they defy the antagonist. The antagonist is attracted to beautiful women and uses his physical strength and charisma to overpower them. However, one of the women who manages to escape and helps the protagonist in finding the culprit, is shown as a very strong character. This proves that feminism and female emancipation appear to be the ideology of this story. James Patterson’s books are essentially crime and violent thrillers which are targeted for people between the ages of 20 and 50 of both genders.
Kiss the Girls is divided into – chapters Part One: Scootchie Cross, Part Two: Hide and Seek, Part Three: The Gentleman Caller, Part Four: Twinning and Part Five: Kiss The Girls. These consist of 123 Chapters, all of which are numbered and untitled. The chapters are short, some of which about a page long. The text is laid out closely in Times New Roman size 9. Italics are used for emphasis. Even with the absence of pictures, the description of various events and situations in the novel clearly create a picture in the minds of the readers as to what is going on. Kiss the Girls is told from the point of view of a character that appears to be vital to each chapter. Most of them are told from the point of view of either Dr. Alex Cross or Casanova. Some are told from the point of view of Dr. Kate McTiernan and the Gentleman Caller. One chapter is told from the point of view of an FBI agent conducting surveillance on the Gentleman Caller with Cross and Kate.
Patterson was exposed to African-American culture through people who were closely associated with him during his childhood in upstate New York. Frumkies  (2000).  He grew up to appreciate this culture which is evident in his intertextuality. He has modeled his main character Alex Cross based on this experience. Cross is a sophisticated African-American detective who speaks with dignity and self-confidence and is known by most people associated with his work. At one point in the story, Kate is thinking of Cross as “He was a willful black man, she was an extremely willful white woman. He was a homicide detective…but he was also sensitive and sexy and generous. She didn’t care whether he was black, green or purple”. The murder investigation is based in South Carolina which is historically very parochial and African-Americans were not treated as equals. There is reference to Alex Cross feeling uncomfortable about working in the South. Unlike the inspiration for Cross however, earlier popular detective in literature, Sherlock Homes and Charlie Chan were based on real life people; Holmes was modelled after professor John Bell who was one of the university professors of (Sir) Arthur Conan Doyle who created the character of Holmes whereas Chan (who was created by Earl Der Biggers) was based on Chinese-American Hawaiian Chang Apana. This however, does not take away from the fact that popularity of detectives in literature was boosted by Sherlock Holmes. In unconscious or conscious terms (perhaps the former) ethnic basis came in when the next popular detective Charlie Chan was of Chinese origin rather than British (or other western countries) and took the detective to internationalism in the United States. A further repeat of this American popularity in the detective was with the introduction of Alex Cross and ethnicity of the detective was furthered with the character being African-American which gave a unique perspective since there had never been a major African-American character in literature before.

The vocabulary in the story is highly predisposed to everyday American English. Even though it is English, there are a cross language lexical connections due to the influence of other languages used by immigrants from Europe in the USA. Phrases such as “Leave me be”. “Messed up”, “I am through with this” are translations of words from some of the European languages. Patterson uses many adjectives throughout his story which include exquisite, surprising, confident, sick, vile, poised, graceful, analytical etc. to give emphasis to the seductive and somewhat sadistic nature of the antagonist(s).
The story is built up using short and direct sentence structures. For example, She heard him scream her name. She didn’t look behind her again. Kate McTiernan jumped. Short paragraphs and word exchanges mark the text. Some paragraphs are one sentence long and similarly word exchanges could be monosyllables in some places. Patterson weaves his story between, gruesome torture, suspense, thrill and a touch of romance and cleverly uses the same words to either sound menacing, scary or romantic. He is very descriptive towards his settings/locations, characters and situations which is evident in his use of adjectives.
Kiss the Girls is one of James Patterson’s most successful novels which was on the New York Times bestseller list for 12 weeks. It was also on the best seller list of the Chicago Tribune, The Dallas Morning News, Detroit Free Press and the Miami Herald. The success of this novel can be assigned to Patterson’s upbringing, his education as a psychologist, his work n advertising as a copywriter and his love for writing thrillers which his audience finds hard to put down. He has been an advocate for increasing readership in young people and he believes that in order to cultivate a reading habit one needs to go through thrillers before moving to higher forms of literature.



Frumkes, L. B. (2000). A Conversation with James Patterson. The Writer, 113, 11;
ProQuest Central pg. 13
Goatly, A (2000). Critical Reading and Writing. London: Routledge.
 Mahler, J (Jan 2010). James Patterson Inc. How a Genre Writer has transformed Book Publishing.
New York Times Magazine, 32
 Thomson, G. A (2005-06). Kiss the Girls. Style (N.A). Retrieved from
Yule, G (2010). The Study of Language. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press


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