There's a word for this, but I'm just not sure what it is. I know you'll tell me. But here's the situation. Jeffery Deaver is a master of misdirection. He presents some facts, you read them and you make assumptions --- and you're always wrong. He plays fair. I mean, he doesn't put a gun to your head or otherwise force you to do anything (other than read whatever his latest novel is as quickly as you can). You just do it on your own. And even when you can occasionally figure something out --- I mean, that broken clock on your mantle is right twice a day, correct --- it ultimately will do you no good.
So what do you call it when the literary master of misdirection and illusion writes a book about misdirection and illusion? Well, I guess you can call it THE VANISHED MAN. THE VANISHED MAN takes place over the course of two days. It begins with a rapid series of seemingly unrelated murders by a mastermind who comes to be known as The Conjurer --- he commits the murders…and vanishes. Lincoln Rhyme, the brilliant New York criminologist, is brought in as a consultant and Amelia Sachs is of course there with him, functioning as his legs and eyes at the crime scene, doing what he cannot.
Rhyme deduces fairly rapidly that they are dealing with someone who has a background in magic. Happenstance results in an apprentice illusionist, who goes by the stage name of "Kara," being brought onto the team as a consultant. Rhyme arrives at a conclusion regarding the identity of the vanished man, but his motive remains a mystery. Is it vengeance? Is it murder-for-hire? Or is it something so diabolical that the team can't imagine it? All that Rhyme and Sachs know for certain is that they are all too quickly running out of time.
Deaver's craftsmanship is first-rate as always and his research into the professional world of magic and illusion is not only informative but also compelling. One cannot read THE VANISHED MAN without wishing to learn more about the craft. And Deaver makes that easy as well, dropping factoids about sourcebooks and museums. He simultaneously advances the lives of his characters just a bit --- there are disappointments and surprises for Sachs in the offing. Deaver may have also tipped his hand as to the subject matter of Rhyme's next case --- and Deaver's next book. Most of all, however, Deaver with THE VANISHED MAN continues to surprise, enchant and enthrall.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on June 29, 2004
The Vanished Man