A Maiden's Grave
It is a simultaneous blessing and curse that more people have
probably seen the film adaptation of Jeffery Deaver's novel A
MAIDEN'S GRAVE than have read the book. This is not unusual; in a
less harried age viewers would, I think, be more likely to seek out
the novel that was the subject matter of the "Based on the novel"
tag that would come appended to the beginning, or end, of a film
they enjoyed. This is unfortunate; while A MAIDEN'S GRAVE was a
fine film adaptation, there is nothing that can compare to climbing
into the lounge chair, cracking the binding on this book, and then
restricting movement for the next several hours to the eye, the,
hand, and the mind.
A MAIDEN'S GRAVE and PRAYING FOR SLEEP are the two novels that
really, really "did it" for Deaver; they set the tone for his later
books, particularly the Lincoln Rhyme novels, which have brought
him the fame, fortune and notoriety that he so long deserved and
that was so late in forthcoming. THE MAIDEN'S GRAVE tells a story
over the course of 400-plus pages (in the mass market paperback
edition) and a little over 18 hours that contains all of those
elements that make a Deaver book a DEAVER BOOK: sleights of hand,
plot twists, and a suspense level that is ratcheted upward every
page or two.
Oh, one other thing. Deaver has become well known for building his
novels around topics that you want to know more about but have
never had the time to delve into. The Man very kindly does the
research for you and drops factoids here and there, but never
gratuitously. So it is that when, in A MAIDEN'S GRAVE, a school bus
carrying students from a school for the hearing impaired is
hijacked by a trio of murderous escaped convicts, the reader learns
much more than sign language. There are some pretty ferocious
political and cultural differences within the hearing-impaired
community, and even some class differences based on impairment
etiology. Deaver does a masterful job of bringing these out within
the subtext of his story, and making them matter as his story
unfolds, without tearing and straining at the plot fabric. That one
fact alone would make A MAIDEN'S GRAVE a masterful work.
But...but...there is a lot more to this novel than the
hearing-impaired subtext. When it is learned that the bus has been
hijacked, and the students kidnapped and held hostage, the politics
involved in the containing and resolving of the situation have
enough plot lines for an entirely separate novel. Arthur Potter is
the FBI's very best point man in the area of hostage negotiation.
Potter approaches every hostage situation as a homicide in
progress; those responsible must be apprehended and the damage
contained. The jurisdictional disputes among federal, state, and
local authorities, even when the line of authority is at least
theoretically clear, function more to endanger rather than protect
What is so remarkable, however, is Deaver's ability, in the midst
of jurisdictional chaos, to plausibly create an improbable love
affair from afar between Potter and Melanie Charrol. Charrol is a
teacher of the hearing-impaired, and one of the hostages. Though
she and Potter have never met, and have seen each other only from a
fleeting distance, they begin, incredibly, to work together to
resolve the situation and to save themselves --- and each other.
The result is a tale of suspense and, yes, romance, that is somehow
rendered believable. I doubt that anyone but Deaver could ever
carry it off.
Whether you have seen the film version of A MAIDEN'S GRAVE on HBO
or not, the novel, and the reading experience, are not to missed.
It is a work to be read, reread, and shared.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 22, 2011