Rhyme teeters on brink in cliffhanger of a thriller
The Cutting Edge
Hodder & Stoughton, hardback, 438 pages, €14.99
Jeffery Deaver's newest and almost certainly sure-fire bestseller begins on what should have been a red-letter day for engaged couple William and Anna. While visiting diamond merchant Jatil Patel's Manhattan store to pick up her $16,000 engagement ring, they and the owner are slain by a box-knife wielding intruder.
But Patel's young assistant Vimal Lahori surprises the killer as he is ransacking the store. Wounded by a gunshot, Vimal flees with the remorseless killer on his trail. Wheelchair-bound criminologist Lincoln Rhyme, recently married to NYPD detective Amelia Sachs, is asked by his former police partner Lon Sellitto to consult on the case.
Using his formidable deductive powers, his state-of-the-art technology and Amelia's investigative muscle, Rhyme soon suspects that this is anything but a botched robbery.
The killer was looking for something specific, and is ruthlessly torturing and killing anyone who might lead him to Lahori. The suspect, apparently a Russian with a grudge against people who wear diamonds, is causing mayhem by attacking diamond-wearers of either sex.
Meanwhile, a series of seemingly unrelated mini earthquakes are causing death and distress in Manhattan, seemingly centred on a midtown geothermal drilling site developing a renewable energy power station. But Rhyme's forensic examination of microscopic residue found at the various crime scenes suggests that, however unlikely it seems, the two events could be linked. What's more, he begins to wonder if the earthquakes might not presage an even more cataclysmic event.
If dealing with all this was not enough, Rhyme is retained rather surprisingly by a high-powered Mexican lawyer on behalf of Mexican drug lord, Eduardo Capilla, known as El Halcon. Capilla had entered the US illegally to formalise a new criminal enterprise in New York.
However, the FBI and the NYPD had learned of his presence in the city, and after a shootout in which several people were killed, he was captured and standing trial for murder. Rhyme's task was to prove forensically that Capilla's claim was hiding in a toilet during the shootout is true. However, Rhyme's involvement in Capilla's trial does not sit easily with Henry Bishop, the US Attorney prosecuting the case.
He determines to arrest Rhyme and throw him, wheelchair and all, into jail without the support of Thom, his personal carer.
In this, the 14th Rhyme/Sachs investigation, master storyteller Jeffery Deaver has huge fun in seamlessly knitting together the tangled skein of the multiple threads of his Gordian knot-like storyline.
The narrative is also chock-a-block full of his signature fascination for research into arcane topics - who knew, for instance, that plotting, cleaving, sawing, bruting and brillianteering are the five stages of turning a rough diamond into a flawless gemstone. We are also effortlessly diverted down paths that teach us how to solve complex cryptic crossword puzzles, understand geothermal heat exchange technology, and marvel at the recent hi-tech advances that have been made in facial recognition software.
The nerve-jangling resolution of Deaver's latest chiller is as sparkling as any of the gems at the centre of The Cutting Edge, but he also manages in the final couple of pages to deliver one of the most vertiginous cliffhangers any fan of the Lincoln Rhyme stories could ever wish for.