In detective fiction the notion of a matched pair of unequal partners, each supplying something the other lacks, is an old one. Watson was more human than Holmes. Hastings was more likable than Poirot. Archie Goodwin was more mobile and less lazy than Nero Wolfe. Scully added science to Muldar’s intuition. In the Lincoln Rhyme novels, Jeffrey Deaver has taken this idea of pairing to an extreme.
Rhyme is a forensic detective, a criminalist in the jargon of the series. He’s a one-man CSI unit. He’s also a quadriplegic, crippled from the neck down by a spinal chord injury sustained on a case. Amelia Sacks, quite clever in her own way, is his arms and legs. She does the field work on which his deductions and inferences are based.
Rhyme is grumpy, arrogant, and obsessed with finding some relief for his condition. Each book contains some development or argument about his health. Sacks is more impulsive, more emotional, and yet a tremendous observer and a serious asset in the work they do. I am reminded strongly of the Goodwin/Wolfe team. Rhymes “talk to me, Sacks” being the equivalent of Wolfe’s gruff “report”.
Rhyme and Sacks share a relationship which has to be mostly platonic, given his limitations. They are lovers however, and they have even given some thought to becoming parents.
This book deals with with the nasty business of human smuggling. Asked by an alphabet soup of federal organizations to look into the matter for them, Rhyme manages to figure out the next shipment being masterminded by a snakehead (as they are called) known as the Ghost. No one had any idea that the Ghost would take such drastic action as sinking his ship to avoid capture, or that he would then attempt to track down and kill all of his “clients”, or “piglets” as he calls them.
The novel covers a mere two or three days in the lives of Rhyme, Sacks, the Ghost and some of the survivors from the scuttled ship. It really doesn’t seem like enough time for everything that happens. It feels more like a week. That’s not to say that the story is at all boring. As audio tapes have gotten longer (2 hours used to be average) I have found that I have to listen to them twice to pick out the details and decide how to handle them here. I have enough long trips to make that this is really no problem, but it was also no problem hearing this story again a few months after my first exposure. There are several clever plot twists in this story that made more sense the second time around.