An expert but oddly uninvolving thriller in which a murderous Chinese smuggler of illegals tracks the survivors of a disastrous Long Island landing, hotly pursued himself by a galaxy of cops directed by quadriplegic criminalist Lincoln Rhyme.
The ship carrying Kwan Ang, the snakehead better known as Gui, the Ghost, and his cargo of human “piglets” has almost made land when he finds the Coast Guard bearing down on him and promptly blows up the ship, planning to escape to shore and disappear in Manhattan’s Chinatown. But ten members of two families, mostly women and children, succeed in escaping as well, along with ruthless Sonny Li and dissident physician John Sung, who fall into the hands of the FBI. The other survivors, whose testimony could put the Ghost away for a good long time, vanish into the bowels of the city. Can Rhyme, together with Crime Scene officer Amelia Sachs, his eyes, ears, and love, and dozens of bigwigs and minions from the NYPD, the FBI, and the INS catch up with the Ghost before—aided by a bangshou, an unnamed source within the investigation—he catches up with the families who refused to die? Veterans of the series won’t be surprised by Deaver’s surgical skill in cutting between predators and prey, setting up taxing ordeals and violent confrontations, and springing surprises long after a less inventive plotter would have thrown in the towel. But because he never develops the potential victims in the Wu and Chang families, the nonstop battle between good and evil remains nearly as abstract as the wei-chi game it’s constantly compared to.
So many incidental pleasures that it seems ungracious to note that, like Rhyme’s last case (The Empty Chair, 2000, etc.), this one seems detached and synthetic, like a five-finger exercise for some awfully busy fingers.