Jerry's Reviews > The Vanished Man

The Vanished Man by Jeffery Deaver
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Jul 04, 10

Read in June, 2005

Our first Lincoln Rhyme -- interesting look at magicians !

We've read only one other Deaver novel ("The Blue Nowhere") so had not previously met Rhyme, the author's quadriplegic forensic expert from four prior books, and featuring his sidekick Amelia Sachs and a few other regular supporting characters from the NYPD and FBI. What captured our attention almost immediately was the subject matter -- magic and magicians! -- and the similarity to Rex Stout's long-running Nero Wolfe series. Indeed, Rhyme reminds us a lot of Wolfe -- both somewhat irascible home-bound geniuses that sift through at times very few shards of clues to arrive at brilliant solutions that elude both mere mortal detectives as well as we readers. Meanwhile, like Wolfe's Archie, who's the leg man of the duo and a likable guy himself, Sachs is the foil who does all the physical investigative work, often connected to her boss via headset and phone link, as she provides the eyes and legs for the bed- or special wheel-chair-bound expert.

The storyline starts with a murder where the cops trap the killer into a locked room. When they finally force their way in, the perp has disappeared into thin air! Shortly thereafter, two more what now appear to be serial killings, with equally amazing feats of magic that extricate the bad guy from the scene, have everybody stumped. An amateur magician "Kara" is recruited to provide technical advice, and she's such a knowledgeable and appealing character she nearly steals the limelight from the leading protagonists. Her educating Sachs and Rhyme provides us the fruit of a lot of Deaver research and some very illuminating insights into the world of magic and illusion; much of the storyline is really carried by the magic descriptions as well as being in the killer's head as he plots his next schemes. Nobody can figure the true motive for all this, and in the end, it takes several plot twists to get us to the ultimate truth.

While we would agree with other reviewers that these characters are not fleshed out particularly well, the Sachs/Rhyme relationship is rather interesting, especially when it takes an amorous turn. Meanwhile, Deaver shows he is more than capable of creating a suspenseful story, and then perpetuating it through an almost overwhelming set of false endings before the grand finale sets the record straight. We were almost tired by the end, but the otherwise fine plot and magical sub-plots provided plenty of entertainment along the way. We plan to seek out the earlier entries in this series and see what other trouble Rhyme and Sachs can "conjure" up!
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