The Empty Chair
by Jeffrey Deaver (Simon & Schuster, $25)
AUTHOR JEFFREY DEAVER prides himself on his trademark style of writing fast-paced thrillers that employ a compressed time frame and multiple plot twists. He's got lots to be proud about with The Empty Chair, the latest installment in his series of books featuring quadriplegic criminalist Lincoln Rhyme. This book is a roller coaster ride of surprising events and situations, as the authorities race to locate and rescue a kidnapped woman in a North Carolina swamp. Adding just one more twist, Rhyme and colleague Amelia Sachs end up disagreeing over the guilt or innocence of their prime suspect, an oddball teenage boy obsessed with insects. The narrative is fast-forward all the way—Deaver sketches characters and settings using as few words as possible, thus letting the action carry the book. As a result, he sometimes falls into the common genre weakness of using dialogue to convey too much information (unlike in detective stories, real criminals don't offer detailed explanations of how they did it, even if they think they're going to get away with their misdeeds). Deaver also insists on listing the clues over and over, as if to lull the reader into thinking this is an easy solve-it-yourself mystery. Don't believe it; only Rhyme's razor-sharp deductive reasoning (he's a modern-day Sherlock Holmes armed with a crime lab) manages to sort out this tangled tale.
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