Jeffrey Deaver,
The Twelfth Card
(Hodder & Stoughton, 2005)

We have met Lincoln Rhyme and Amelia Sachs in previous books by Jeffrey Deaver. He is the criminalist in the wheelchair and she is the ex-model cop with arthritis. As in Deaver's other excellent thrillers, the pair uses logic, science and forensics to solve puzzles that mere mortal policemen could never handle.

The masterstroke of Deaver's writing is just the right combination of thrills, puzzle solving and characterization to draw the reader in. We may not be smart enough to go out and solve these crimes ourselves, but as we look over Rhyme's shoulder, we get to feel as if we could.

In The Twelfth Card we start with a vivid description of New York in the 1800s. It reminded me of another fantastic book that anyone interested in good crime fact mixed with fiction should seek out: The Alienist by Caleb Carr. The reason for the flashback is that schoolgirl Geneva Settle is researching her ancestors for a school project.

She is attacked. A witness is killed. The police are baffled and the hunt begins.

Being a Jeffrey Deaver novel, this is not a straightforward hounds-chase-the-fox hunt. There are twists and turns, sometimes so complicated they bring you full circle -- but they are always logical.

Reviewing a thriller is difficult. If I say too much it spoils the plot. If I say too little, you may not give the book a try. What I will say is that you will not foretell the outcome -- no matter how many Deaver books you have read. Here's a clue: an extra joy of this writer is the way he can reintroduce characters from earlier stories -- so long as they have a part to play.

You will be thrown off guard, you will get under the skin of the participants and you will enjoy the ride.

by Nicky Rossiter
26 August 2006

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