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Tuesday, March 22, 2016


4.5 stars out of 5

The author's series featuring forensic detective and quadriplegic Lincoln Rhyme never disappoint - and I'm pretty sure I've read every single one (this is the 12th full novel, I believe). But for some reason, this one hit just a titch off the bullseye, prompting me to issue a 4.5-star rating.

I can't put my finger on a reason, except perhaps that Rhyme has stopped working on NYPD criminal cases - much to the dismay of his professional and personal partner, Amelia Sachs. Now, they lead almost separate lives, and Sachs is less than thrilled. Complicating the issue is the return of her ex-boyfriend, who's been in jail for a crime he insists he did not commit and wants Amelia to help him prove it (and in the process come back to him). Add in more complications with the introduction of an intern hell-bent on pleasing Rhyme: A young, attractive, intelligent woman who, like Rhyme, is in a wheelchair.

The book begins as Sachs is on one of her famous chases, this time to nail a killer as he runs through a Brooklyn department store. Just as she's closing in, she's distracted by screams: The maintenance cover on a working escalator, it seems, has inexplicably opened and a passenger has fallen in and landed on the still-running gears. She abandons her chase, opting instead to try to save - unsuccessfully - the accident victim.

But was it an accident? If not, how on earth could the escalator cover have popped open all by itself? As it turns out, the NYPD has a serial killer on its hands - one who apparently has the ability to take control of "smart" technology that's become commonplace in today's society. Throughout, the specter of just how safe we all are from the "stuff" we all want and claim to need but over which we really have little control hangs over our heads. By the end, I was giving serious thought to disconnecting everything from my Kindle to my garage-door opener.

As usual, the action is almost nonstop as Rhyme and Sachs and their teams are brought together by commonalities in the cases on which they're working. Also as usual, there were a few almost-chuckles, usually stemming from Rhyme's droll sense of humor. In one of his classroom sessions, for instance - he's now spending some time teaching - he welcomes a student who claims to be a novelist because he (Rhyme) once was the subject of a "series of novels based on cases he'd run." In fact, he muses, he even wrote the author to complain about "misrepresentations of real crime work..."

The plot notwithstanding, I'd really, really love to know how much the manufacturer of well-known outdoor wear (e.g., jackets) has paid publishers (and/or authors) for product placement. It's not just in this book; I've seen mentions in several books of late - one of which hammered the brand name home in at least 20 places. Conceptually, it's not a bad idea; unlike TV commercials that can be zapped through with recording devices or ignored via trips to the refrigerator, readers are pretty much captive sets of eyes. But doggone it, hold enough; more than one or two mentions is intrusive and, at least by me, not appreciated.

The Steel Kiss by Jeffery Deaver (Grand Central Publishing, March 2016); 480 pp.

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