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The Empty Chair by Jeffery Deaver
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The Empty Chair (2000)

by Jeffery Deaver

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Lincoln Rhyme (3)

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The Empty Chair

I love reading about forensics.

Catching a criminal because of tell-tale threads of fibres or revealing smears of vital DNA is at the heart of shows like CSI (Crime Scene Investigation) and many a crime novel. There's something so compellingly CERTAIN about forensic evidence...even when competing criminalists are arguing that a piece of evidence supports two completely contradictory hypotheses, forensic science demands consideration. The evidence means SOMETHING.

So I was looking forward to reading more about Lincoln Rhyme and his protégée Amelia Sachs, who I have met once before and who I remember as being very much evidence driven investigators.

What's it about?

Rhyme and Sachs are in North Carolina so that the renowned consultant criminalist can undergo some experimental surgery aimed at minimally improving his physical abilities. (Rhyme is a former police officer and quadriplegic who relies on other investigators to get him the evidence he needs to interpret.)

Almost as soon as they arrive in town the local sherriff, Jim Bell, visits them to ask for their help in a local case where time is of the essence: a damaged young man nicknamed 'The Insect Boy' has kidnapped two local women and no one has any idea where he's taken them or what he plans to do with them. Can Rhyme and Sachs help to track him through his native habitat?

Sachs is keen for them to get involved, if only to delay Rhymes' surgery, and Rhyme agrees to commit a few hours of his pre-surgery time, but catching The Insect Boy will soon be the least of their concerns...

What's it like?

Twisty. Gripping. Well-paced.

This is fun to read and it zips along apace, from kidnapping to death to betrayal to, er, more death and betrayal.

Readers of the 'Lincoln Rhyme investigates' series will doubtless enjoy the interplay between Sachs and Rhyme as they each consider the potential implications of the surgery and examine the evidence against The Insect Boy.

Newcomers to Lincoln Rhyme rest assured: this works perfectly as a standalone book, despite some musing about the future of Rhyme and Sach's relationship. The storyline is strongly focused on the existing case, which quickly develops into a more complicated and interesting crime than may initially appear.

The major plot twists begin appearing about halfway through the book - then just keep on coming. This leads to my one complaint: after a series of shocking but convincing twists, the shocks just kept coming until I, personally, wasn't really convinced anymore, especially since Super Sachs and Remarkable Rhyme repeatedly turn out to be one step ahead of the (increasing) number of Bad Guys.

That said, all the reveals work if you read back over what happened in earlier chapters, I just began to feel a little punch-drunk with all the Surprise! moments. I was still enjoying it though, until the ending jolted me with one twist too many.

Surprise! Bang, bang!

It seems Deaver couldn't resist throwing in that classic trope from popular horror films: that bit right at the end where you think the villain is dead then - aargh! - they're alive! and they're trying to kill you! so you shoot them! and then they're REALLY dead, phew! Obviously this is NOT what happens at the end of 'The Empty Chair', as that would be a giant spoiler; however, what DOES happen is akin to such a scene in that it's a scene added for shock value that just makes the reader jump, rather than adding anything to the story or characterisation or sense of resolution. It might well make your heart race; it might give you a few extra moments of spine tingling suspense; or, if you're like me, it might just jolt you right out of the fictional world and force you to return to the beginning of the book to search for clues that this was really a likely outcome for this character.

Also, I dislike it when previously sane characters suddenly turn out to be completely doolally. Give me a cold-hearted, money-seeking, self-aggrandising sadist over an apparently fluffy-hearted but actually semi-psychotic villain any day.

Final thoughts

This was an enjoyable, fast-paced story with plenty of attention to forensic detail and doses of black humour. I liked the way the story developed and became more intriguing than simply "oddball suddenly goes super-odd", even if by the end the tentacles spread further than I might have expected.

I particularly liked reading about The Insect Boy's enthusiasm for insects and seeing how that learning could be used to help protect / attack other people.

The 'empty chair' concept was interesting, too, and I really liked that this questioning technique drew out details which did become important later on.

