Reviews and Recommendations by Mel Odom, Professional Writer

ROADSIDE CROSSES by Jeffery Deaver

Roadside Crosses is my first experience with Kathryn Dance, Jeffery Deaver’s newest series heroine. She’s an agent with the California Bureau of Investigation (which I’m familiar with because of The Mentalist, one of my favorite television shows). Her skills lie in kinesics, the skill of reading a person through body language. She’s also a young widow, a single mom with two kids, and a strained relationship with her mom.

I haven’t read The Sleeping Doll or The Cold Moon, the Lincoln Rhyme novel that introduced Dance, but I’m going back for them.

Deaver likes to learn things, then explain them to his audience through scintillating characters and viciously twisting plots. He did a fantastic job with The Blue Nowhere, a standalone novel about the world of computer hacking.

With its emphasis on social networking, blogs, and the rise of independent journalism on the internet, Roadside Crosses should have dipped easily into the cyberworld. Deaver calls it the “synth world” for synthetic, artificial, and part of the book’s premise lies in video games as well as successful blogging.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t really happy with the depiction of the “synth world” or its participants. The video game was obviously based on World of Warcraft, and WOW was mentioned a few times throughout the course of the novel with surprising fact I didn’t know. (Like the virus that ran throughout WOW that eventually ended up getting studied by Atlanta’s Center for Disease Control because the digital threat ended up spreading just like a real virus. Really cool stuff that sent me scrambling to the computer to look up.) Deaver is a master researcher, and he thinks outside the box as well. These “synth world” characters just didn’t have the heart I’d been hoping for. A lot of normal people game too.

The plot in this novel is twisting and ever-changing. I liked the premise and believe we will see this kind of thing happening in the near future, which is scary. The Chilton Report is a social diatribe written by Jim Chilton, who has become a force in blogging. Dance and her team gets pulled into the investigation after the near murder of a young girl that responded to one of Chilton’s post about a controversial car wreck that took the lives of two teens.

Dance (and most readers) get a tour of the online world and blogs, and the plot swiftly develops into an avalanche of intrigues. More people who have written into the Chilton Report also get attacked, and the culprit is apparently Travis, the young man behind the wheel of the wrecked car. He’d been under attack for deaths of the two teens for weeks. On the surface, it appears that he’s snapped and is lashing out.

Of course, since I’ve been reading Deaver for years, I knew that easy answer was not going to be the answer. At least, not until I’d been swayed in several directions if that was what he’d had in mind. As a writer, Deaver delights in misdirection.

Two subplots involve Dance’s mother getting accused of a mercy killing and a potential romantic relationship blossoming. Both are interesting.

I stayed with Deaver throughout the book, following each feint and parry of the plot. However, the ending of this one seemed to go on forever. Interesting, true, but extended in some strange way for no reason that I could see. Maybe there was just too much to explain. Also, I wasn’t happy with the way things got resolved. The main plot and the subplot involving Dance’s mother just came out of nowhere in a way, and was tied up without a lot of real tension. In fact, the main plot ends, then loops back around for another lap to bring everything to a head.

This book hasn’t broken my faith in Deaver, but I know that the reveals could have been better paced. Don’t know why they weren’t. I enjoy Kathryn Dance, her work and her life, so I’ll be signing on for both past adventures as well as the next one.


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