Sunday, October 25, 2015
Review: THE VANISHED MAN
Reviewed by Craig Sisterson
Psychological thriller writer Jeffery Deaver's modern take on the classic 'locked room' mystery is an exciting and twist-filled read
Throughout history, mystery writers have made their livings on misdirection - the very best are literary conjurers who entertain an audience, dangling clues and red herrings in front of readers before 'alakazam', hitting us with a reversal or reveal that we never entirely see coming (no matter how closely we watch) to cap off their show.
So what better villain for a twisto-maniac author like Jeffery Deaver than an illusionist, a character who thrives on misdirection and having his pursuers look one way while he pulls of his tricks, and vanishes?
Deaver brilliantly brings together the worlds of murder mystery and magic in THE VANISHED MAN, the exciting fifth instalment in Deaver's popular series starring quadriplegic forensic analyst Lincoln Rhyme and his protege Amelia Sachs (played by Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie in the film adaptation of THE BONE COLLECTOR, an earlier instalment).
New York City. A prestigious music school. A killer is on the run from the cops. He's chased into a room with a hostage. A scream, a gunshot, the cops barge in, only to find a completely empty room...
That set-up alone would be enough to power a classic Golden Age 'locked room' mystery, but Deaver weaves in more elements as Rhyme and Sachs track a killer nicknamed 'the Conjurer'. I particularly enjoyed a bit of a behind-the-scenes look at the world of magic, which is utilised as texture not just a plot device.
Deaver is a master at crafting compelling, propulsive plots that are incredibly clever and have plenty of twists. The tricky thing is that regular readers come to expect that, so we're all looking closely to work things out (similarly to what we do with the likes of Agatha Christie, the noted Queen of the Puzzle Plot). But while he is a plot-driven author, Deaver is more like Harlan Coben or Linwood Barclay than James Patterson - in that he creates very clever plots and exciting page-turners, but still has some depth of character.
Rhyme is an intriguing hero: rather cold or aloof, but a genius, he has that Holmesian nature where his talents and insights draw us in, even if he's not the most likable hero. Together he and Sachs make an interesting investigative team. Seeing them work together and try to work out just what the Conjurer is up to pulls us along in a story that is more than just a locked room 'howdunnit'. It begins there, but goes further.
Overall, I found THE VANISHED MAN to be a very enjoyable read - one that kept my brain whirring as I tried to work out just what misdirections both the Conjurer and Deaver were using to try to distract us from what nefarious deeds they were really up to. Worth a read.
I initially read this book while backpacking through South America in 2008. This extended review is based on notes taken at the time, a shorter review written on another website, and further reflections.