The Midnight Lock (2021) by Jeffery Deaver

He sees you when you’re sleeping… and then picks the locks of your apartment, rearranges all of your items, steals a kitchen knife and your underwear, leaves a threatening message and then leaves, locking the door behind him. When Lincoln Rhyme, the quadriplegic forensic scientist hears of the Locksmith, he is convinced that this behaviour is only the precursor to something worse. His home invasions have been getting more and more sinister, but what is his endgame?

Unfortunately, Rhyme is not in any position to track the Locksmith down. He made a mistake in a case against a New York gangster, contaminating the only evidence that could have convicted him. This has led to his sacking as a consultant to the NYPD, removing all of his sources of information. But with concern growing over the Locksmith’s activities – he reminds Rhyme of his nemesis, the Watchmaker – can an isolated Rhyme manage to stop the Locksmith’s reign of terror before it is too late?

Lincoln Rhyme is back – hurrah! I was a bit worried that The Cutting Edge was going to be his last hurrah, but Rhyme, along with his full supporting cast, is back in his fifteenth novel-length outing. There are some short stories too, including one which precedes this to reinforce Rhyme’s concerns about the Watchmaker. The Watchmaker has told Rhyme that their next meeting will be their last, so this has Rhyme looking over his shoulder, so to speak.

Oddly, Rhyme being fired by the NYPD never really comes into the story. There’s a bit of dodging around to make sure evidence gets to him first, rather than to the official police labs, but if you were hoping for a tale of Rhyme being out of his element, you’re out of luck – try The Empty Chair for that one.

What you do get here is a masterclass of a thriller. To be fair, a lot of the Lincoln Rhyme stories fall into that category, but this is up there with the best of them. Deaver is a master of juggling plot strands – it is quite impressive that none of them get dropped or go nowhere. What the reader doesn’t know is which strand links to which, as Deaver is perfectly willing to tell two or three parallel stories that weave in and out of each other but don’t necessarily end up in the same place.

One of the pleasures here is how the author plays “what trick am I up to?” with the long-term reader. There are only so many twists one can use, and you’d think that fifteen books into the series, the regular reader would get wise to them, but no. I certainly was looking at one character, expecting one thing, only to find out something far more satisfying about them.

Rhyme, Sachs and company are wonderful characters and it’s great to see them back in action. It’s clear that there is at least one more story to tell – let’s hope that there’s many more. I honestly think Deaver is the single finest thriller writer out there – I’ve been following his career for years and for very good reason.

The Midnight Lock is out on November 25th 2021 in hardback and ebook from HarperCollins. Many thanks to the publishers and NetGalley for the review e-copy.

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