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on 26 May 2014
A novel which manages to be both admirable and irritating at the same time: admirable because of the usual erudition and twisting plotting, and irritating for exactly the same reasons. There are as usual lots of surprises as the battle of wits between Rhyme and "Unsub 11-5" plays along, and we learn lots of incidental useless facts about tattoos, underground New York, vegetable toxins, etc., but then the surprises become expected and the didactic style begins to patronise and grate. And Mr Deaver's plotting is always praised, but here the novel is more like three inter-twined short stories where characters occasionally leap from one plot-line to another to explain a situation or artificially manufacture a 'twist,' so the plotting is actually quite sloppy. This is compounded by Pam and the white militia threads soon moving into Gothic caricature, and the book not really knowing when to finish, a common Mr Deaver weakness as he tries to serve us up just one more twist. I'll keep reading him, but this is not one of his better thrillers and more of a bridging novel as one plot-line is laid to rest and another is resuscitated, and maybe would have been better as a short story collection.
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on 21 May 2014
Jeffery Deaver's last book featuring Lincoln Rhyme, Kill Room, left me slightly underwhelmed. There was a lot of political comment in the book that I found myself glossing over. Deaver also took quadriplegic Rhyme away from his New York City townhouse to a crime scene in the Bahamas, but it just didn't work for me. It seemed forced and almost gimmicky. It was an okay read, but not a standout in the series for me.

However, Deaver's latest book, The Skin Collector (#11) takes us back to what Lincoln Rhyme does best - and the type of story I like best - solving cases based on the evidence and minutiae gathered at a crime scene by his team. And Lincoln's superlative powers of deduction.

The Skin Collector opens with a wonderfully creepy scene that introduces us to the perpetrator, Billy. It's one of those chilling prologues that promises a great read. And it delivered. Billy is a tattoo artist who delights in finding pristine skin for inking his cryptic messages. And his choice of ink is deadly. Billy Haven is clever - he's studied Rhyme's methods and leaves little if anything behind at his scenes. Yes, plural - Billy has a plan and it looks like he's taking inspiration from Lincoln's first case - The Bone Collector.

Deaver employs the history of New York and it's tunnel and underground passages to great effect in The Skin Collector. I ended up checking out many of his references online - it's pretty fascinating history.

I thought I had predicted where the plot was going to go about three quarters of the way through the book. But I was pleasantly proven wrong! Deaver inserts a twist, then a turn, then another twist - and I think there may have been another turn. There was one plot element that I found tawdry and icky and somewhat unnecessary involving Billy's aunt. But on the whole, it was an inventive storyline. Part of it is taken from current new stories, making it plausible and relative. The ending finished on a nice little aha, leaving the door open for further entries in a parallel story line. (Yes, I'm being deliberately obtuse)

Familiar characters return - I'm growing quite fond of Ron Pulaski - and some interesting supporting players were introduced. I hope we see more of tattoo artist TT Gordon. 'Foster' daughter Pam can move away though. I find her attitude tiresome. Amelia is still razor sharp, but seems to have mellowed since solidifying her relationship with Linc.

The Skin Collector was a return to the Lincoln Rhyme I enjoy. It's a good crime read, one to tuck in the beach bag this summer.
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on 3 September 2014
Jeffery Deaver (JD) seems to have a fairly consistent way of constructing a novel. He taps into a topic - typically a branch of technology, criminology and sociology - and researches the ass off it. The said topic is milked for a plot device, and a multi-layered conspiracy is built up around it. Finally, or so it would seem, the author's lead characters are dropped into place and allowed to peel away the layers of the conspiratorial onion one by one. And the reader can rarely tell how many more layers exist to be peeled until the last page is turned and the players (sometimes rather summarily) stop playing.

Generally the teachnique has worked well, and some of JD's novels have been superb. This is not one of them. The plotting seems (within JD's quite original way of writing) somewhat by numbers. Some of the twists are certainly unexpected, but in contrast with his best work the most radical twists are the least plausible ones, often made unexpected by the mere withholding of information earlier in the story line. And architecturally this is a mess: the Wiki-style digressions (I won't spoil by being specific) are the least well-integrated into the story-telling of any of his books that I have personally read. The final episode, which was the most predictable, actually felt to me like a bolt-on to a story that simply did not know when to stop. And JD seems to be aware of the shortcomings, because I could not help seeing the sly reference (put into the mouth of one of the characters) to a famous movie director using rambling, irrelevant patches of dialogue to cover up holes in the plot, as an ironic self-reference.

