The Skin Collector: A Lincoln Rhyme Novel
Despite what you may have heard elsewhere, THE SKIN COLLECTOR by Jeffery Deaver is not exactly a sequel to THE BONE COLLECTOR, which introduced forensic detective Lincoln Rhyme to the world. While the proceedings that occurred there are referenced occasionally here, and both books share some of the same characters (including, of course, Rhyme and the ever-present and always-welcome Amelia Sachs), one can delve into THE SKIN COLLECTOR with full understanding and enjoyment without reading (or re-reading) its similarly titled predecessor. This is a good thing, as you will want to immerse yourself in this new novel without delay or preamble. It is one of Deaver’s best to date.
"In addition to its multiple corkscrew twists and turns, THE SKIN COLLECTOR puts Deaver’s extensive and exhaustive research on display."
The question that is raised within the first few pages is not so much how Deaver does it as how he does it so well. The answer, which he will be happy to tell you, is diligent, single-minded hard work carried out in a workmanlike fashion over a period of many months. This is evident in all of his books, but especially here. We learn the name of the Skin Collector early on; it is Billy Haven, and the binding on the book is barely cracked before he claims his first victim and the reader is given what becomes a crash course in the art and history of skin art, or “tattooing,” as it is popularly and occasionally erroneously known. Haven abducts his victims and murders them by using poisoned ink to create intricate, enigmatic messages in their skin, leaving them on display in underground settings beneath the streets and buildings of New York. What the reader does not learn until near the very end is the “why” behind Haven’s motive. Or, I should say, the “why why.”
Reading a Deaver novel is like peeling a sweet onion to get at its essence: you never really know when you get to the heart of it until you run out of pages to read. And that is especially true of THE SKIN COLLECTOR, which won’t keep you guessing so much as keep you bouncing from one supposition to another about almost everything. What is never in doubt is Rhyme’s tenaciousness. While he may not be sure of the “why” or the “who” of the fiend he pursues, Rhyme remains very good at predicting the “what” of the doer’s plans...even if he and his team are not always 100% successful in preventing it from happening. And even after the case is wrapped up, some of the tape and ribbon come undone. You’ll see. You’ll also love every page and paragraph of it.
In addition to its multiple corkscrew twists and turns, THE SKIN COLLECTOR puts Deaver’s extensive and exhaustive research on display. There is a great deal of information provided about the history and nuts and bolts (literally) of skin art, presented in such a manner that even those who otherwise possess absolutely no interest in the topic will be intrigued. There is also a less exhaustive but equally fascinating presentation about the New York beneath New York. Deaver could conduct guided tours of the tunnels and passageways that connect many of the buildings in the Big Apple, and literally does so within these pages.
Don’t miss THE SKIN COLLECTOR; it sets up the beginning of yet another wild Deaver ride.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on May 16, 2014