Ah, what sort of luck is it, and how is it that we live so right, that but a few short weeks before Christmas we get an unexpected present from Pocket Books in the form of a new novel from Jeffery Deaver? The answer is an author's restlessness, a desire to retell a tale previously told and to tell it better than it was told before.
SPEAKING IN TONGUES was originally published in Great Britain about six years ago. And a fine tale it was; but Deaver, upon rereading it, felt that it didn't have some of those little twists and turns and curves that make a Deaver novel a Deaver novel. He accordingly did some major revisions for the American hardcover market, and we are thus blessed.
I knew that SPEAKING IN TONGUES was going to be good (for reasons other than the legendary "by Jeffery Deaver" across the cover, of course) when I discovered that my wife had filched it from my reading pile and had stayed up all night reading it. I mean, she doesn't even let me keep her up all night. More's the pity...but I understand. I really do. Mr. Deaver has cost me many a night's sleep when I have been foolish enough to crack open one of his books in the evening. I mean, gee, you don't have to sleepevery night, do you?
Just because SPEAKING IN TONGUES was published in Britain first does not mean it is one of those English drawing room mysteries, where the amateur sleuth figures things out by his fifth snifter of Napoleon brandy. No, this one is set in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Tate Collier, former prosecutor, now crackerjack attorney, is supposed to have a visit with his daughter Megan. Megan is a little disturbed; she is engaging in self-destructive behavior, is exhibiting signs of a schizoaffective disorder and is hanging out with the wrong crowd. When Megan turns up missing, Collier and Bette McCall, Megan's mother and Collier's ex-wife, at first think that their daughter has run away, which would be bad enough. But she hasn't run away.
Megan has been abducted by Aaron Matthews, a brilliantly twisted psychiatrist who has a mad-on of gargantuan proportions against Collier. This sets up a brilliant game of cat-and-mouse, with Matthews always a step or two ahead of his pursuers. Matthews has two advantages: his brilliant intellect and the fact that his pursuers have absolutely no idea who he is. But Collier has a couple of aces as well: his power of persuasion and his ex-wife. As she notes at one point, "You'd kill for your lover, but you'd die for your child." Just so.
Deaver, with each new novel, further establishes his reputation as a novelist who simply cannot be beat. He is a master strategist, one who keeps his readers guessing and fooled from first page to last. And be warned: there is one passage in SPEAKING IN TONGUES where he demonstrates that if he had turned his pen toward the macabre instead of the mysterious he could well give Stephen King a run for the roses in that department. Turn the page, but forego the popcorn.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on October 1, 2002