Another grisly tale from a real master of suspense
The Skin Collector: Jeffery Deaver Hodder & Stoughton, hdbk, £18.99, 448 pages
Jeffery Deaver, who worked as a journalist and a lawyer with a sideline in folk singing before becoming a full-time writer, had some modest success as a thriller writer before he published The Bone Collector, the first of his mysteries featuring paraplegic New York crime scene investigator Lincoln Rhyme and his assistant Amelia Sachs in 1997.
It did well enough, but what helped push it and all the subsequent Rhyme and Sachs tales to the top of the bestseller lists worldwide was the box office success of the 1999 movie of the same name starring Denzel Washington as Rhyme and Angelina Jolie as former model turned policewoman Amelia Sachs.
The Skin Collector is the story of a cruel killer who takes as his inspiration the Bone Collector's grisly murder spree a decade before and who has made a study of the detective's previous cases and believes he can outwit Rhyme. Using the countless miles of interlinked basements and tunnels that run beneath New York City, he targets his victims seemingly at random, tattooing their flesh with cryptic messages using a portable tattoo machine loaded with poisons that cause agonisingly slow death.
When it becomes clear the new serial killer is referencing the Bone Collector, Rhyme, Sachs and their team are drawn into the complex game the killer is playing, before realising almost too late that they themselves are the ultimate target.
There is no doubt that Deaver is the master of suspense, peppering his tales with scary cliff-hanging moments every couple of chapters and delivering multiple jaw-dropping plot twists. For all that – The Skin Collector is the 11th Rhyme/Sachs book – the franchise remains as fresh and novel as it was back in 1997.
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