Rhyme in fine form for grisly tat­too tale

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - BOOKS - By John Sul­li­van

SPRING is heavy-hit­ter sea­son in the U.S. mys­tery/crime/thriller biz, but there are few home runs this time around. The best of the new crop is Amer­i­can crafts­man Jef­fery Deaver’s The Skin Col­lec­tor (Grand Cen­tral, 448 pages, $31), a grisly, clue-laden hunt for a killer who tat­toos young women with poi­son, star­ring wheelchair­bound foren­sic cur­mud­geon Lin­coln Rhyme in his 11th out­ing. Rhyme’s fa­mil­iar gang — NYPD de­tec­tives Amelia Sachs, Lon Sel­litto and Mel Cooper, new­bie crime scene of­fi­cer Ron Pu­laski and long-suf­fer­ing aide Thom Re­ston — are all front-and­cen­tre for a shame­lessly ma­nip­u­la­tive page-turner full of Deaver’s sig­na­ture moves: fran­tic pac­ing, foren­sic minu­tiae, blind­sides, gotchas and hair­pin plot turns. With a ti­tle harken­ing back to Rhyme’s first ap­pear­ance in 1997’s clas­sic The Bone Col­lec­tor, it’s a true re­turn to clas­sic form for Deaver af­ter a dis­ap­point­ing run — an aw­ful James Bond re­vival ( Carte Blanche, 2011), a hack­neyed in­stal­ment of his Kathryn Dance se­ries ( XO, 2012) and last year’s sub­par Rhyme yarn, The Kill Room. Wel­come back, Mr. Deaver. Next up to bat is Harlen Coben with Miss­ing You (Dut­ton, 400 pages, $33), a shud­der-in­duc­ing take on In­ter­net dat­ing and iden­tity theft that finds NYPD de­tec­tive Kat Dono­van trip­ping over a mur­der­ous crew that kid­naps, ex­torts and then ex­e­cutes hope­ful lovelorns. That this seam­lessly dove­tails with Dono­van’s two-decade-old search for her cop-fa­ther’s killer is a sig­na­ture Coben theme of un­earthing and re­con­struct­ing un­solved crimes and un­tamed demons. De­spite his main­stay My­ron Boli­tar and Mickey Boli­tar se­ries, the New Jersey thrillmeis­ter has racked up even more pop­u­lar suc­cess with his stand­alone thrillers. Miss­ing You will not de­rail that win­ning streak. Mis­sis­sippi au­thor Greg Iles is back with his first novel in five years, Natchez Burn­ing (Wil­liam Mor­row, 800 pages, $35), a South­ern se­cret­sand-lies doorstop­per once again set in Iles’ home­town and star­ring a recurring pro­tag­o­nist, for­mer pros­e­cu­tor Penn Cage. In­tent on clear­ing his fa­ther Tom, an em­i­nent lo­cal doc­tor ac­cused in the mercy-killing of his black for­mer nurse, Cage dis­cov­ers the case is tied to 40-year-old racial mur­ders by a par­tic­u­larly nasty Ku Klux Klan off­shoot se­cretly run by one of the state’s wealth­i­est busi­ness­men. That sets off di­ver­gent, even con­flict­ing, quests by fa­ther and son to bal­ance love, hon­our and jus­tice. As with many am­bi­tious projects (it’s the first of a planned tril­ogy), the book is vastly over­writ­ten and bor­der­line pre­ten­tious in its as­sumed grav­i­tas. And, stripped of its mostly wor­thy prose, de­cent char­ac­ter­i­za­tions and nicely at­mo­spheric trap­pings, the story it­self de­volves both in­eptly and te­diously into a thor­oughly melo­dra­matic comic-book res­o­lu­tion. The Tar­get, by David Bal­dacci (Grand Cen­tral, 432 pages, $31): If there’s one A-lis­ter whose stan­dards have fallen al­most as low as Don­ald Ster­ling’s rep­u­ta­tion, it’s blow-dried for­mer Wash­ing­ton lawyer David Bal­dacci. And those star­ring the su­per­hu­man CIA hit team of Will Ro­bie and Jes­sica Reel ( The In­no­cent, The Hit, Bulls­eye) may be the bot­tom of the bar­rel. In yet an­other ripped-from-the­head­lines ripoff, Ro­bie and Reel try to thwart a zom­bie-like fe­male as­sas­sin bent on tak­ing out the pres­i­dent’s fam­ily af­ter an abortive White House/ CIA bid to as­sas­si­nate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un back­fires. An air­port time-waster that’s not worth your time. As­so­ciate Edi­tor John Sul­li­van runs the Free Press Au­tos, Homes and Travel

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