It is difficult to review or even talk about a Jeffery Deaver novel without presenting what are known as “spoilers.” I attempt to avoid those at all costs, especially in his case. I was privileged to attend a presentation that Deaver gave at Killer Nashville a few years ago in which he gave an overview of how he does what he does; it is a year-long process that he approaches in a disciplined and business-like manner. I don’t see my role as taking a few minutes to unravel plot points that took months to create. At the same time, I feel duty-bound, particularly after reading a book of the quality of THE KILL ROOM, to entice you to buy, read and enjoy it. What follows is an attempt to strike a balance by doing what Deaver does so well: revealing just enough to reel you in, without giving anything away. At least initially.
"While THE KILL ROOM is Deaver’s most challenging book to date, it is arguably his most entertaining and suspenseful as well."
THE KILL ROOM is the latest addition to the Lincoln Rhyme canon; that by itself should be enough to entice those familiar with Rhyme and Amelia Sachs, his professional and personal partner. The series has been a favorite of mine from its inception, and while the most recent installment --- THE BURNING WIRE --- still sticks favorably in my memory, it has been a while since Rhyme, Sachs and their interesting team of consultants have been featured all by their lonesome in the series proper. Here is Exhibit A for the proposition that wonderful things come to those who wait.
The book takes place in the days leading up to an experimental surgical procedure that hopefully will restore at least some mobility and additional function to Rhyme, who is almost completely paralyzed. Several days before the appointed time, Rhyme and Sachs are approached by representatives of the New York State Attorney General and the Manhattan District Attorney. They reveal that the head of the New York office of a clandestine Federal agency, with the blessing of the President of the United States, had approved the assassination of a US citizen in the Bahamas and that more are scheduled to occur. Given the location of the Federal office, and the fact that the victim, a controversial and outspoken activist, had ties to Manhattan, Rhyme and Sachs are asked to investigate. Sachs attempts to trace the victim’s steps in Manhattan while Rhyme leaves the city to go after the assassin himself, a master of weaponry who executed the killshot from a mile away.
Meanwhile, anyone who is a potential witness to the assassination and the identity of the doer is being mechanically slaughtered in the most chilling way possible. Almost from the beginning of the novel, however, it develops that things are not always as they seem. Utilizing misdirection, false leads, and some out-and-out clues, Deaver takes his readers on a wild and dangerous night’s ride while the ticking clock --- the assassin is poised to strike again and again --- gets ever louder with each tick, bringing Rhyme and Sachs closer to danger themselves.
While THE KILL ROOM is Deaver’s most challenging book to date, it is arguably his most entertaining and suspenseful as well. There are many elements --- Rhyme’s attempt to obtain cooperation with the Bahamian authorities, a fiend who is a gourmet cook, and a namedrop that mystery aficionados will find hilarious --- that make it Deaver's best book to date. But chief among them is his trademark ability to take readers through a complex labyrinth of clues and situations with nary a distraction or misstep, all the while making it look easy.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on June 7, 2013