Monday, June 28, 2010

The Burning Wire Sizzles More Than Fizzles

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

(Note: While this review will not contain spoilers for The Burning Wire, it may inadvertently ruin plot surprises from earlier books. As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.)

If the name Lincoln Rhyme doesn't ring any bells, it's about time you got acquainted with the star of Jeffery Deaver's most popular series. Rhyme's newest adventure, The Burning Wire, may not be the best place to start, but you definitely should get to know this guy. One of the most unique characters I've ever encountered, our hero is a brilliant scientist, formerly head of NYPD's forensics division. When a crime scene accident leaves him a quadripeligic, unable to move anything but his head and one finger, an embittered Rhyme believes he can no longer contribute to society. Until a puzzling case attracts his attention. With the help of his ever-patient assistant, Thom; beautiful CSI, Amelia Sachs; and an assortment of law enforcement personnel, Rhyme proves - time and again - that mental acuity has nothing to do with physical ability.

In The Burning Wire, Deaver's 9th Lincoln Rhyme book, the scientist is up against a wily killer wielding a strange weapon - electricity. One sizzling corpse is enough to shake even the seasoned Sachs; threats of more carnage has everyone on edge. Rhyme's already got one case on his mind (The Watchmaker's been spotted in Mexico), but he knows if anyone can track down this new killer, he can. Even if his CSIs are bringing in evidence that's decidedly less than helpful. The UNSUB (unknown subject) is clearly smart - all Rhyme's team needs is one mistake, just one, to catch him. When Sachs begins investigating a local power giant, it becomes apparent that the company's hiding at least some of the answers. Racing against the clock, Rhyme, Sachs and the rest of the team scramble to catch the killer before he uses the most ordinary of items to create a crime scene of extraordinary proportions.

Meanwhile, Rhyme's got to contend with The Watchmaker (who's still managing to elude Mexican authorities), killer headaches that could signal an alarming change in his condition (not that he would ever admit to feeling poorly), a disturbing conversation with an assisted suicide advocate (which brings back some not-so-easily-dismissable ideas), and Sachs, the gorgeous risktaker, who is surely missing out on important life opportunities because of her loyalty to him. It would be easier for her - wouldn't it - if he were out of the picture?

There are two things I love about Deaver books: the characters and the science (a subject I usually avoid like the plague, incidentally). Because of Rhyme's disability, he's completely sympathetic - a good thing, since heartwarming doesn't exactly play a part in his sarcastic, curmudgeonly personality. Still, there's something about the cantankerous Rhyme you just can't help but like. Sachs, on the other hand, is easily understood and admired. The rest of the team are individuals, unique despite their more minor roles. Science-wise, Deaver keeps us in the loop, making the shop talk clear for those of us who are CSI fans, but not actual CSIs. He lost me a few times when explaining the ins and outs of electricity in this book - when it comes to forensics, though, I'm all ears (eyes?). Deaver makes the science both interesting and exciting (I know some high school teachers and college profs who could use a lesson or two ...).

His ability to combine these two elements with humor, a fast-paced plot, and enough twists and turns to keep me constantly guessing makes Jeffery Deaver one of my favorite thriller writers. That being said, The Burning Wire let me down a tad. The science of electricity doesn't exactly thrill me, so all the explanation about arcs, AC/DC, amps, an the like got a little tedious for me. I also wanted a little more in the Rhyme/Sachs department. Last I heard, they were trying to have a baby ... I know, I know, I'm such a girl, but I kept waiting for a little more romance to come along. Still, this remains one of my favorite series. If Rhyme can fight off his inner demons, he'll be back on the scene in 2012. I, for one, can't wait to see the old grouch again.

(Readalikes: previous books in the Lincoln Rhyme series; the Temperance Brennan series by Kathy Reichs)

Grade: B-

If this were a movie, it would be rated: R for language and violence

To the FTC, with love: Another library fine find

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