Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Steel Kiss

The Steel Kiss
by Jeffery Deaver
Recommended Ages: 14+

This is the first novel by Jeffery Deaver that I have ever read, but it is the 12th of (so far) 13 Lincoln Rhyme novels, continuing a series that started in 1997 with The Bone Collector. It features an unusual sleuth: the quadriplegic forensic consultant Lincoln Rhyme, who solves murders alongside his professional and life partner, NYPD major-cases detective Amelia Sachs (think "Kate Beckett from Castle" and you pretty much know who I mean). And in this installment, it pits them against not one, but three mysteries.

For starters, Sachs' uniformed-cop squadmate Ron Pulaski seems to be trying to score some super-shady painkillers to manage the side effects of a head injury, but actually he's (BLEEPED OUT DUE TO SPOILERS). Also, Sachs' former partner and lover, a handsome and totally non-disabled detective who has just gotten out of prison on parole, is back in her life, asking for her help proving he was innocent of the charges of corruption, hijacking, and assault for which he confessed to protect his now-dead junkie brother; the trouble is, he (BLEEPED OUT DUE TO SPOILERS). But most dramatic of all is the series of murders being carried out by a suspect nicknamed Unsub 40 (because one of his crimes took place outside a nightclub with that number in its name), a physically distinctive yet strangely elusive character who alternates between bludgeoning his victims to death with a ball peen hammer and hacking into appliances containing a wireless controller, using the Internet of Things to carry out an anti-consumer terrorist agenda. While his victims' gruesome fates leave panicky New Yorkers afraid to use escalators, smart stoves, and microwave ovens, Rhyme and his wheelchair-bound intern discover a link between the victims that means the killer is actually (BLEEPED OUT DUE TO SPOILERS).

It's obvious a lot of water has flowed under the proverbial bridge in this series. The recurring characters all carry wounds from previous installments. Rhyme, for his part, is in crisis because he feels responsible for the death of a suspect in a previous case who may have been innocent. His decision to quit solving crimes throws his partnership with Sachs, to say nothing of the rest of their team, into chaos. It is actually a civil suit relating to the escalator incident that brings the pair back together on the same case - and, ironically, in the end it is Sachs who (BLEEPED OUT DUE TO SPOILERS). The story is full of chilling surprises, shocking twists, gripping tension, and sinister agendas - and yet the guy who has been doing most of the actual killing turns out to be a surprisingly sympathetic and even tragic character, compared to someone else who (BLEEPED OUT DUE TO SPOILERS). Where you would expect a scene fraught with deadly conflict, you may instead find an almost friendly conversation... and vice versa. Expect the unexpected. And don't expect me to spoil it for you.

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