Jeffery Deaver
"The Kill Room:
A Lincoln Rhyme Novel"
By: Jeffery Deaver
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
477 pages
Buy at Amazon.com

Jeffery Deaver's website: www.jefferydeaver.com

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Lots of twists and turns to get to Jeffery Deaver's 'Kill Room'
August 3, 2013

I always look for, and find, thrills and surprises in books by Jeffery Deaver, who is the unmatchable master of intelligent plot twists.

Sometimes Deaver takes on a topic that either is, or should be, of great public interest. Such as "The Blue Nowhere," which explored some of the many ways that a malicious person can do real damage using computers. And "The Broken Window," which was an absolutely terrifying look at how data mining can be exploited.

With his latest (don't blink, he has another coming out later this year), "The Kill Room," Deaver takes on subjects of some debate these days: How the U.S. government may be involved in killing people outside recognized war zones ... and ... another issue that I don't want to spoil by revealing it here. That first issue is enough to get us started.

The Kill Room

This is a Lincoln Rhyme novel. Deaver's great quadriplegic genius, an evidence examiner with no equal. In this tale, he has, via surgery, gained enough control of one arm to shake hands, but he can't feel the hands he touches.

Into his New York townhouse come an NYPD captain and an assistant district attorney. The ADA, Nance Laurel, wants Rhyme's help in nailing a U.S. government employee whom she thinks was involved in the assassination by sniper of an anti-American activist in Nassau. She thinks Shreve Metzger, the head of NIOS, the national Intelligence and Operations Service, has gone rogue, and is ordering kills beyond the scope of his authority.

"You mentioned two conspirators,'" says detective Lon Sellitto, a Rhyme cohort. "'along with the shooter. Who else aside Metzger?'

"'Oh,' Laurel continued in a faintly dismissive tone, 'the president.'

"'Of what?' Sellitto asked.

"Whether or not this required a thoughtful hesitation Laurel paused anyway. 'Of the United States, of course. I'm sure that every targeted killing requires the president's okay. But I'm not pursuing him.'"

Why she is not pursuing the president is simple: "'Even if the president acted outside the scope of his authority in ordering a targeted killing, the criminal procedure in this case would be impeachment. But obviously that's outside of my jurisdiction.'"

Her jurisdiction is New York City, and although the actual crime took place in the Bahamas, Laurel thinks she has grounds to bring charges against Metzger, whose office is in New York.

A political activist named Roberto Moreno, who has publicly said a number of things critical of the United States, and who may have been involved in planning a terrorist strike somewhere in the Americas, is shot and killed by a sniper. Two people in the room with him, a journalist interviewing Moreno, and a bodyguard, are also killed, slashed by the glass that flew from the window the bullet broke.

Rhyme, Sellitto, and Amelia Sachs (Rhyme's life partner and a New York Police detective) start an investigation, including trying to track Moreno's recent New York visit.

There is some time stress, because they know Metzger has at least one more kill order pending.

And in the meantime, we get to meet at least one killer, Jacob Swann, a very meticulous fellow who is very good with cooking, and with cooking knives, which he also uses to grotesque effect in his day job: assassin.

"He would slice the very special meat into nearly translucent ovals, dredge them in type 45 French pastry flour then quickly saute' them in a blend of olive oil and butter (always the two, of course; butter alone burns faster than an overturned tanker).

"He offered Carol more water. She wasn't interested. She'd given up.

"'Relax,' he whispered."

Carol is his prisoner, someone he'd captured as an unintended consequence of one of his attempts to kill Sachs, as he tries to derail Rhyme's investigation.

He also tries to have Rhyme killed, when the quadriplegic ventures to the Bahamas in search of his beloved trace evidence.

And Rhyme is, indeed, put in a very bad situation, one that harkens back to the very beginning of the Rhyme series, in "The Bone Collector."

"Lincoln Rhyme came about in, I guess I'd say, a very calculated way," Deaver told me in a 1999 interview. "I wanted to write a book with this very simple concept: My hero is in a locked room at the end of the book, utterly helpless, no one coming to save him, the killer -- the bad guy -- is there. What does my hero do to get out of that?

"And I thought about, well, possibly having him tied up, or handcuffed or duct-taped or something like that -- but that's a cliche. I wanted to go to the extreme. I like high-wire acts. I like to push everything as far as I can. So I decided to make him -- based on that very simple, rather calculated thriller premise, a quadriplegic -- completely, permanently immobile."

And that is how "The Bone Collector" ends. Read it, it's great, and seriously creepy.

And there is another desperate scene for Rhyme in "The Kill Room." Which I won't reveal here.

There is a lot to like about "The Kill Room," especially Deaver's masterful characterizations. And he doesn't just set a character and move on -- he allows the reader to see different levels in a number of characters, and perhaps change a mind or two.

For instance, Nance Laurel is initially described in a way that makes it very difficult for me, personally, to like her, and difficult for Rhyme and Sachs to like her. But Deaver doesn't leave her there; he develops her character, shows us some reasons to maybe feel better about her. Deaver does some of that, too, with the bad guys in this book.

With Deaver, not only does he play with our expectations regarding action and plot; he plays with our expectations regarding his characters. No black and white here; it's all shades of gray, with plenty of color to brighten the mix.


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