XO – Jeffery Deaver

Setting: Mostly Fresno, USA.

Story: Kayleigh Towne is a rising star of the country music scene. Unfortunately, it appears she has acquired a serious stalker; one who plays verses from her songs, and then kills somebody in a way that’s related to the song lyrics. Kathryn Dance, California Bureau of Investigation investigator, and friend of Kayleigh, is in town when the terror starts. Can she help her friend and the authorities to stop the killer before he kills again?

The Good Stuff: Deaver has always been good at doing the research, and with this book he does a very good job of turning the cold, hard facts, and the fuzzy, warm feelings of the country music scene into a believable and interesting backdrop. Further, he fashions a solid character out of Kayleigh, and allows some of the support characters to rise to their moment of glory. Dance is, as you would expect, given the best of attention, and is the star of the book (if not the stage).

But Deaver is famous for his u-turn plot twists, red herrings, and surprises, and this time he delivers one of his best performances for quite a while. If you are looking for the twists, you might well spot them. But Deaver’s plotting and writing in this book is so polished, it probably doesn’t matter. This is a book that keeps up the action, suspense, and intrigue until the very end.

Not So Good Stuff: To go with the country scene, we get Deaver’s country song lyrics – a whole flipping album of them. Off putting is me being polite, but maybe that’s because I do not like country music.

I also wasn’t that keen on the guest appearance of Lincoln Rhyme (another Deaver character) to help in the hunt using his forensic skills. It would appear today’s audience demands high level forensic performances, the likes of which they are used to from endless runs of CSI. That part added nothing very much to the book; it was ok, but unnecessary.

Score: 7.5/10