Speaking in Tongues

Jeffery Deaver, Author Simon & Schuster $25 (336p) ISBN 978-0-684-87126-4
Before he launched his praised and popular series about quadriplegic criminologist Lincoln Rhyme (The Empty Chair, etc.), Deaver made his reputation with tricky, stylish thrillers such as Praying for Sleep and Manhattan Is My Beat. This slick novel is a throwback to those books and Deaver's first wholly outside the Rhyme universe since A Maiden's Grave. The basic plot is simple. An insane but intensely charismatic psychiatrist, Aaron Matthews, for reasons revealed only near book's end, kidnaps his patient, alienated Megan McCall, the young adult daughter of former Virginia prosecutor Tate Collier, and imprisons her in an abandoned mental institution. Tate and his estranged wife go looking for Megan and enlist the cops in their search. Much violence ensues. Deaver's characters are workable but not deep, though there's some psychological probing along the fault lines dividing Tate, his wife and their daughter. The novel's primary appeal arises from its thrills, which are plentiful. Like James Patterson, Deaver writes dialogue-driven prose, in short, strong sentences and paragraphs that demand little from the reader while seizing attention to the max. Tate and his wife are forgettable heroes, but Deaver tells some of the story from feisty Megan's gripping POV, as she fights back against her captor--one dandy villain who delights in conning others through disguise and misdirection, allowing for plenty of plot curves. This isn't Deaver's most accomplished novel but it's high-energy entertainment. (Dec. 11)
Reviewed on: 12/04/2000
Release date: 12/01/2000
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