Monday, May 4, 2020


by Jeffery Deaver
Recommended Ages: 14+

Kathryn Dance, the California Bureau of Investigation's Monterey-based expert on kinesics (understanding people's body movements and facial expressions), is on vacation in Fresno when she gets caught up in a country music star's stalker drama. Singer-songwriter Kayleigh Towne has come back to her hometown to give a concert at the end of the week, but someone kills first one of her roadies, then a copyright pirate who sells illegal downloads of her songs – signaling each gruesome murder by playing a verse from her hit song, "Your Shadow." There are still a couple verses to go, and anybody could be the next victim.

As for who the killer is, everyone seems to think it's a screwball named Edwin, who came down from Seattle and rented a house just to go to Friday's concert, and who has developed a strong delusion that he and Kayleigh are dating. She just wants him to leave her alone. He, for his part, gets several of the county cops investigating the case suspended, and shows other signs of diabolical cleverness. Even Kathryn, who excels at interrogation, can't seem to crack him. But then, in classic Jeffery Deaver style, the mystery goes crazy with surprise twists and red herrings. Maybe Edwin is actually an innocent patsy, lured into town by fake emails from Kayleigh so he can take the fall for a totally premeditated crime. Or maybe those conspirators were only responsible for bringing Edwin to town, and the actual murderer is setting him up for something else entirely. Or maybe that supposed mastermind is actually ... Never mind. Just expect it to be one of those books where you think the crime has been solved, but the script gets flipped, and flipped again, and maybe once again.

There are drawbacks to being the king of the fake ending – for example, as Peter Jackson learned in his third Lord of the Rings movie, fans can move quickly from feeling totally satisfied to barking, "When is this damn thing going to end?" Yes, anticlimax is bad, and having two or three legitimate climaxes is only a little bit better because (for one thing) they put your reader's willingness to suspend disbelief to the test, and (for another) they provide opportunities for a reader who thinks the story is over to measure the thickness of the remaining pages and conclude, even if wrongly, that they have a huge anticlimax to look forward to and maybe they'll just give up. For those who stick it out, the payoff does pay off. But that "Really? Fifty more pages?" moment is definitely on the "con" side of being a master of fake-out endings.

This is the third of (currently) four Kathryn Dance novels by a prolific author known for his "ticking clock thrillers," including 14 Lincoln Rhyme novels. This "ticking clock" thing is something both the Dance and Rhyme series have in common: Crimes that are ongoing and that have to be stopped in a matter of hours or days, which can perhaps only be done by a Rhyme-like genius with a personal collection of state-of-the-art forensic evidence analysis equipment and an assistant who is good at charting what they've got. (Rhyme and Sachs briefly join the investigation in this book, by the way.) Then there's the Dance option, with a sleuth who is good at figuring out whether you're lying and why, and whose mind is wired to make "A to B to X" leaps of intuition. Either way, if I was being harassed by a psychopath who was laying murder victims like sacrifices at my feet, accompanied by stanzas of a song so I'd know there were more to come, I'd want someone on the case like Lincoln and/or Kathryn. Lucky for Kayleigh, she gets some of each. Lucky for us, we get more of both.

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