I will definitely be reading another Lincoln Rhyme thriller and am also tempted to try one of Jeffrey Deaver's other crime novels featuring Catherine Dance. ( )
  brokenangelkisses | Apr 9, 2017 |
After several books in a row that were okay, or so-so, I'm happy to that this was a book I liked. For me it wasn't as good as some other Rhyme & Sachs novels I read, but it still was good enough to keep me well entertained and even get me off the killer's track. ( )
  BoekenTrol71 | Mar 11, 2017 |
Typical Deaver....right up until the very end, he pulls yet more surprises out of his head. He' s a literary genius who weaves magic. I would like to shake this man's hand and thank him!! ( )
  briellenadyne | Feb 12, 2017 |
Lincoln Rhyme and Amelia Sachs are back, and they get pulled into a North Carolina murder/kidnapping investigation. Out of their element in this strange land, Rhyme and Sachs nevertheless persevere to help local authorities track the Insect Boy who is thought responsible for some creative and vicious murders as well as the recent kidnappings of two young women. Will they track down the Insect Boy in time to save his victims?

The forensics are fascinating, and the characters are well-developed. The "empty chair" symbol takes on various meanings throughout the novel. We've waited a while to see Rhyme and Sachs back in action, and this one is worth the wait. ( )
  Carol420 | May 31, 2016 |
Another Lincoln Rhymes goes to North Carolina hoping to have a procedure done that may restore some of his physical abilities and gets caught up in local mystery. It appears a young man called the Insect Boy may be kidnapping and murdering others. Amanda Sachs will not be able to return to North Carolina.
  taurus27 | Mar 26, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (20 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jeffery Deaverprimary authorall editionscalculated
Curtoni, MatteoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Parolini, MauraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
From the brain, and the brain alone, arise our pleasures, joys, laughter and jests, as well as our sorrow, pain, grief, and tears. . . The brain is also the seat of madness and delirium, of the fears and terrors which assail by night or by day . . . - Hippocrates
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For Deborah Schneider . . . no better agent, no better friend
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She came here to lay flowers at the place where the boy died and the girl was kidnapped.
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Book description
Lincoln Rhyme, the renowned criminalist from The Bone Collector and The Coffin Dancer, faces his ultimate opponent: a kidnapper and murderer dubbed the Insect Boy. But Rhyme is in for a surprise when he learns that catching a criminal is one thing ... keeping him is another. Now Rhyme finds himself hunting a ruthless killer in the heart of a southern swampland--and going head-to-head with his protege, Amelia Sachs, in a rivalry that tests the limits of both their expertise and their love.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0671026011, Mass Market Paperback)

It's not easy being NYPD detective Lincoln Rhyme, the world's foremost criminalist. First of all, he's a quadriplegic. Secondly, he's forever being second-guessed and mother-henned by his ex-model-turned-cop protégé, Amelia Sachs, and his personal aide, Thom. And thirdly, it seems that he can't motor his wheelchair around a corner without bumping into one crazed psycho-killer after another.

In The Empty Chair, Jeffery Deaver's third Rhyme outing--after 1997's The Bone Collector and 1998's The Coffin Dancer--Rhyme travels to North Carolina to undergo an experimental surgical procedure and is, a jot too coincidentally, met at the door by a local sheriff, the cousin of an NYPD colleague, bearing one murder, two kidnappings, and a timely plea for help. It seems that 16-year-old Garrett Hanlon, a bug-obsessed orphan known locally as the Insect Boy, has kidnapped and probably raped two women, and bludgeoned to death a would-be hero who tried to stop one of the abductions.

Rhyme sets up shop, Amelia leads the local constabulary (easily recognized by their out-of-joint noses) into the field, and, after some Holmesian brain work and a good deal of exciting cat-and-mousing, the duo leads the cops to their prey. And just as you're idly wondering why the case is coming to an end in the middle of the book, Amelia breaks the boy out of jail and goes on the lam. Equally convinced of the boy's guilt and the danger he poses to Amelia, Rhyme has no choice but to aid the police in apprehending the woman he loves--no easy task, as she's the one human being who truly knows the methods of Lincoln Rhyme.

Rhyme's specialty combines the minute scientific analysis of physical evidence gathered from crime scenes and his arcane knowledge of, it would seem, every organic and inorganic substance on earth. Deaver combines engaging narration, believable characters, and his trademark ability to repeatedly pull the rug out from under the reader's feet. Lincoln Rhyme's back all right, and the smart money's betting that his run has just begun. --Michael Hudson

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:00 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Renowned criminalist Lincoln Rhyme is pitted against Amelia Sachs, his own brilliant protegee, as they disagree on the analysis of a crime they began working together.

» see all 8 descriptions

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