Sunday, February 12, 2006

Jeffery Deaver: The Twelfth Card

A teenage girl from Harlem, researching some family history in a library, is attacked and narrowly escapes being killed. The scene is set to look like an attempted rape, but doesn't add up. Rhyme and Sachs start unravelling the different clues, while the girl's life is still in danger.

This is one of Deaver's best, IMO. Quite riveting, and full of false leads that trick the reader into making presumptions about where the story is going. It does have weaknesses, however. Deaver tends to just tie up all the loose ends towards the last quarter or fifth of the novel, without much consideration for the literary flow of the novel. He repeats previous things that have occurred in the Rhymes/Sachs timeline, to keep the uninitiated reader up-to-date, but for the rest of us it becomes repetitive. He also does his research into the underlying theme of the novel, in this case black culture, Harlem and its history, African-American Vernacular English (abbreviated AAVE, as he is careful to point out), and tends to go on about this at some length - sometimes fitting it into the story nicely, other times breaking the flow of the narrative to lecture us, the readers. Now, to me, it's very interesting to learn all this about Harlem... but it does ruin the literary aspect of the novel a little. It remains very obvious that Deaver is a white man writing about a black man's world - on the other hand, and to be fair to him, it's not like he tries to hide it, really.

Fun detail in this one: Deaver hints that Amelia Sachs may be related to the German police officer we became accquainted with in Garden of Beasts. Less fun detail: a clumsy line about what Parker Kincaid and Margaret Lukas (from The Devil's Teardrop) are up to now (not as well worked into the flow of the book as the German connection above).

ETA: almost forgot to mention one of the most interesting aspects of the book! Deaver uses the novel to speak out against the dehumanisation inflicted by the death penalty. I don't want to give away too much of the plotline, so suffice it to say that his method works quite well. Now I have to go off and have dinner. :-P

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