The Empty Chair by Jeffrey Deaver

Sometimes you don’t know a book’s going to be really good until you get to the end. For me, at least, the ending makes or breaks it. I’m much the same with movies.

The Empty Chair by Jeffrey DeaverAnd this is one of those books. I enjoyed the first two thirds, I did, but it was a tad slow, scene setting, building pace and working up to a worthy climax. What I was expecting to be the crux of the story happened far too early and I had no idea the twists and turns the story would take thereafter.

I’ve never read a Lincoln Rhyme novel before now, although I have made a dent in Jeffrey Deaver’s previous work. I have, however, watched the Denzil Washington/Angelina Jolie movie, The Bone Collector, which I thought was fantastic and a great introduction to the characters on the pages of The Empty Chair. Based on the 1997 book of the same name by Jeffrey Deaver, it helped me visualise the characters and understand their traits. Cranky Lincoln Rhyme, a quadriplegic prisoner to his own body, the only movement he has to call on, his little finger and his head. But his brain ticks just fine. His partner in crime and in life is Amelia Sachs, a New York city cop who knows how to walk the grid, collecting evidence that will reveal the identity of a killer, or in this case the whereabouts of the Insect Boy, who’s kidnapped two local girls and is considered a dangerous oddball.

Rhyme and Sachs struggle with the poor technology and slower paced policing methods in Paquanoke County but they help the local sheriffs with the highest profile case they’ve ever had to deal with, along with some renegade residents who insist on helping/hindering the process.

And the reader’s torn between turning their nose up in disgust at the whiffy and creepy Insect Boy and feeling sorry for a frightened and vulnerable teenager with not a soul in the world to call his friend. But who needs friends when you have insects, there’s a lot to be learned from them.

So, to the end of the book. It picks up pace, there’s tension between the characters and it’s incredibly hard to work out the genuine goodies from the baddies. We’re led down a road we don’t even think to question, but just when we get comfortable with a scenario, it changes.

The difference between this book and a lot I’ve read lately is that this one made me feel something. I loved or hated the characters, I felt gutted when bad things happened to good people and I felt the torment of the Insect Boy, the cancer patient police sheriff and the kidnapped girls. I always get a better read when I’m emotionally attached and the highly charged ending and twist in plots – I do love an ending I don’t see coming – sets this book apart from the rest.

This was a cracking read. Although I probably didn’t realise that until the last few chapters.

Robyn’s rating: 9/10

Posted June 2011

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