Kinesics specialist Kathryn Dance’s second case (The Sleeping Doll, 2007) gives her more chances to show her special expertise, but to less effect.
Everyone’s seen the homemade crosses, often arrayed with flowers, that mark fatal traffic accidents. But the memorials placed along the roads of Monterey, Calif., are different. They don’t include the names of the dead, and they list today’s or tomorrow’s dates, making them less like memorials than like the taunting prophecies so beloved of Lincoln Rhyme’s creator (The Broken Window, 2008, etc.). The California Bureau of Investigation is quick to link the first roadside cross to Tammy Foster, a high-school student abducted and locked in the trunk of her car, which was parked on the beach as the tide came in. Soon after, CBI investigator Dance, recalling a one-car accident that left two of Tammy’s friends dead, realizes that The Chilton Report, a local blog about to go global, may have unleashed a wave of violence. Blogger James Chilton’s online question—whether the road on which high-school student Travis Brigham crashed the car had been adequately maintained—seemed innocuous enough, but the comments that followed, many of them attacks on Travis by fellow students, became increasingly vitriolic. Did the flame war erupt from cyberspace into the old-fashioned kind of space? A series of considerably more physical attacks, first against another student, then directed more generally at contributors to The Chilton Report, raises the stakes. Yet Dance seems mostly ineffectual, maybe due to the distractions of the obligatory turf wars and of her mother’s arrest for euthanizing a hopelessly wounded patient in the hospital where she works as a nurse. Deaver’s trademark plot twists are more numerous but less surprising than usual, with most of the alleged thunderclaps muffled.
After 15 years as the master magician of the thriller, Deaver seems to be opting for a less demanding formula.