Robert Moreno, an American citizen in the Bahamas, is assassinated – murdered by a near-impossible shot, apparently on the orders of the US government. Moreno was suspected of planning a terrorist strike on US soil, but the evidence for that claim is looking particularly weak in the aftermath of the assassination. Was a genuine mistake made, or was there an ulterior motive in having Moreno killed?
Lincoln Rhyme and Amelia Sachs are drafted into the investigation, determined to find the truth behind the killing. But someone is cleaning up after the operation – a ruthless butcher who will do anything to stop the truth being exposed. But with the crime scene – the so-called Kill Room – away in the Bahamas, and no evidence to work on, how is a forensic investigator supposed to make any progress?
I’ve been a fan of Jeffery Deaver for a long time, since the start of the Lincoln Rhyme series – although to be fair, it was the second book, The Coffin Dancer, that really won me over. Since then, the series has varied in quality – usually extremely high, but one or two didn’t seem to me to be up to the usual high standard. However the most recent book in the series, The Burning Wire, was top-notch. But on the other hand, XO, the most recent novel from the author, disappointed as the trademark twists and turns of the plot felt predictable.
I’ll be honest, the first 100 pages or so didn’t fill me with confidence. Mostly set-up and no sense of where a twist could occur. There seemed to be no “unknown” characters, except for a shadowy Washington official, and seemingly nowhere for a surprise to be sprung.
How wrong I was. Once the story kicks off, it was a real page-turner. The villain – well, the one who is cleaning up after the assassination – is very well developed. You get a good look inside his head, getting a real feel for what makes him tick – he’s a horrible character, which Deaver gets across without dwelling on the horrors that he commits. Bonus points for a sequence that puts a dreadful vision in the reader’s mind without really saying anything about what happens. You’ll know what I mean when you read the book.
There’s a pleasing amount of character development. Amelia Sachs’ arthritis is finally addressed as people begin to think that it is making her a liability in the field. Regular readers will have been following Rhyme’s progress from the injuries that caused his quadriplegia. That improvement, while matching current medical developments, has seemed to me to be undermining a little the appeal of the character. Maybe Deaver has thought that too, as something occurs towards the end of the book that really pleased me. I like cerebral characters like Rhyme and clearly Deaver does too.
But this is a thriller, so how much mystery is there? Often with the Rhyme books, Lincoln’s deductions come from a very technical issue, so I was pleased to see that this time, most of the deductions can be spotted by an alert reader. Not me, mind you, but based on past books, I was assuming that I wouldn’t be spotting the clues. So I didn’t bother looking, I just sat back and enjoyed the ride. Unfortunately the identity of the real villain of the piece is the one part that isn’t really clued, but, as it’s a thriller rather than a whodunit, it doesn’t really matter.
So overall, a top-notch thriller writer demonstrating exactly what he’s capable of. A clever plot with characters that long term readers, at least, care about. Not a whodunit, but it’s still Highly Recommended.
Currently only available in hardback, my copy was given to me by Santa (and Mrs Puzzledoctor).