Picks and Pans Review: The Empty Chair

UPDATED 07/17/2000 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 07/17/2000 at 01:00 AM EDT

by Jeffery Deaver

Beach book of the week

Lincoln Rhyme, the paraplegic forensic specialist memorably played by Denzel Washington in the film version of Deaver's The Bone Collector, takes on a truly bizarre case this time. While awaiting a spinal operation, Rhyme is cajoled by a North Carolina sheriff, cousin of a New York City colleague, into helping track down a fugitive known locally as the Insect Boy—so named for a hornet's nest that has been linked to some of his grislier crimes. The orphaned teenager kidnapped a nurse only a day after he had bludgeoned a local athlete and abducted another young woman. As Rhyme's assistant Amelia Sachs heads up the posse, racing against bounty hunters and a police turncoat to locate the teen, she also finds that a lot of the buzz about the runaway doesn't add up. Deaver can evoke the backwoods South with deft humor—"Tomel's idea of lawn decorations was parking his F-250 in the front yard and his Suburban in the back"—and he manages to sustain the thrills, which come thick and fast. But a series of jaw-dropping climactic twists may leave the reader feeling as much manipulated as breathless. (Simon & Schuster, $25)

Bottom Line: Stinging swampland suspense

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