'Cold Moon'
stays warm
and fuzzy

''The Cold Moon''
By Jeffery Deaver
(Simon & Schuster, 400 pp., $26)
Buy at Amazon

Reviewed by John Orr
June 2006

It's possible that some day Jeffery Deaver will turn nasty on the fans of his excellent Lincoln Rhyme series and deliver a really grim and unhappy ending.

But ''The Cold Moon'' is not that book. It is, instead, another tale of a clever murderer forced to match wits with the brilliant quadriplegic criminalist Rhyme. It's filled with what has become a formula for Deaver's novels, if not his short stories (for which Deaver does not feel he has to play nice): Dangerous situation, people are going to die, but somehow Rhyme, sifting through microscopic clues, figures it out in time and saves the day. Lots of clever plot twists along the way, and some kind of complication that threatens Rhyme and his lady-love assistant, Amelia Sachs.

''The Cold Moon'' features a killer who leaves clocks and poetry at crime scenes, and includes the reappearance of some criminals from Deaver's first Rhyme novel, ''The Bone Collector.''

New is Kathryn Dance, a West Coast detective who is an expert at reading witnesses and getting the truth out of them. It's a real departure for Rhyme, who usually never trusts witnesses. Dance is a good character and before long Rhyme starts calling ''our secret weapon.''

''The Cold Moon'' is not as bloody, scary or as good as ''The Bone Collector'' or ''The Coffin Dancer,'' and not as poetically brilliant as ''The Vanished Man.'' But it's a good read, as with all of Deaver's books.

But one has to wonder if Deaver has gone a little soft. This one is too close to being a cozy. Will his next one feature a cat?