The Empty Chair by Jeffery Deaver

The Empty Chair by Jeffery Deaver

Reviewed by L.D.Y.

Hardcover (available in mass-market), 411 pages, 2000

Rating: 10/10

Reason for Reading: I got into Deaver’s Lincoln Rhyme series thanks to a recommendation at Book Crazy, and I’ve found they make excellent slump-breakers. This is the third in the series.

Synopsis: Criminalist Lincoln Rhyme and his protégé Amelia Sachs abandon the bustle of Manhattan for the University of North Carolina, where Rhyme wants to try a highly experimental procedure for quadriplegics, which may be his only hope to get mobility beyond his head and one pinky finger – if it doesn’t make him worse. Before he can even finish his first consultation, the local police are knocking on the door and asking for their help. A teenage boy has been murdered, and two girls are missing. They need Rhyme and Sachs’ help deciphering forensic clues to find them before it’s too late.

Why you should read this book: The level of suspense sustained throughout almost all of the book is phenomenal. Deaver doesn’t just keep you on the edge of your chair; he’ll have you wondering if you’re even on a chair, there’s so many twists and turns. A difference of opinion has Lincoln Rhyme and Amelia Sachs locking horns as they try to out-think each other, but a mistake could be a matter of life or death, guilt or innocence. The forensics bits of the book are as interesting as the on-foot pursuit of a killer is suspenseful.

Why you should avoid this book: There’s a number of disturbing scenes that might be a bit much to handle for some readers (there’s a lot about creepy crawly bugs, and concern over possible rapes). Some people might call Deaver’s dialogue and writing style realistic; but some people would just call it poor grammar. Some of the secondary characters are rather indistinguishable from each other.

Opening paragraph:

She came here to lay flowers at the place where the boy died and the girl was kidnapped.
She came here because she was a heavy girl and had a pocked face and not many friends.
She came because she was expected to.
She came because she wanted to.

Fabulous quotes:

‘Which way should we go, Rhyme? We’re across the river but we lost the trail. And, frankly’ – her voice fell to a whisper – ‘the natives’re restless. Lucy wants to boil me for dinner.’
‘I’ve got the basic analysis done but I don’t know what to do with all the data – I’m waiting for that man from the factory in Blackwater Landing. Henry Davett. He should be here any minute. But listen, Sachs, there’s something else I have to tell you. I found significant trace of ammonia and nitrates on Garrett’s clothes and in the shoe he lost.’
‘A bomb?’ she asked, her hollow voice revealing her dismay.
‘Looks that way. And that fishing line you found’s too light to do any serious fishing. I think he’s using it for trip wires to set off the device. Go slow. Look for traps. If you see something that looks like a clue just remember that it might be rigged.’

Tomel took the beautiful Browning shotgun with the inlay, which Culbeau coveted as much as he coveted any woman in the county, even though he himself was a rifle man and would rather drill a hole in a deer’s heart from three hundred yards than blow a duck into a dust of feathers. For himself, today, he chose Tomel’s nifty Winchester .30-06 with a ‘scope the size of Texas.
They packed plenty of ammo, water, Culbeau’s cell phone and food. ‘Shine of course.
Sleeping bags, too. Though none of them expected the hunt to last very long.

Also recommended: The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown; Messiah by Boris Starling; Birdman by Mo Hayder.

Also by this author: The Sleeping Doll; The Cold Moon; The Twelfth Card; Garden of Beasts; Twisted; The Stone Monkey; The Blue Nowhere; The Vanished Man; Speaking in Tongues; The Bone Collector; The Devil’s Teardrop; The Coffin Dancer; A Maiden’s Grave; Praying for Sleep; The Lessons of her Death; Mistress of Justice; Hard News; Death of a Blue Movie Star; Manhattan Is My Beat; Hell’s Kitchen; Bloody River Blues; Shallow Graves.

Author’s website:

Fun tidbit: The Empty Chair won the “W.H. Smith Thumping Good Read Award” in 2001, which has the critera of being an “accessible and a page-turning good read,” rather than being judged simply on literary merits.

© Lisa Yanaky 2003-2007

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