SLEEPING DOLL - Jeffery Deaver
As always, Deaver has been meticulous with his research. Confident as we usually are of this writer's ability to make us believe the unbelievable, Deaver however hasn't quite managed this time round to completely sell the idea of his kinesics expert and her remarkable abilities. There should probably be a "yet" included in there as the minutiae of forensic detailing was not first glance comprehensible for Deaver's Lincoln Rhyme novels either, a series that continues to be without peer for its sometimes excruciating attention to process.
What was the target market for this series? Here's a really obvious suggested answer - the female crime fiction readers. Not the first male crime writer to foray from usual haunts to pick up a greater slice of the reading market, but certainly one with the best reputation to serve up. Jeffery Deaver is regarded as one of the true giants in his very crowded literary field. It is a mark of his popularity that regular readers will take the leap of faith into a new series on the basis of what they know of the author's style and admirable ability to derive all possible twists and turns out of his deliciously convoluted plots. THE SLEEPING DOLL throws it all in the mix and peppers the story with red herrings aplenty. Some call these annoying tangents, I call their inclusion clever. A bit of audience involvement never hurts as you may want to slap some of the characters around for their decisions and this all adds to the enjoyment (we hope) of the read.
There is no need to check the credentials of Kathryn Dance as she was introduced to the readers in the Rhyme series, and it is certainly interesting to see Deaver write a female protagonist without that army of forensic examination supporting her. There is a soft focus on Dance which perhaps may sharpen with future entries into the series, and perhaps not. This is Deaver writing somewhat "lite" - again, this would seem to have in its explanation a change in direction of target market. More characterisation, less of the nightmarish details.
Way back when, the public fascination was caught by the story of a young girl who slept through the massacre of her entire family. Overlooked by the killers as she lay covered with toys on her bed, it seemed impossible then and seems impossible now to the police (and news reporters) that the one survivor to the killings can offer no details or explanations. Spirited away by an aunt from the prying eyes of the public, the "sleeping doll" has now grown up. On that terrible night it all fell apart also for the charismatic Charlie Pell and his "family" of followers. Pell's hold over his people was not as rock solid as he thought, with all five of the group arrested following a dissension in the ranks.
Special Agent Kathryn Dance is an incredible asset to the Californian Bureau of Investigation. Able to read a person's body language to determine whether they are telling the truth under interrogation, Dance works almost exclusively in assisting field investigators once they have brought suspects in for questioning. When Charles Pell escapes spectacularly from custody, Dance needs to take her involvement even further. Feeling that the three women who once shared their lives Pell must know something of his plans, Dance takes the unusual step of bringing them back together again, and not for old times' sake. Pell has had a long time to plan what he will do when free again, and is only a matter of minutes into this freedom that another life is taken.