The Steel Kiss by Jeffery Deaver

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He’s the master of smoke and mirrors, disguise and deceit, and this time Jeffery Deaver sets his brain-twisting new Lincoln Rhyme novel in the most hi-tech of situations.

Quadriplegic crime-solver Rhyme relies upon the latest technology to help him function. He’s Jeffery Deaver’s main series character and appeared on screen in The Bone Collector, with Denzel Washington as the disabled techno-sleuth alongside Angelina Jolie. Rhyme has a state-of-the-art wheelchair and more top-range equipment than you can shake an iPad stylus at. Ironic then, that his latest adversary is using that very technology to kill people.

Not true, actually, because Rhyme has retired from police consultancy work following a case in which an innocent man ended up dead. But police detective Amelia Sachs is on the trail of a murderer who has used the most un-techy form of weapon to dispatch a blogger. Todd Williams was bludgeoned to death with a ball peen hammer, and Amelia is chasing the killer, her Unsub 40, in a shopping mall in Brooklyn when an escalator malfunctions in the most horrific of ways. A man is left mangled and dying in the gears. Sachs abandons the chase and tries to save the victim. Meanwhile, the suspect goes free.

But why did a locked hatch on the escalator to open without warning? What originally looks like an unfortunate accident is soon revealed as something a lot more sinister. And once Rhyme agrees to help the lawyer entrusted with getting compensation for the dead man’s family it isn’t long before he and Sachs are working in tandem once again,

The killer is unusually tall and thin, but that doesn’t seem to stop him vanishing into the background whenever anyone gets close to capturing him. Rhyme’s beloved evidence charts are soon filling up with myriad strange clues, including sawdust from an unidentified wood, varnish and a number of fast food wrappers. He might be slim, but this perp can certainly eat! It’s all a puzzle, although things become a little clearer when Unsub 40 reveals himself as the self-proclaimed ‘People’s Guardian’ with the chilling warning: “Your possessions will possess YOU and, with a cold, steel kiss, send you to hell”

Suddenly, surrounding yourself with the latest hi-tech, labour-saving, wireless remote devices doesn’t sound so appealing, does it?

As is to be expected from any Deaver novel, this isn’t the only story strand to tie an unwitting reader up in knots. We have the return of old characters like Lon Sellito, while Amelia’s former lover Nick Carelli has a tasty little side plot all his own, and Sach’s NYPD partner Ron Pulaski is working off the books with some very shady dealings.

Oh, and there’s brand-new character in the shape of Rhyme’s new intern Juliette Archer. She has her own shiny wheelchair too, which gives an added dimension to their relationship. Juliette loves to pitch her wits against the great man and they make an interesting combination. She is very fond of riddles and puzzles but when the pair progressed to chess I could have done without the several pages of move diagrams that illustrated the game. This halts the narrative flow of what would otherwise be a five-star read.

The action spans the length and breadth of New York, and I particularly enjoyed the behind the scenes glimpses into the backstage workshops of a Broadway theatre – a beautifully conceived and decidedly apt setting for one of the most dramatic and heart-stopping moments in the whole book!

Some authors begin to lose their edge when a character has been around for so long. This is the 12th in the series and The Bone Collector came out way back in 1997. Not Deaver, though. He has once again created a novel that engages from the first page and holds on tight to that final full stop, with many a cul de sac and wrong turn along the way to keep you on your toes. The stage is already set for Lincoln Rhyme 13 – now we just have to be patient…

The last Jeffery Deaver novel we reviewed was The October List. The Steel Kiss is released 22 March.

Hodder & Stoughton

CFL Rating: 4 Stars

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