None of these flaws is fatal, but there is an additional weakness this time out. JD has generally been good at building his wounded-but-brave characters in a way that made you care about them. But the behaviour patterns here seem stereotypical, their relationships static, their decisions straightforward, their physical or mental frailties less of a problem than usual. In short, more work was needed in streamlining the plot and bringing the characters to life.

This isn't a bad novel, and I would not recommend giving it a miss, either to new readers or those familiar with JD's work. For the former, however, there are better places to start. And for the latter, expectations should be kept in check.
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Jeffrey Deaver fans are rejoicing as the acclaimed author has brought us a sequel to his best known and voraciously read thriller The Bone Collector. In that novel we were introduced to Lincoln Rhyme, our country's best known forensic detective. He's clever, intuitive, and persistent when it comes to solving the most puzzling of crimes. Rhyme's mettle is tested in The Skin Collector.

There's a killer on the loose in NYC, well, not literally on the loose because he prowls the underground passages in Soho, just south of Greenwich Village. These tunnels crisscross the neighborhood - at one time used for transporting goods they're abandoned now and perfect for the use of a mad killer, Billy Haven.

Billy doesn't violate his victims, flesh is of no interest to him; "...it was skin that Billy loved." To test it he would pinch a girl's skin between his thumb and forefinger, admiring the small peak of skin that is raised and then allowed to flatten back. The sight of this would make him smile. But, of course, this was before he tattooed his victim's flesh with mysterious messages using a tattoo gun filled with poison. Death came slowly and painfully.

Eventually a connection is made between Billy and the Bone Collector, the infamous serial killer of a decade ago. Thus, Lincoln Rhyme and Amelia Sachs are drawn into the case. What follows is one shocker following another as Rhyme and the NYPD work against time to try to figure out where the killer will find his next victim and what in the world the seemingly indecipherable tattoos mean.

Readers won't doubt that they're in the hands of a multi award winning thriller writer, a master of the genre after just a few pages of The Skin Collector.

Enjoy!

- Gail Cooke
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on 16 June 2014
I love the way Jeffery Deaver writes, but I was disappointed in the lack of any relationship between Rhyme and Sachs in this book - I wondered if I had missed a book out, because last time they wanted a baby, this time it felt as though they had separated! I also find the repetitive aspects of each character wearing now, especially Sachs digging into her scalp and when her 'bravery' turns into 'sheer stupidity' - she is supposed to be a trained policewoman, after all. I hope the characters are given a bit more depth next time, because I still enjoy the read.
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on 19 May 2014
Having been a long-term fan of Deaver and his works, I have often looked forward to the next Lincoln Rhyme instalment. However, the last few in this series have unfortunately become more and more formulaic to the point where the reading of them has been more of a chore than an enjoyment. This book I'm sorry to say is no different. Plot twists are predictable and expected, Rhyme/Deaver's pedantry over language has started to become irritating rather than ingratiating, and the whole premise is starting to come across as both smug and formulaic.
I could argue that on the one hand this is no "Bone Collector", on the other hand I could argue that it is!
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on 20 June 2014
NO SPOILERS

I'm a sucker for Lincoln Rhyme books and this one was brilliant. I did guess the twist but that didn't take anything away from the story. You have to suspend your belief in the realities of science a little to enjoy the books but it is fun seeing the jigsaw pieces of the crime scene be put together and what might be possible in an ideal world with no budgets.

Whilst I understand the people who are saying that they are becoming a little formulaic but there are enough differences book to book for me for it not to matter.

