I’ve been steadily working my way through Jeffrey Deaver’s Lincoln Rhyme series of thriller/crime novels and the fifth instalment was another enjoyable outing!
The Vanished Man pits quadriplegic criminalist Lincoln Rhyme on the pursuit of an illusionist turned murderer who uses every trick in the book (pun very much intended) to evade capture. Slowly over the course of the novel, the true motives behind the murders and the identity of the murder themselves become clear, but there is a great deal of sleuthing before that.
The premise certainly intrigued me – who would better know how to distract, evade and, a prominent theme, misdirect the police than a magician? As the book develops, it becomes clear that there are no straightforward answers to any of the questions the mystery raises. It’s an enjoyable game as the reader both witnesses Rhyme’s efforts to decipher the Conjurer’s motives and methods as well as making their own attempts. It’s this sense of intellectual game playing that made this book an enjoyable and enthralling read. A large part of the enjoyment of a book like this comes from seeing how the investigator unpicks the mystery and seeing if the conclusions are mirrored in the reader’s mind. The Vanished Man certainly succeeds in this respect; there’s also the added urgency of several races against time to save the next victim from this almost completely unpredictable antagonist. Even, at 75%, when he’d been caught, cuffed and the book looked about wrapped up, an almost miraculous escape sets the plot up for a final furlong – the mystery of how?! always playing on the reader’s mind. It’s very good.
The plot is certainly no slow-burner as events do start to snowball quickly, which leaves little time to ponder character motivations too much; there are certainly moments of introspection but time pressures bring out the best abilities of the characters. There’s a number of plot lines that initially seem unconnected but, of course, they do link up in the eventual climax. Who’d have thought a novel about a murderous magician would touch base with anxieties about American nationalism? The prose is direct but not dull; there’s a certain brutality that doesn’t sugar-coat events. But ultimately, all the philosophical motives aside, it all comes down to one thing everyone can relate to: revenge.
In character terms, Rhyme himself continues to be a deceptively-endearing character; his disability and self-awareness give his personality a barbed exterior that is both matter-of-fact and amusing; however, it’s the moments where this facade is allowed to drop that makes him more relatable and, ultimately, human. The series as a whole does approach the idea of how disabled people are perceived in quite interesting and enlightening ways. The other regular cast that form a support network around Rhyme are competent at what they do – and care as much as he does, but in this book it’s the characters of Kara (who aids in this particular investigation) that give a glimpse into the psyche of Rhyme that other characters perhaps wouldn’t.
Regardless, I certainly enjoyed The Vanished Man a great deal. I’m eagerly looking forward to moving on with the series!
Buy The Vanished Man from Amazon UK