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"Everyone's wanting a piece of your soul."
on June 12, 2012
Deaver tackles the world of celebrity in XO, his protagonist, cross-over country singer Kayleigh Towne stalked by Edwin Sharp, who believes he and Kayleigh are meant for each other, the lyrics of her songs written especially for him. On her home turf in Fresno, Kayleigh runs into Edwin at a diner. Unfortunately, Edwin happens to be acutely conscious of his legal status as a fan, absent any threat to Kayleigh, whom he greets with a smile and warm words of encouragement. When a bandmate is murdered at the Fresno show's venue after a falling stage light nearly misses the star, Kayleigh and her entourage are certain Edwin is behind the tragedy. Local police rush to the scene, as does California Bureau of Investigation Agent Kathryn Dance, who happens to be a friend of Kayleigh's and was planning on attending the upcoming concert. Rejected by the local authorities, Dance, and expert in kinesics, finds it impossible to remain outside the investigation, her concern for the young star too great to worry over clashing law enforcement egos.
Against a background rich in the history of country music, Deaver unfolds a plot that consists of more than one murder- each new one unique and tied to a verse of Kayleigh's most famous hit song- and a number of interlocking suspects with devious motives, including an ambitious California politician, Kayleigh Towne's father/manager, once a star and now directing every phase of Kayleigh's career; then there is the matter of Kathryn's current romantic dilemma and the detailed and chilling explanation of the evolution of a stalker, complemented by the ugly underbelly of an internet grown more sophisticated in breaching the personal details of individuals. From one horrifying murder scene or shootout to another, the menace grows more palpable. And while Edwin Sharp seems the most logical suspect, Dance and the locals begin to think he may be a decoy for the real killer.
Although the too-sweet-to-be-true Kayleigh Towne is a bit too perfect as the innocent victim and far too easy to set up regardless of the culprit behind the activities, Deaver provides a surprising number of unexpected twists and turns, maybes and misdirection to deliver a powerful reckoning when the real villain is unmasked. The sparkling world of celebrity is unveiled, quickly tarnished by the complete lack of privacy in the name of fame, the object of public affection always vulnerable to betrayal or the fickle public's change of heart when somebody new comes along. Luan Gaines/2012.