Jeffery Deaver Electrically Charges Thrillers

[17 August 2010]

By Jules Brenner

If it was mystery author Jeffery Deaver’s intention to give new meaning to the phrase “an electrically charged thriller,” he couldn’t have generated a more powerful expression of it than the case of arch misuse of watts and amperes at the center of The Burning Wire. As the master of the scientific/technological approach to crime solving, he’s outdone himself with a form of weaponry and mass destruction we haven’t encountered before—virtual bombs of electric energy directed at a target at a surge level that’s lethal.

When the first of these sends a bolt of juice from a Manhattan power substation into a bus, killing a passenger, it causes criminalist Lincoln Rhyme to sit up in his wheelchair. What sort of demented individual would, or could, do such a thing, and what is this “unsub” (“unknown subject” in Rhyme-speak) after?

Working in his combination Manhattan apartment and state-of-the-art forensic lab, quadriplegic Rhyme, paralyzed from the waist down, runs his cases with a team of NYPD officers (including an overenthusiastic rookie cop), a few seasoned detectives, FBI men, lab techs, a devoted professional caregiver and his beloved field agent Amelia Sachs, a red-headed beauty.  Often ornery, he’s typically as demanding of himself as he is of his specialized crew. He now puts them to work on finding the mass murderer in their midst.

The wily villain is a dangerous match for Rhyme, leaving few clues as he ups his murder count with increasingly sophisticated and intensified electrical attacks, each grander, less expected and more sizzling than the last. 

The investigation leads to Algonquin Consolidated Power and Light whose megawatts are being used to light up the city in devastating ways, and to just the kind of man with the necessary expertise to pull this off: a retired “Troubleman.” 

Meanwhile Rhyme ponders a risky advanced medical procedure that holds the promise of improving his destiny…or end it altogether. 

There is scarcely a more formulaic mystery writer than Deaver, whose love of brainpower invests his character with insights that are legendary with an investigatory language and culture all his own.  He’s been described as “the most creative, skilled and intriguing thriller writer in the world” by the Daily Telegraph and “the master of ticking-bomb suspense” by People magazine. 

His cases hew closely to a set of characters employing a repeated methodology (this is his ninth Lincoln Rhyme foray) designed as vehicles of ingenuity between masterminds on both sides of the legal/criminal divide.  In a Deaver novel our familiarity with the repeated elements of crime fiction is used to setup the author’s intricately woven, evasive twists.  A magician’s misdirection and the formulaic genius of his plots is what his readers come for.

Deaver has just been named the continuation author of the James Bond series.  Small wonder. But it raises a question:  Is he looking for a way to cut Rhyme short or to give his hero some sort of second chance?

Fans will not want to miss this sparkling salvo of lightening bolts nor the next book, which promises a critical turning point for our perfectionist on wheels.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/post/129464-the-burning-wire/