It's not easy being NYPD detective Lincoln Rhyme, the world's foremost criminalist. First of all, he's a quadriplegic. Secondly, he's forever being second-guessed and mother-henned by his ex-model-turned-cop protégé, Amelia Sachs, and his personal aide, Thom. And thirdly, it seems that he can't motor his wheelchair around a corner without bumping into one crazed psycho-killer after another.
In The Empty Chair, Jeffery Deaver's third Rhyme outing--after 1997's The Bone Collector and 1998's The Coffin Dancer--Rhyme travels to North Carolina to undergo an experimental surgical procedure and is, a jot too coincidentally, met at the door by a local sheriff, the cousin of an NYPD colleague, bearing one murder, two kidnappings, and a timely plea for help. It seems that 16-year-old Garrett Hanlon, a bug-obsessed orphan known locally as the Insect Boy, has kidnapped and probably raped two women, and bludgeoned to death a would-be hero who tried to stop one of the abductions.
Rhyme sets up shop, Amelia leads the local constabulary (easily recognized by their out-of-joint noses) into the field, and, after some Holmesian brain work and a good deal of exciting cat-and-mousing, the duo leads the cops to their prey. And just as you're idly wondering why the case is coming to an end in the middle of the book, Amelia breaks the boy out of jail and goes on the lam. Equally convinced of the boy's guilt and the danger he poses to Amelia, Rhyme has no choice but to aid the police in apprehending the woman he loves--no easy task, as she's the one human being who truly knows the methods of Lincoln Rhyme.
Rhyme's specialty combines the minute scientific analysis of physical evidence gathered from crime scenes and his arcane knowledge of, it would seem, every organic and inorganic substance on earth. Deaver combines engaging narration, believable characters, and his trademark ability to repeatedly pull the rug out from under the reader's feet. Lincoln Rhyme's back all right, and the smart money's betting that his run has just begun. --Michael Hudson
From Publishers Weekly
Lincoln Rhyme, the gruff quadriplegic detective and forensic expert of Bone Collector fame, strays far from his Manhattan base to a spooky North Carolina backwater in this engrossing and outlandish tale about the hunt for evil. The hick town is called Tanner's Corner, where Rhyme--in North Carolina for experimental surgery--has been called by the local sheriff to oversee the search for a kidnapper and his victims. The kidnapper is 16-year-old Garrett Hanlon, a local youth of ill repute whose obsession with bugs has earned him the nickname "The Insect Boy." His captives are Mary Beth McConnell, who Hanlon has stalked for months, and local nurse Lydia Johansson, who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. A marathon chase ensues across North Carolina's perilous swampland by sheriff deputies and Rhyme's assistant and lover, Amelia Sachs. Rhyme, a former New York City cop whose on-the-job injury several years earlier left him with movement in only one finger, directs the search from his wheelchair at sheriff headquarters. As he examines forensic evidence from the crime scenes and points along the search route, Rhyme grows increasingly suspicious about which players are the good guys and which are masking their evil intentions. The story grows heavy in the middle, but eventually takes several of Deaver's trademark twists, cleverly camouflaged for maximum effect. The characters surrounding Rhyme in his third adventure are colorful, back-country cutouts who serve their purpose well. In the end, it's all a bit hard to swallow--particularly the ultimate revelations about Tanner's Corner and its strange inhabitants--but for thrills and surprises, Deaver is still aces. Agent, Deborah Schneider. Major ad/promo; Literary Guild and Mystery Guild main selections; Doubleday Book Club super release; Reader's Digest Condensed Books selection. (May)
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