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Let's twist again
on 23 August 2006
I believe this is the seventh of the Rhyme-Sachs escapades but I regret to say, as a dedicated fan and owner of fourteen Jeffery Deaver novels, that this particular franchise is in danger of running out of steam. From a technical point of view it is awesome, a masterpiece with highly impressive accounts of police tactics and forensic research, with the psychological science of kinesics now added to the mix. But if there is such a thing as showboating in crime fiction writing then Deaver may be guilty of it, because this tale has more twists than a fistful of fusilli and I for one am growing slightly tired of it. In a way, the first of the many twists was most welcome, because the first story (there's more than one, in effect) was so by-the-numbers Deaver fare that I was almost crying out for the `shock surprise' that would change the direction of the tale completely. The thing is, there's fiction and there's fantasy - not only are the plans of the bad guy - the Watchmaker - rather less than credible in their complexity, but the foresight of Lincoln Rhyme in being able to thwart him is even more so. It's as if the baddie's too bad to be true, and the good guy's too good - or at least has incredible detective skills that border on mind-reading.
If anything, our immobile hero Linc takes something of a back seat (or wheelchair) to his established partner Amelia Sachs and a newcomer to the series in the form of a female kinesics expert (Kathryn Dance - note the musical innuendo again) who just happens to get deeply involved in this case while visiting New York from her native California. Come to think about it, Dance is `on her way to the airport' for the entirety of this novel, but keeps on putting it off to another day. Anyway, Sachs enjoys a new responsibility as lead detective in a suicide case that might just be murder in disguise (guess which!), and this distracts her from helping Rhyme out in his pursuit of the evil Watchmaker. This is a man who seems to have the time for ten seemingly unrelated murders and leaves a clock beside each victim as a calling card. I was relieved when this `plan' altered dramatically and we suddenly found ourselves heading in an utterly different direction, moving away from an almost boring serial-killing spree and onto the slightly more interesting subject of police corruption. That didn't last long though, oh no. Time to get nasty again, and conjure up a completely new objective for the bad guy that has nothing to do with watchmaking or bent coppers. Despite this confusion, Lincoln Rhyme miraculously sees through it all from the comfort of his high-tech town house in Central Park West and basically saves the world. Well, lots of potential victims, at any rate.
Anyone new to the Deaver style may well enjoy all these twists, but for those of us who have seen it all before - and in my case, enjoyed it a lot, to be fair - it was just a little too much. In combining presumably very accurate accounts of forensic science in the pursuit of justice with criminals and criminalists who are just too bad or too good to be true, we are left with a somewhat lop-sided mixture of authentic police procedural work and leading characters who are less than convincing in their identities, objectives and capabilities. In the real world, crime is a lot muckier and so is the solving of it.
Picture Chubby Checker being whipped away by a tornado and you have a ridiculous image of mind-boggling twisting. Or you could read Cold Moon - your impression would be much the same.