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Along Came A Spider is the first novel in a series of books written by James Patterson, about forensic psychologist Alex Cross. It was adapted into a movie of the same name in 2001, starring Morgan Freeman as Cross.

Plot summary

Alex Cross is an African-American Washington, D.C.marker homicide investigator and forensic psychologist who also has a doctorate of Psychology from Johns Hopkins University. Cross is investigating the brutal murders of two black prostitutes, as well as an infant boy. The women were slashed with a razor, their pubic hair completely shaved and their breasts cut off.

Meanwhile at Washington Day School, an exclusive private school, math teacher Gary Soneji kidnaps Maggie Rose Dunne and Michael Goldberg. Cross' lieutenant pulls him off the prostitute murder case in order to investigate the kidnapping. Cross is upset at first, feeling that his department cares more about two rich, white children than two black prostitutes. Once at the crime scene, he meets Jezzie Flannigan, the head of the children's Secret Service detail.

That night, Soneji's van parks next to an old farmhouse, where he buries the children alive in special coffins he made for them. Inside the house Soneji watches the TV coverage of the kidnapping, and is angered by FBI agent Roger Graham's contemptuous comments about him. Soneji then goes to the bathroom and removes the brown, balding wig, then the thick mustache, and finally the contact lenses.

Later that night, Graham arrives at his home when a reporter starts asking him questions. The reporter is Soneji, who takes out a knife and stabs Graham.

Cross, partner John Sampson and the FBI search through Soneji's apartment, discovering Soneji's obsession with kidnappings, particularly that of the Lindbergh babymarker. They also discover a note taped to a mirror with the phrase "I want to be somebody!" Hours later, Soneji contacts the FBI, telling them he killed Graham. The investigation leads the team to discover that Soneji lied about his resume and identity. Cross meets with Maggie's parents, who also want him involved.

A few months pass; in the meantime, Michael Goldberg's body is discovered around Christmas. The Dunnes’ receive a telegram from what they believe is Soneji asking for $10 million. It came from Miamimarker. Cross, Sampson, and the FBI head down to Floridamarker to investigate. In Florida, Flannigan and Cross become lovers.

In Miami a message arrives from Soneji. Cross is ordered to deliver $10 million to Walt Disney Worldmarker in Orlandomarker. Cross wonders how Soneji knows about him or that he was even involved.

At Disney World, Cross is approached by a man who says he would take him to see Maggie. Once outside, the FBI surrounded them. He threatens to have Maggie killed unless they let him go. The man takes Alex with him to the airport where they board a small airplane. The unknown man, who is also the pilot, takes off and lands the plane on a small island. At nightfall, the pilot takes off again and heads to South Carolinamarker. There he lands, takes the money and leaves Cross there.

On the farmhouse where Soneji kept the children, two police officers find the empty graves where Maggie and Michael were once held. Later, Soneji returns to his home in Wilmington, Delawaremarker, where it's revealed he's married and has a daughter, both of whom he plans to kill. We also learn that his real last name is Murphy, and that he was abused by his stepmother and her children.

In Washington DC, Soneji, dressed as a public utility employee, murders Vivian Kim, the teacher from Washington Day, in hopes of sending a message. Cross and Sampson are sent to the scene, Kim has had her breasts cut off and pubic hair shaved, just like the other murders. They also find Maggie's shoe at the scene. Cross now knows Soneji is also the murderer he is looking for.

Cross and Sampson are walking the neighborhood where the hookers were murdered. They meet Ms. Scott, an elderly lady who recalls a man driving around the neighborhood several times. She also remembers that same man going door to door selling heating systems. She recalls the company is named Atlantic Heating from Wilmington.

In Wilmington, Soneji and his wife are having a birthday party for their daughter. Outside, the FBI with Cross and Sampson are on a stakeout. They decide to move in and rush the house. When they go in, Soneji is nowhere to be found, having escaped when he went to get pizza at the door from a delivery boy.

A day later Soneji walks into a McDonald's and holds the people inside hostage. A trooper takes a shot at Soneji, but Cross saves him, as Cross believes Soneji knows where Maggie is. Soneji promises Cross he will regret saving his life.

The trial lasts about 11 months. During this time Cross hypnotizes Soneji several times, learning that he has a kind of split personality; Gary Murphy, his everyday persona, is a kind, gentle family man, while his alter ego Gary Soneji is a vicious, calculating sociopath.

After Soneji is convicted and imprisoned, Cross and Flannigan fall in love. Despite the defenses best effort at an insanity plea, Soneji is found guilty.

Cross returns to work and questions a woman about Soneji. She tells Cross that someone had been following Soneji. Someone knew about the kidnapping. Cross wonders about Mike Devine and Charley Chakely.

Cross meets with Soneji, who confirms he may have been followed. Soneji didn't make the connection until he recognized the man at his trial: Mike Devine.

Cross meets with the FBI who also had their suspicions and were running an investigation. The FBI believes Mike Devine and Charley Chakely took the ransom money, having hired (and later murdered) the pilot from Florida. Eventually, Cross learns that Flannigan had masterminded the kidnapping, using her lover, Devine, as a pawn.

Soneji escapes from prison and goes to Washington. There, he tortures Devine to find out that the money is still there. Upon retrieving the money Soneji returns and kills Devine.

Cross takes Flannigan on a Caribbeanmarker getaway. There, he confronts her about what she did. She explains that Michael Goldberg's father was threatened by a Colombianmarker cartel and demanded protection for his family. Devine and Chakely noticed Soneji driving by the Goldberg house, and proceeded to follow Soneji everywhere, including the Marylandmarker farm. The ransom had been her idea, and they removed Maggie after the Goldberg boy had died. Cross demands to know where Maggie is, while, at a distance, Sampson is holding a long distance microphone. After Flanigan confesses, Sampson and the FBI reveal themselves.

Maggie was held by people in Uyuni Boliviamarker, South America, near the Andes Mountains. She is finally rescued.

Soneji attacks Cross in his home, attempting to kill Cross' grandmother and his children. After a fight, Soneji escapes momentarily, but is trapped near the White Housemarker. He takes hostages, this time two children. Soneji is about to shoot Cross, but Sampson saves his partner by shooting Soneji instead. Soneji is wounded, but survives.

In the epilogue, Jezzie Flannigan is executed by lethal injection. Six weeks earlier Charlie Chakely had been executed. Soneji escapes from a mental institution, and leaves Cross a taunting letter on his windshield. At the end, Cross plays the piano and heads to St. Anthony's.

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