The latest serial killer to duke it out with quadriplegic criminalist Lincoln Rhyme is a nefarious figure, the Watchmaker, whose bark, sadly, is a lot worse than his bite.
The first two victims are linked by identical clocks left at the crime scenes and the killer’s clear determination to prolong each death for as long as possible. But Lincoln Rhyme and his legman/investigator Amelia Sachs don’t need to work very hard to find clues to a killer who signs his work with a snatch of dark doggerel. Evidently the perps, soon identified for readers as unflappable Gerald Duncan and his rapist sidekick Vincent Reynolds, are intent on leaving a trail of evidence that will lead directly to them. Will Rhyme, Sachs and the NYPD catch the pair before they can kill florist Joanne Harper, Sgt. Lucy Richter and the rest of the victims they seem to have lined up? Fans of Rhyme’s first six cases (The Twelfth Card, 2005, etc.) will skip this question to focus on a more interesting one: Which of the leads, revelations, twists and confessions can be trusted, and which have been planted for purposes best known to the Watchmaker? Deaver, an old pro at pulling rugs out from under readers, adds a piquant complication this time: another case Sachs is working on her own (an impossible suicide she’s sure is murder) whose connection to the Watchmaker is worth the price of admission. But this time the complications—a technical term that refers to the extra dials and functions built into a first-rate chronometer—go way over the top for the last 100 pages, and the case peters out in diminishing returns.
The most mannered of all Rhyme’s adventures, with more red herrings than a fish market and a climax that’s both a bang and a whimper.