As most of you have already figured out, I read far more novels than most people every year. Yes, I am a confirmed bookaholic and proud of it. Given that, it’s always surprising to me when I realize I haven’t read an acclaimed author’s work. Jeffery Deaver is a prime example of that. He’s probably one of our top international bestselling authors, with lots of awards and with over 30 highly successful novels under his belt. The man is considered a master at crime novels. I even saw The Bone Collector when it was made into a film. Don’t ask me how his novels slipped past me. I’ve seen them on my local bookstore shelf many times but then another novel would sing its siren song at me and, although I’d only intend to turn away for a second, I’d wander off in a bookaholic daze. Sad but true.
I’ve finally corrected that problem by reading The Steel Kiss, the latest in his forensic detective series featuring Lincoln Rhyme. Before you get concerned that this novel is deep into the series, let me reassure you that I had no problem reading it as a stand-alone. I probably missed some of the continuing thread/backstory elements; however, it worked quite well. There was only one thread I had an issue with and I’m going to clear that one up for you in this review since it becomes apparent before the novel ends – and I can do that without providing spoilers. So if you like Bones or other forensic TV series, police procedurals, detective stories, crime stories, thrillers or psychological thrillers then hang onto your seats because have I got a read for you!
Homicide detective Amelia Sachs and her NYPD police detectives have been trying to track a killer they’re calling Unsub 40, a suspect who’s been leading them on a merry chase. They get a lead when a patrolman spots him quite accidentally near a local shopping mall. Amelia stands outside of the Starbucks while Unsub 40’s getting coffee, reluctant to follow him inside in case he becomes violent and attacks innocents in a bid to get away. Unfortunately for her, despite trying to blend into her surroundings, his keen senses have detected her and he escapes again. She can’t count the number of times his hyper alertness has foiled capture.
“The odds she’d find Mr. Forty were, she told herself wryly, nonexistent at best.
But, damn, there he was, walking in a long lope. Tall, skinny, green jacket, cap and all, though from behind she couldn’t tell what team was being championed on the headgear…
This was her first look at the prey. The gangly man moved in lengthy strides, feet long but narrow (in running shoes, she noted; good for sprinting over the damp April concrete – much better than her leather soled boots). Part of her wished he was more wary – so he would look around and she could get a look at his face. That was still an unknown…
She wondered if the murder weapon was inside [his backpack]: the ball-peen hammer, with its rounded end,…The conclusion as to what had caved in Todd Williams’ skull had come from a database that Lincoln Rhyme had created for the NYPD and the Medical Examiner’s Office,…It was Rhyme’s database but Sachs had been forced to do the analysis herself. Without Rhyme.”
As she rapidly deploys her men to potential escape routes, she scans the mall common area in case Unsub 40’s somehow evaded them and double backed into the mall shopping area to throw them off. And that’s when she hears the scream. The main escalator has malfunctioned, causing a man to fall through the stairs into the mechanical works underneath. He’s become pinned there and is horribly mangled, yet somehow he’s still alive and he’s in what should be mind-numbing pain. She can’t just leave him there so, despite needing to track the killer, she leaps into the space and tries vainly to shut down the mechanism that’s literally eating him alive. She knows he’ll soon be a dead man no matter what she does, even though he doesn’t realize it at first, but she can’t abandon him to die alone in agony.
“How can you make a machine like this and not have an off switch? Jesus. Furious at the incompetence.
‘My wife,’ the man whispered.
‘Shhh,’ Sachs soothed. ‘It’ll be all right.’ Though she knew it wouldn’t be all right. His body was a bloody mess. Even if he survived, he’d never be the same.
‘My wife. She’s…Will you go see her? My son. Tell them I love them.’”
And, of course, the killer evades the entire team of detectives despite their best efforts. If Amelia didn’t know better, she’d think this man could turn himself into smoke and mirrors because it certainly feels that way. She needs all the help she can get in her battle of wits with this killer and she’s angry that the best forensic detective she’s ever known, Lincoln Rhyme, has chosen this moment to decide to stop working with the police department. It feels like the ultimate betrayal because together they have been a formidable team. Without Lincoln’s expertise, Amelia feels like part of her has been cut off and she’s really angry at him for that decision. How will she catch this formidable killer, who always seems to be 10 steps ahead of her, without Lincoln’s unique leaps of logic? How dare he abandon her like this?
Of course she can’t resist trying to entice Lincoln with the unusual aspects of the case, despite his insistence that he is not interested. There has to be a way to convince Lincoln. And then the two of them realize something that even Lincoln can’t resist…that the escalator incident may not have been an accident at all. As her team does research, they realize this killer has somehow hacked into code used in common everyday machines and appliances, and is using that ability to murder people at random. But why? The potential for wanton destruction on an unimaginably wide scale is shocking. And how can they possibly stop him before he escalates even further?
Amelia is one of my favorite kinds of characters – a strong woman in every sense of the word and a real kick-butt heroine. Lincoln is her perfect counter-balance. He’s a man who literally lives in his head. So let me tell you what led to my picking up The Steel Kiss. Lincoln Rhyme is a quadriplegic with a C4 injury, like Chris Reave’s and like Kevin, a good friend of mine from grad school…a friend who was one of the most amazing people I’ve ever known. Lincoln is a very different person from my friend but his C4 injury and the complications it presents to living are very accurately depicted…as is living with the realization that even something normally small can kill a C4 patient when least expected. It’s like living while balancing on a fine wire, very aware of how tenuous life can be. The Steel Kiss also introduces an intern who is becoming accustomed to being wheel bound. The backstory item I mentioned earlier that you need to know about – Amelia and Lincoln are in a loving relationship. Oh, and the main villain in this story? He is a very “worthy” opponent for someone as brilliant as Lincoln, making for heightened tension and lots of nail-biting moments.
Having read The Steel Kiss, I’m of course wondering why I waited so long to pick up a Jeffery Deaver novel. I just added a ton of Lincoln Rhyme series novels to my TBR pile because The Steel Kiss was all I needed to read to know I’m going to love this series big time! I wholeheartedly recommend The Steel Kiss. Just don’t start reading it at bedtime like I did or you will be up all night long. Of course, there are worse things that could happen cause who needs sleep when there’s a killer to help catch?
Click here for a list of Jeffery Deaver’s March through July 2016 author signings and events, including several book festivals.
Can’t wait to read it? The Steel Kiss is available in all formats from your favorite online bookseller. Click on the link below to get it to read right now!
I’d love to get your comments on The Steel Kiss, Jeffery Deaver and/or his other work, and/or this review!