Even the genre’s leading magician has his off days, as Deaver shows in this over-inventive yet highly derivative sequel to The Bone Collector (1997), The Cold Moon (2006) and quadriplegic criminalist Lincoln Rhyme’s other adventures.
Someone—OK, let’s not be coy, someone named Billy Haven—has developed a new way to kill people as novel as it is repellent: poisonous tattoos. The first to benefit from Billy’s artistry is aspiring actress Chloe Moore, lethally inscribed “The Second” in an underground passage beneath the boutique where she works. The NYPD’s Amelia Sachs, Rhyme’s longtime collaborator, foils an attack on visiting tourist Harriet Stanton, but IT whiz Samantha Levine, who isn’t so lucky, ends up dying of a tattoo that reads “Forty.” Why is an apparent fan of the Bone Collector scurrying through the elaborate system of tunnels beneath Manhattan and emerging to kill these inoffensive victims? Rhyme staves off boredom between the discoveries of the corpses by prepping Officer Ron Pulaski to masquerade as a mourner at the services for Richard Logan, the Watchmaker, after this connoisseur of timepieces and serial homicide suffers a fatal heart attack in prison. But a dead adversary can hold Rhyme’s attention for only so long, and eventually he moves on to posing a highly pertinent question: Is his quarry yet another of the fiendish, interchangeable, solitary psychos who keep challenging his mettle, or are larger forces at work here? The author’s many fans won’t be surprised to hear that the answer is yes, no and sort of. Four false endings, which must be a record even for Deaver.
It’s reassuring to think that as the bad guys grow ever more ingenious, so does Rhyme. And indeed, so does Deaver, though not necessarily in such a good way.