It’s a must-solve case for quadriplegic criminalist Lincoln Rhyme when his cousin is arrested for murder.
The evidence seems incontrovertible. Arthur Rhyme came over to Alice Sanderson’s apartment—leaving generous amounts of trace evidence from his home and DNA traces from his person—then attacked and killed her; stole a prized painting she’d just purchased; and left, obligingly depositing trace evidence from the crime scene back home. But since Rhyme can’t believe that his cousin killed anyone, he’s forced to conclude that there’s been an elaborate frame-up by someone who may well have done the same thing before. Fans of the serial-killer specialist (The Cold Moon, 2006, etc.) won’t be surprised when Rhyme, his partner Amelia Sachs and the rest of the NYPD crew he’s hastily cobbled together turn up two well-nigh identical crimes that exonerate Arthur to their satisfaction, even though he continues to languish in a lockup that seems to get more dangerous by the hour. A rare slip by the elusive killer leaves Rhyme with a bag of material he’d been on his way to plant at the home of still another innocent suspect. The big catch here is a Post-It note that sends Rhyme and company to Strategic Systems Datacorp, which collects and resells data, mountains of data, on every American it can. Deciding that the perp knows so much about the patsies he sets up, from their shoe sizes to their favorite brands of underwear, that he must have some connection to SSD, Rhyme commences collecting data on the data collectors. The ensuing investigation, which bogs down amid factitious thrills and the faceless geeks at SSD, feels like the work of a ghostwriter who knows the formula and uses the right names but lacks Deaver’s customary brio and fiendish ingenuity.
On the plus side, the master criminal, instantly forgettable on his own terms, will tap into many paranoid readers’ twin bogeymen: identity theft and government surveillance.