Indefatigable prestidigitator Deaver sets quadriplegic criminalist Lincoln Rhyme (The Broken Window, 2008, etc.) against a wraithlike terrorist who’s threatening to wreak havoc on New York’s electrical-power grid.
The first incident—within minutes, four electrical substations in Algonquin Consolidated Power’s electrical grid go offline, and a fifth, carrying the enormous load of current that normally would have been divided among them all, throws off a lethal arc—attracts instant attention from the NYPD, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and of course Rhyme, who encourages his lover, Det. Amelia Sachs, to walk the crime scene looking for whatever trace evidence hasn’t been destroyed. Miraculously, predictably, Sachs finds just enough to generate some slender leads. So when the malefactor sends a blustering demand that Algonquin CEO Andrea Jessen execute a rolling brownout across the city, briefly cutting the power in half, and threatening more violence if his demands aren’t met, Rhyme and Co. succeed in keeping casualties down, though not eliminating them. As the clock ticks down to Earth Day and the threats continue to set deadlines for more service interruptions Algonquin refuses to meet, Deaver varies the mix with a series of off-speed pitches. The FBI’s Fred Dellray purloins $100K for an informant who promises results and then takes a powder. Patrolman Ron Pulaski, panicking at the possibility that his cruiser is booby-trapped, accidentally runs down a pedestrian. From his wheelchair, Rhyme assists Mexican authorities in their pursuit of Richard Logan, the nefarious Watchmaker who escaped justice in The Cold Moon (2006). And two visitors with very different agendas offer Rhyme new options for his future. Only the canniest readers will see which of these grace notes are red herrings and which are linked in crucial ways to the case at hand.
A relatively straightforward performance by the devious Deaver, with fewer open-mouthed surprises than usual, but fewer gratuitous plot twists as well. Newcomers to this celebrated series could do worse than to start here.