The Steel Kiss by Jeffrey Deaver

Steel KissThings have changed in the world of Lincoln Rhyme, the renowned quadriplegic forensic expert. He has retired from his life of criminal investigation, electing to teach instead, and his relationship with Amelia Sachs seems to be on shaky ground. Despite this, Sachs persuades him to take on a private case. While hunting a suspect, she witnesses the death of a bystander, sucked into the mechanism of an escalator. On discovering that his family are on the brink of financial ruin, she persuades Rhyme to help out with the insurance claim to try and establish how the accident could have happened.

Meanwhile, Sachs’ suspect – a brutal killer – is planning something bigger than what he has achieved to date. While he had been content to kill with his bare hands – well, a hammer – he has found a new weapon. A weapon that will cause Rhyme’s and Sachs’ cases to collide and put both of them in the sights of a very dangerous killer. Again…

I’ve made no secret of the past that I’m a fan of Deaver’s work, especially the Lincoln Rhyme series. They don’t all work – The Vanished Man springs to mind, and maybe The Stone Monkey – but generally these are top-notch twisty thrillers that tend to catch me out most of the time. Which is pretty impressive, really, as when you hit book twelve in a series, you’d think that he’d have run out of tricks. Nope…

Deaver does play a dangerous game here for the fans of the series here, though, by playing with the Rhyme-Sachs relationship, in part by bringing her ex back into her life, as well as sending another series regular, Ron Pulaski, down a dark path. I really don’t like it when “solid” couples’ relationships are potentially messed around with, but what the author does here is pretty damn clever, so I’ll let him off. The introduction of a new protégé for Rhyme is well done, and the passages from the point of view of the killer are chilling while, like The Skin Collector, never being explicit.

It’s not perfect – there are a couple of problems with the pacing. For example, if you a) look at the US cover; b) read the blurb; or c) possess two brain cells, it’s obvious that the escalator accident is anything but an accident, but it (necessarily, I think) takes a good while for Rhyme to figure this out. And the sudden realisation from Rhyme’s protégé towards the end that helps tie things together really should have been considered earlier. And the bits with Sachs’ ex go on a bit as well…

For the clued mystery fans, well, probably best to look elsewhere. Some of the twists are clued (a bit) but generally, it’s best to sit back and enjoy the ride. I certainly did. One of the best of the series – Highly Recommended.

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