Title: The Broken Window (the 8th Lincoln Rhyme novel)
Author: Jeffery Deaver
Publisher: Hodder [original edition 2008, this edition 2009]
No. of pages: 512
Lincoln Ryhme is a quadriplegic forensic specialist working with the New York Police. His cousin, Arthur, is arrested for a rape and murder that he did not commit. When Arthur’s wife asks Lincoln for help, he and the team of police and other specialists that Rhyme can command soon uncover a trail of identity theft that has ramifications for more than one supposedly solved crime. The scope of data that is created and kept about average citizens by governments and private corporations, and the damage that someone with evil intent and access to that data can do, is fully explored here.
There is a decent yarn buried in this book but I’m getting a little tired of 500+ page books that contain 300 page stories. It’s particularly ironic in the case of The Broken Window because one of its continuing themes concerns the concept of signal to noise ratio. A good third of this book is noise rather than signal. Partial threads of minimal interest (such as the one about a completely different case that took place in a previous book and will, presumably, return in a future one) are interruptions and never form a sensible part of the narrative.
The plot’s other problems stem from the factual inconsistencies. For example, the investigative team has access to some of the most sophisticated technology barely invented but had never heard of something called RFID which I happen to know has been around for decades and even in my little back water of the world moved from shadowy government applications to mundane things like tracking library books, recording road toll payments and making sure surgeons don’t leave implements inside their patients way back in the 1990’s. I only notice things like this when I’m not completely engaged by a story.
For fans of this series all the usual elements, and characters, are present. I’ve always enjoyed some of the minor players in Rhyme’s world, such as his acerbic aide Thom and the gruff Detective Lon Sellitto, and I enjoyed meeting up with them again. The solid forensic detail, including the whiteboard lists that regular readers would be familiar with, and the frenetic pace (the story takes place over only 2 or 3 days) are present in abundance. In this book some of Rhyme’s childhood is explored which I don’t recall happening before, and it was interesting to see part of Rhyme’s life before the accident that made him a quadriplegic.
I should have really liked this book. Identity theft and personal privacy in modern times are subjects I am very interested in both professionally and because they appeal to my inner conspiracy theorist. But somehow Deaver managed to suck some of the suspense and intrigue out of these subjects by including lots of unnecessary filler and I didn’t become nearly as engaged in the ‘what if’ as I would have liked. The last third of the book is a pretty good thrill and there’s lots of good stuff for the fans but it’s not my favourite Lincoln Rhyme novel.
My rating 2.5/5