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Read the book, don't see the movie
on November 27, 1999
It took seeing the film version of "The Bone Collector" to get me to read the book. I am now sorry I did not do so when the book first appeared as a BOMC selection years earlier, for I missed the pleasure of discovering a new story incorporating all the formulae I hold dear-- New York past and present, cops, and a serial killer. "The Bone Collector" combines the more clincial aspects of "The Silence Of The Lambs" with the nostalgic period feel of the Caleb Carr books, resulting in a mixture that falls somewhat short of the other two, but is compelling enough in spite of the flaws that just miss making it a classic of the genre. And it should have been. There are two problems. One is that Deaver overloads the story with clinical detail, the other is his pacing gets slow at times; he uses recurrent scenes of NYPD bureaucratic ineptitude to flesh out the action, and purportedly keep the reader in suspense as protagonists and antagonist plot their next move. This flaw also shows up in the movie, which suffers from slow pacing at times as well. Where he succeeds best is his intermingling of the past and present with the psychology of his criminal. The Bone Collector, as he is known through most of the book, is a more interesting character than in the film. His motives are more credible, as Deaver shows how trauma and obsession often result in the development of serial killers. As the killings progress, the killer increasingly loses his perspective on reality, unsure whether he is in the past or present. This, coupled with the book excerpts the criminal is obsessed with, gives us more of a glimpse into the mind of the serial killer than does the movie, which jettisons Deaver's psychological complexity and political subplot in favor of a formulaic, mainstream drama of vengeance sought for past perceived injustices. Ho hum. But that's due to Jeremy Iacone's script, not Deaver's novel. "The Bone Collector", warts and all, is Deaver's breakthrough book, not only for being made into a big time Hollywood film, but in winning Deaver a slew of readers, myself included, who may otherwise not have discovered him. It is the book he will mostlikely be remembered for.