Red herrings galore
IF I were allowed only one word to describe this book, it would be this: genius.
Thriller writer Jeffery Deaver throws so many red herrings and curve balls into his latest book that I was kept guessing throughout most of it – even though the killer is named right at the start.
Billy Haven has an ingenious way of making his kills: he tattoos his victims with poisoned ink. Deaver starts things off with the suspenseful murder of Chloe Moore, who is discovered with the cryptic words “The Second” marked on her body. When the police hit a wall in the investigation, they turn to renowned quadriplegic criminalist Lincoln Rhyme and his partner, Amelia Sachs, who have both featured in previous Deaver thrillers, including The Bone Collector (1997), The Vanished Man (2003) and The Broken Window(2008).
In fact, those who are familiar with The Bone Collector will soon realise, just as Lincoln does, that Billy Haven is “inspired” by that criminal; except that instead of obsessing about bone, Billy’s obsession is with skin. He has also read all the forensics textbooks and is something of a genius himself so he attempts to “out-anticipate” Lincoln and masks his trail with false evidence. Billy might just turn out to be Lincoln’s most challenging opponent yet....
While we know the killer’s name, Deaver keeps us in the dark about the killer’s motives and intentions. That, coupled with intense suspense and action, makes this book incredibly satisfying.
And, as usual, rather than have the story solely focused on the detectives, Deaver maintains a good balance by moving the focus between the good guys and the killer, revealing some of the latter’s schemes, while also providing some background about the victims – the last, especially, draws the reader in and makes each death hit that little bit harder.
And the plot – again, as usual – isn’t as simple as you would think at first. Deaver planned it so well that whenever I thought I had the criminal cornered, I’d get hit with a triple plot twist.
I also like how Deaver doesn’t condescend to his readers; he’s not afraid to use, without explanation, jargon like “unsub” and scientific terms like “Iron (III) Oxide” (aka rust!). Yet he doesn’t allow the mumbo-jumbo to get too confusing, using layman’s terms to provide detailed explanations when necessary.
While this book is in some ways tied to The Bone Collector, Deaver writes in such a way that you can readThe Skin Collector as a standalone story. Still, it’s a good idea to read The Bone Collector or watch the 1999 film of the same name (which I did) before you start with this book.
Whether you do or not, this is one crime fiction thriller that you don’t want to miss, especially if you’re into this genre – you won’t be disappointed.