A MOST UNUSUAL PROTAGONIST
I have easily read a thousand mysteries in my lifetime, but this one introduces the most unusual protagonist that I have encountered to date. And that’s saying a lot with the current spate of vampires, werewolves, demons and fallen angels that seem to be in vogue these days.
Lincoln Rhyme is a former NYPD detective and former head of the Crime Scene division in the force. He is a brilliant scientist, an acknowledged expert in the field of criminology and the author of several forensic texts. And he is a quadriplegic – now. Injured on the job, he is only able to move his head, his shoulders and the ring finger of his left hand. Through herculean efforts and massive physical therapy, he is now able to breathe without a ventilator.
And Lincoln Rhyme wants to die! He is worn out from the phantom pains in his limbs. He is worn out from the extensive physical therapy required daily to keep his organs from shutting down. And he is afraid of losing what little mobility he has to the inevitable stroke that a newly developed condition has promised. He just wants to go out on his own terms and has been actively seeking assisted suicide for the last year.
As the book opens, he is awaiting the arrival of the doctor who will most likely be the one to do the job. However, before the doctor can get there, his old partner arrives with a horrific and high profile case that the NYPD brass wants Rhyme to work on. When the doctor does arrive, he refuses to continue with the procedure for at least three days. With three days to wait, Rhyme decides to help with the case and it is now game on!
And what an incredibly tense three days it becomes. The author unfolds the story through the viewpoints of Rhyme, Amelia Sachs – a police officer with medical problems of her own – the victims and the killer. These viewpoints lead us deep into the characters, personalities and psyches of both Rhyme and Sachs. The killer’s descent into insanity is deftly crafted. Even the secondary characters come across as three-dimensional and with distinctly different personalities.
By the end of the tale, I had read just about all the descriptions of torture that I could handle for awhile. All were quite graphic and all were necessary to the evolvement of the storyline and the culmination of the hunt for the killer.
By the end of the tale, I had a different opinion on the concept of self-termination and assisted suicide that I had when I started. While having never believed that suicide is a sin, I had always narrowly and simplistically believed that suicide was a self-involved and permanent solution to a temporary problem. But then again, Rhyme’s situation isn’t temporary, is it? Amazing that a work of fiction can sometimes have more educational value than a literary work or a talk show.
And by the end of the tale, I found that my idea regarding the identity of the killer was wrong – logically deduced, but really, really wrong. In fact, when the killer’s identity was revealed 20 pages from the end of the book, I startled everybody in the house with my loudly exclaimed and profane expletive. The next 7 pages were perhaps some of the most intense, edge-of-your-seat reading that I have encountered in a while.
So, does Lincoln Rhyme succumb to assisted suicide? Of course not – this is a series that is still being written and has ten entries as of the date of this review. But the reason for choosing to remain alive is not a simple one and the subject is quite likely to arise again. After all, nothing has changed in his physical condition.
Deaver has written a mystery thriller with multiple twists to a convoluted plot. Add in believable emotional issues and responses along with realistic psychological manipulations and the novel truly becomes one for my all-time favorites list.
However, the movie that is supposedly based on the book is not even comparable. The plot in the movie is adulterated and the characters’ names and backstories are changed to the point of non-recognition with respect to the book. And, of course, after reading the book, watching Angelie Jolie play the part of Amelia is just as incongruous to this die-hard thriller reader as having Tom Cruise cast in the role of Jack Reacher.
Cover Art from Goodreads