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October 30, 2008 |

By Brian Prisco | Books | October 30, 2008 |

Lincoln Rhyme is probably the Baja Fresh to the Taco Bell of Alex Cross, but it’s still damn tasty reading. By starting with James Patterson as a base, I was able to branch out and introduce people to even greater authors, and even better novels. Harlen Coben’s Myron Bolitar, PJ Tracy’s Monkeewrench team, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child’s Agent Pendergast, JA Konrath’s Jack Daniels and Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch. But I really enjoy Lincoln Rhyme, a crippled criminologist confined to a wheelchair, who uses CSI methodology to solve serial killer crimes.

It’s got all the hallmarks of cheese: a forced love story, an Arkham assortment of mad maniacs butchering the city and speaking in occasional first person narrative chapters, and by-the-numbers procedurals. However, Deaver’s really good at throwing red herrings at you, and then suddenly switching it up. I’ve been fooled by the killer’s identity before, and I like that I can still be fooled. They’ve got a nice tendency to suddenly throw a twist in the middle of the story, and then go back and show how they got there. It makes for some nice surprises. And the pacing towards the end of the novel comes flying at you, casting aside red herrings until the final showdown. And while the showdowns are often anti-climactic — you know everyone’s probably going to live — they aren’t beneath killing off tertiary characters carried from the beginning of the series.

The Broken Window is a pretty intensely interesting concept. A serial killer is using data mining software to frame innocent people for rapes and murders he commits. He’ll find out the brand of shampoo they use, the shoes sizes, the snack chips; and then he kills his victims and plants evidence at the crime scene and in the patsy’s homes, pretty much setting up an iron clad case.

The data mining is the frightening part, where essentially through club card, credit card chips, EZ Passes, and the like, companies know all your secrets. Homeland Security uses these to trend terrorist activities. They know what websites you visit, they know what stores you shop at and what you buy, they know what clothes you wear. Worse yet, they anticipate data and curb it to your needs. Say a family member takes gravely ill. Suddenly, you’re on the mailing lists for mortuary services, assisted living homes, suicide prevention counseling. It’s disturbing that every aspect of your life is out there — and worse, can be modified — to destroy you.

It makes for a neat twist when coupled with the criminology aspect of Lincoln Rhyme. He works from a state of the art computer unit set up in his home, with the assistance of Amelia Sachs — super hot detective and his girlfriend. Sachs wears a camera and walks the crime scenes for Rhyme, gathering evidence, and then they go over the research in his Chicago loft. (I’ve noted that most awesome detective novels tend to be set in the Windy City. Go fig.)

While that can be a bit of a stretch, the Rhyme novels are strong reads, real quick and fast and fun, and they’re about two notches up on the belt from the kindergarten cop levels of the Patterson ouevre.

This review is part of the Cannonball Read series. Details are here and the growing number of participants and their blogs are here.

Cannonball Read / Brian Prisco

Books | October 30, 2008 |

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