James Patterson’s books are well known to readers of many genres. A best-selling author who frequents the New York Times Bestsellers List, the 74-year-old writer is responsible for Alex Cross, one of the modern times’ most beloved book characters. He also wrote the Alex Cross series, Michael Bennett series, Women’s Murder Club series, and many others. Arguably the world’s bestselling author, Patterson’s books deliver, regardless of your preferred genre. Patterson has dabbled in nearly all of them.
The 25 Best James Patterson Books
The Work of James Patterson
James Patterson has written books that span several genres, including romance, psychological thriller, mystery, young adult fiction, thriller, and crime fiction. He also frequently collaborates with other authors such as David Ellis, Michael Ledwidge, writer and journalist Peter de Jonge, and even President Bill Clinton. He has had 114 New York Times Bestseller books, setting a record. The following is a list of some of the best James Patterson books and a brief description of each.
1. Along Came a Spider (Alex Cross Series)
This is the first book of the Alex Cross series and would entice nearly any reader to continue with the sequel to learn more about the genius that is Detective Alex Cross. Cross is a cunning homicide detective with an interesting and full personal life and perhaps James Patterson’s best-written protagonist.
Put up against killer Gary Soneji, who seems just as intelligent and cunning as Alex Cross, the stakes continue to be raised. With the help of Jezzie, the female supervisor of the Secret Service, they try to stop a diabolical serial killer. Not afraid to risk his own life, the intensity of any Alex Cross book is palpable, but Along Came a Spider is a definite fan favorite.
2. 1st to Die (Women’s Murder Club Series)
This book introduces and sees the formation of the Women’s Murder Club, a group of four women who work outside their typical jobs to identify, stop, and find a killer targeting newlywed couples in San Francisco. Beginning with a murder at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, Detective Lindsay Boxer tries to solve the crime before the body count rises further. Realizing that other people are the key to solving this case, she enlists the help of a female medical examiner, a defense attorney, and a reporter. Inspector Lindsay Boxer must then piece together the clues each woman can provide and stop a madman. The Women’s Murder Club series spans thirteen novels.
3. Step on a Crack (Michael Bennett Series)
Written with Michael Ledwidge, a frequent collaborator of James Patterson’s, this begins the book in a series that spans 15 books about a detective who not only has his hands full on complicated and dangerous cases but in his personal life as well. This book introduces Detective Michael Bennett, making it one of the best James Patterson books, aside from being incredibly written.
Detective Michael Bennett and his wife have adopted ten children, and when we meet him, we learn that Michael’s wife is dying of cancer. Trying to steer his family through the emotional stress the holidays bring, Michael’s efforts are interrupted when criminals storm the church and hold hundreds of people hostage at the funeral of a former First Lady.
Called to the scene, Bennett has to make the unthinkable decision—negotiate with madmen, get everyone out as safely as possible, and deal with his grief over losing his wife. This is a favorite James Patterson book for many fans, and it is not difficult to see why after reading it.
Another literary work by Michael Ledwidge is a simple but thrilling story. Not the usual crime fiction that some of his fans are used to, this two-book series is about Jackson Oz, a biologist, who notices an emerging trend of animals turning on and attacking people. After collecting the data and warning people as quickly as possible, Jackson must try to figure out what is causing this odd animal behavior and get the word out so that people can be kept safe. This story is simple but fascinating in its premise and was adapted into a TV series.
5. The Murder House
The Murder House is a standalone book James Patterson wrote with frequent collaborator David Ellis. It involves a house in the posh area of the Hamptons that the locals call the Murder House due to murders that occurred there years ago. Native Jenna Murphy moves back to the area from New York, where she was a police officer, and assumes that she is getting away from the excitement of the city when she agrees to be a cop for her uncle, who is the police chief in her native town.
The murders start back up at the Murder House, and Jenna has to hurry to solve the mystery so that more people do not fall victim to whoever or whatever is lurking there. This is a book that many fans suggest beginners should start with. If you have never read James Patterson, this one may be the one for you to begin with.
6. NYPD Red
Written by James Patterson and Marshall Karp, this book is about Detective Zach Jordan and is crime fiction that takes many twists and turns in this six-book series featuring Zach Jordan. The New York mayor has created a new division of the NYPD, and Zach is a part of it.
Detective Zach Jordan and his ex, Kylie, are assigned to a special unit of the NYPD tasked with keeping the rich and famous of New York safe and promptly investigating any crimes committed against them. Sidney Roth is a famous producer who dies due to poisoning, and Zach and Kylie have to figure out who the culprit is. This is not your ordinary crime fiction, as you have two people who were together and are at the top of their game playing off each other in this story.
7. The Beach House
This story differs from James Patterson’s other works and is some of the best James Patterson content because it is dark, does not center around a detective, and leaves the reader guessing for much of the story. Written by author and journalist Peter de Jonge, this standalone novel is one thriller story that makes you think about it long after reading.
Law student Jack Mullen goes to the Hamptons where his brother died due to accidental drowning on the property of some wealthy playboy. Jack knows this was no accident after a glance at Peter’s body. The police, judges, and other people of authority have been paid off, and the deck is stacked against Jack. However, this crime fiction takes a darker turn than most of James Patterson’s books when Jack decides that the only way forward is to take the law into his own hands and seek vigilante justice.
8. Angel Experiment
This is the first book in the Maximum Ride series, written for middle school to adulthood adults. This is more science fiction than a crime thriller or crime fiction. In this book, genetically engineered and advanced teens are held captive at the school they live in and attend.