I didn't find this a true page turner but the story pulled me along nicely and as I said for me Lincoln can do no wrong so I would just keep reading anyway. Set up for the next book so hopefully that will be a stormer.
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on 11 August 2014
As an avid JD fan I know that not everything that he has written is of the same quality and some of his work over recent years has been suspect at best. So it was with wriggling delight that I found that The Skin Collector is a storming back to literary heights for Mr D. All of our favourite characters from the Rhymme series are assembled here and, by the end of the book, one of them is left with a potentially crippling ailment (other than LR of course).

There are two traits that set a good Jeffery Deaver story above almost all others. The first of those is the labyrinth of plot twists that just keeps on going such that, just when you think that you've got to the heart of the real plot, it turns again. 'Goodies' are revealed as 'baddies' and vice versa. What really makes this work is the second trait; the use of language to manipulate. The words, sentences, paragraphs and phrases that are so, apparently, carelessly strewn across the page to set out the story are, actually, extremely carefully crafted to paint a picture in the mind of the reader that can, often turn out to be false. When a plot twist hits you like a slap in the face, you automatically think "That's not right, it said (insert thoughts of your choice) a few chapters ago" and, sometimes with indignation, you scroll back to re-read the offending section. That's when you discover that it didn't actually say what you thought that it did; you've just been manipulated into creating a false 'mind picture' by a very clever use of words; you have ASSUMED something not written and that has lead you astray. A common ruse is to have a character say something which you, as the reader, take as truth when, some time later, it is revealed that either the character was wrong or, it turns out, is a 'baddie' who was lying. I've read just about everything that JD has written and, even though I know his style and what to look out for, it still catches me out every single time. The Skin Collector is a masterclass in this style of deception.

If I must find fault it is with the sheer perfection in everything that Lincoln and Amelia do; it is impossible to fool them or trap them and they spot every pitfall, however fiendishly well crafted the trap is. I'd like to cite an example but it's difficult to do so without revealing a spoiler, but there is one point at which Amelia spots something, across a dark and dingy area, that is so small that it can hardly be seen by the naked eye even when close up. In this novel, Lincoln and Amelia are just that bit too infallible. There are also a couple of surprising technical glitches in the plot, such as the story relying on the fact that a newly 'needled' tattoo would appear exactly the same as an old tattoo instead of red, swollen and blotchy. But these complaints are like receiving a cheque for a large lottery win and complaining that the paper of the cheque is a bit thin.

Most of the peripheral characters in a JD novel are unsympathetic creations but, every now and then, a strong and likeable character turns up. Sometimes, such as with Kathryn Dance, these characters go on to be developed into the main hero of their own novel. The Skin Collector includes a couple of interesting characters that I'd like to see more of although quite how that would work beats me.

For me, this isn't the best novel that JD has written but it is right up there among the top contenders. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
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on 1 April 2015
The title is obviously meant to remind us of THE BONE COLLECTOR, the horrific serial killer case that first introduced us (in 1997) to paraplegic criminal investigator Lincoln Rhyme and his foxy partner Amelia Sachs . Linc and Amelia's new case introduces a mega-creepy psychotic who tattoos cryptic messages onto his victims and may be a crazed 'disciple' of the Bone Collector. A gifted artist and a perfectionist, he takes care to leave no traces for the crime unit to find. Or does he?

Rhyme and Sachs and their team, as always, piece together the teeniest clues to track down this monster. There is no mystery here: the author introduces us to the killer, Billy Haven, in Chapter 2. As he often does, Jeffrey Deaver offers readers not so much a Whodunnit as a Can-they-stop-it. We kind of know they will, of course, but Deaver is brilliant at keeping his readers on the edge of their seats. THE SKIN COLLECTOR moves at a faster pace than most police investigations.

Amelia has a run-in with Billy on Day Two of the case, and there's a fresh kill every day. The plot, a tad preposterous but a total page-turner, develops an 'apocalypse' dimension which, together with the tattooed messages, gives this a Dan Brown element. There's a clever tie-in with a previous adversary of Rhyme's, the 'Watchmaker'. And there are a number of grisly surprises and a few gross-out moments that Hannibal Lecter would be happy to put his signature to.
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on 9 December 2014
Having read all of the Lincoln Rhyme books I have to say they are becoming a bit predictable. I have crawled my way through this only to be thoroughly disappointed. Must do better!
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