Review: The Empty Chair – Jeffery Deaver

Lincoln Rhyme #3

SYNOPSIS: A quadriplegic since a beam crushed his spinal cord years ago, Rhyme is desperate to improve his condition and goes to the University of North Carolina Medical Center for high-risk experimental surgery. But he and Sachs have hardly settled in when the local authorities come calling. In a twenty-four-hour period, the sleepy Southern outpost of Tanner’s Corner has seen a local teen murdered and two young women abducted. And Rhyme and Sachs are the best chance to find the girls alive.

The prime suspect is a strange teenaged truant known as the Insect Boy, so nicknamed for his disturbing obsession with bugs. Rhyme agrees to find the boy while awaiting his operation. Rhyme’s unsurpassed analytical skills and stellar forensic experience, combined with Sachs’s exceptional detective legwork, soon snare the perp. But even Rhyme can’t anticipate that Sachs will disagree with his crime analysis and that her vehemence will put her in the swampland, harboring the very suspect whom Rhyme considers a ruthless killer. So ensues Rhyme’s greatest challenge — facing the criminalist whom he has taught everything he knows in a battle of wits, forensics, and intuition. And in this adversary, Rhyme also faces his best friend and soul mate.  – via Goodreads

Well, this one has been really different from the previous two books in this series. Like, totally different. I read this fast on the heels of The Coffin Dancer, which I liked a lot. This one… I just don’t know. It was just not at all what I have started getting used to in the series. While not terrible, it certainly is a rather weak entry, to be sure.

The characters are odd. I am not talking about the new ones brought in for this book’s story (that’s a whole different kettle of fish), I am talking about our mains. Rhyme and Sachs didn’t feel true to themselves and came across and forced and awkward, and there are massive jumps in their relationship that just randomly popped up (kids being a big one here), and it was really jarring. That being said, there also seems to be this massive distance between Sachs and Rhyme that has not been there previously. Sachs is  also more headstrong and less logical than usual, and Rhyme is far too emotional about thing.

I found the humour to be very limited in this book, but Thom and Rhyme together are, as always, an absolute treat. The Empty Chair really came across like it was painting these Southerners as backwards and revenge-fuelled and crazy. It seemed overly stereotypical, and that didn’t come across as natural. The story is, of course, twisty as hell, and it was an enjoyable ride, it just feels like it is not nearly as sharp a story as I have come to expect, and fell flat a bit. I guess what I am saying is that this book is a bit messy.

The Empty Chair is not as smart as its predecessors, and while it is a bit messy, it is still a fast, entertaining read, just a weaker entry to the series is all. Maybe because the characters were out of their element, it threw the reader out of their element, too, but yeah. Decent but flawed read.