Those who have been reading Jeffery Deaver from the beginning have been on a real ride. He starts out with a promising debut novel, keeps plugging away and develops into a good journeyman, then becomes an acknowledged master of his craft. And then...somewhere along the way he takes an even greater step. With books like A MAIDEN'S GRAVE, THE BONE COLLECTOR and THE COFFIN DANCER, he becomes a genre unto himself. And he becomes firmly ensconced in that enviable position with the publication of THE DEVIL'S TEARDROP.
Now, Deaver's last two novels have concerned themselves with Lincoln Rhyme, the brilliant criminologist confined to bed as the result of a horrible accident which left his most important organ --- his mind --- intact. One would assume that Deaver would continue the momentum he created in THE BONE COLLECTOR and THE COFFIN Dancer and give his ever-burgeoning legions of readers another Rhyme novel. No, that would be too easy. Oh, Rhyme is in THE DEVIL'S TEARDROP --- for a page or two. The focal point of THE DEVIL'S TEARDROP, however, is Parker Kincaid, a retired FBI agent who happens to be the numero uno document expert in the country. Kincaid is secure in his role as a single parent who earns his bread and butter evaluating the authenticity of such things as letters from Thomas Jefferson to his daughter. Until the arrival of The Digger.
The Digger, you say? Well, it's 9:00 AM on New Year's Eve in Washington, D.C. A silent, will o' the wisp attack on the Dupont Circle Metro Station leaves bodies all over the place. A note delivered to the mayor's office advises that The Digger --- an assassin programmed for destruction --- will wreak havoc every four hours until $20 million is delivered to The Digger's accomplice. There's just one problem. The Digger's accomplice is killed in a freak accident. The money is not picked up, and The Digger is not turned off. The only evidence as to the identity of The Digger and his accomplice is the ransom note. Kincaid reluctantly drags himself out of retirement to figure out where The Digger will strike again. Meanwhile, the minutes keep ticking away.
I know, I know --- a forensic document examiner? One of those guys with a magnifying glass? Yes, Deaver is simply incredible. He not only makes the topic --- and the examiner --- interesting, but also compelling. When you finish THE DEVIL's TEARDROP you will know a little bit about forensic document evaluation and will also want to go read more on it. Deaver, of course very generously credits a couple of sources to get you started. And he brings the whole thing off very plausibly. Oh, he throws in a couple of deus ex machina elements here and there but they are only secondarily pertinent and while a writer of lesser talent would rely on them Deaver just uses the mechanism to make his story better. And Deaver also, of course, keeps his readers reading and interested to the extent that all other external stimuli become unwelcome intrusions. And lest we forget --- this book is not over until it's over. There is no way you can figure it out until Deaver tells you. I was sure I had it figured out and I was as wrong as I could be and then I was even more wrong. But that's what you can expect from a Deaver book.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on April 1, 2000