Born with wings, the teens in Maximum Ride are extraordinary yet still encounter the same issues every young teenager has to deal with, which helps the young fans and readers bond with them. Maximum Ride is an excellent series for anyone, but it caters to younger people.
9. Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas
James Patterson leaves crime behind in this book and switches to romance. We meet Katie Wilkinson, a successful editor, happy and in love with her boyfriend, Matthew, in this genre change. Everything seems to be going well until Matthew disappears. To understand what happened, Katie starts reading a diary that she finds written by someone named Suzanne, telling the story of a man named Nicholas. It offers unsettling clues as to what might have happened to Matthew.
10. Kiss the Girls
In the second Alex Cross book, we follow the homicide detective as he tries to track down two serial killers working together in locations that are thousands of miles away. The stakes are raised even higher when the killers kidnap the niece of Alex Cross as the next potential murder victim.
11. Confessions of a Murder Suspect
Written with Maxine Paetro, this young adults thriller book reveals shocking family secrets, a mystery that seems impossible to solve, and interesting characters. Affluent Tandy and her siblings are left shell-shocked after their parents are murdered. As the only suspect of the crime, sixteen-year-old Tandy has to do her best to solve the mysterious death of her parents while not entirely sure that it was not her.
12. Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports
In the third book in the Maximum Ride series, this plotline follows Max and her “flock” as they try to stop an evil plot to genetically modify specimens and create a “perfect race,” then kill the rest of society.
13. Never Never (Harriet Blue Series)
Written with Candice Fox, this novel begins a five-book series featuring Detective Harriet Blue of the SVU unit. When her brother is arrested for murder, Harriet is sent to Australia to escape the swarm of media and bad PR that arises because of his relationship with the killer. While there, she gets entangled in a mystery about missing miners. This book has short chapters, a trademark of Patterson books, and appeals to readers.
14. Woman of God
This is another book written by Patterson in collaboration with Maxine Paetro. This book steps away from the Alex Cross-type crime thriller novels that James Patterson is known for. This book follows Brigid, a priest who is quickly climbing the ladder of Catholicism and could end up the next Pope. She finds her passion in trying to help those who seem to lack faith. This book is full of justice, religion, and underlying messages from Boston churches to people in power and even a Sudanese civil war.
15. Gone (Michael Bennet)
The sixth novel in the Michael Bennett series is less a mystery and more a quintessential thriller. Patterson again collaborated with Michael Ledwidge on this book. The character development and emotion that this story brings to the table make for some touching scenes involving this fan-favorite character.
Bennett is retired and living his life when a cartel member he put behind bars escapes and targets Bennett and his family. A deadly contest ensues surrounding who can get to who first—this story kicks the mystery to the curb and is a hard and fast thrill ride.
16. The Thomas Berryman Number
The very first published novel by James Patterson, this story moves much more slowly than his subsequent books. A journalist researching a murder uncovers some similar cases that he believes are related. Thomas Berryman, the killer, uses a numbering system to kill his targets and has to stay a step ahead if he does not want to get caught.
17. Murder Games
Patterson wrote this book with Howard Roughan, and it is the first book in a five-part series. A cop investigating a murder case teams up with a professor to solve the mystery of killings happening in which the killer leaves a single playing card as a calling card. With the help of Howard Roughan, Patterson delivers nonstop twists and thrills in this crime novel.
18. Jacky Ha Ha
Written by Patterson and Chris Grabenstein, this book is geared towards children and features a troubled child who deals with her issues by telling ill-timed jokes. With a military mom and a busy dad, Jacky has a lot going on at home, and after getting into some trouble, she realizes that her comic relief is only making things worse. She ends up being faced with deciding whether she should find a new coping mechanism.
19. Pop Goes the Weasel
Another Alex Cross book (number 5) centers more around mind games than action. With Cross finally in love and happy, James Patterson had to come along and disturb that with this book. After a string of murders, Alex Cross has reason to believe that he knows who the killer is. The problem is that proving it and catching the murderer is much more dangerous than Cross anticipated initially.
20. Out of Sight (Amy Cornwall Series)
Written with Brendan DuBois, James Patterson kicks off a series featuring Army Intelligence Officer Amy Cornwall. In this book, Amy is contacted by an unnamed criminal who demands the release of someone in just two days, or her husband and child will be murdered. Having to investigate, sneak around within the military, and save her family—Amy is in a tight spot that will hurt her no matter what she does.
21. Roses Are Red
The sixth Alex Cross book by James Patterson is about bank robbers who make particular demands and murder the bank employees and their families if those demands are not met exactly. Assigned to the case, Alex Cross quickly decides that this is no ordinary criminal, and he must figure out how to stop him before he kills more people.
22. The People Vs. Alex Cross
This is the 25th Alex Cross novel by James Patterson, and this one has a huge plot. Branded as a loose cannon, Alex Cross waits to stand trial for murder. Stuck at home and desperate to clear his name, he starts counseling cops in his basement. When his old partner shows up and asks for help solving a murder, Cross sees it as a chance to redeem himself.
23. The First Lady
Written with Brendan DuBois, the premise of this book is fairly simple. The President of the United States is caught with a mistress when the First Lady goes missing. Agent Sally Grissom is tasked with finding the First Lady and keeping her safe once she is located.
24. The Inn
Written in collaboration with Candice Fox, this book is about Bill, a retired detective running a quiet bed and breakfast. Bill goes head to head against a killer who is wreaking havoc in the area together with his long-term tenants.
25. Fear No Evil
Alex Cross and his partner team up and go to Montana in one of the best James Patterson books of the series. Being hunted by two groups of assassins, the pair of police officers must not only survive the wilderness but several attempts to take their lives. A thrilling novel and a must read.