The Burial Hour – Jeffery Deaver

Regular hero Lincoln Rhyme stars in this transatlantic hunt, as the forces of law and order seek to find the Composer, responsible for snatching a man from a New York street in broad daylight, leaving behind on the pavement a noose as some sort of clue. The snatch is followed up by an online video displaying the victim’s dying breaths for all to see. Can Rhyme and his newly wed wife, investigator Amelia Sachs, find their man before he strikes again?

This is a strange book, because although it has all the hallmark Deaver features – forensic detail to blow your mind, twists and turns to match, and an off the wall baddie – it never quite delivers the tension and suspense that usually results. For example, one of the support characters is a certain policeman of high rank who writes things down in his little black book. The word is that he is noting those who have crossed him, so he can exact his revenge at a time of his choosing. But, as regular Deaver readers, we know it must be something else. And when the explanation comes, it rather underwhelms, like much of the book. The tension threatens to build, but never quite gets there. It’s as if Deaver is testing his readership, to see how much they will take.

Another example is a character who is a forestry official. We all know he is going to be involved, and the part of the story that develops around his character is neither surprising nor particularly enthralling. In this case it’s a minor character promoted out of his depth to the detriment of the story.

There are parts of the book that are quite good. For example, I was impressed by how the author handled the topic of immigration, and integrated that into the story with a heavy does of realism but without taking away from the main plot line. That part went well. So it would be misleading to say the whole thing is disappointing, but the overall effect doesn’t match expectations from an author – especially a suspense author – of this standing and quality.

If you are a Deaver fan, you may well lap it up. For others, I would recommend you pass on this.

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