Title: The Burial Hour (#13 in the Lincoln Rhyme series)
Author: Jeffery Deaver
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Read: April 2017
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Read: April 2017
The Burial Hour is the 13th book in the Lincoln Rhyme and Amelia Sachs series, which has been offering intriguing murder-mysteries with fascinating forensic details since 1997. In this latest instalment, Sachs and Rhyme are about to get married and are trying to agree on a location for their honeymoon – if Rhyme could only see the point of choosing a romantic setting for this occasion. He is saved from this tedious chore by being asked to help in the investigation into the abduction of a businessman by a sinister perpetrator, who later posts a video online in which the victim is being slowly strangled to the sounds of classical music – which consequently earns him the nickname “The Composer”. The only clue the perpetrator has left behind is a noose, fashioned out of cello string. But before Rhyme and Sachs can close in on their suspect, a similar kidnapping occurs in Naples, Italy, with the same trademark noose left at the scene. So instead of going on their honeymoon, Sachs and Rhyme make their way to Italy to help the Italian authorities with the case – whether they like it or not.
I still remember the excitement of discovering the first book in the Lincoln Rhyme series almost twenty years ago, and the nail biting suspense as Rhyme and Sachs hunt the terrifying Bone Collector. At the time, I was totally enthralled by the forensic details, and protagonists who were so different from the usual fictional police detectives. Then followed a few years of compulsively snapping up everything written by the talented Jeffery Deaver. Now it has been a few years since I picked up a Lincoln Rhyme book, and I thought it would be great revisiting this series. I loved that part of the Burial Hour is set in beautiful Naples, adding a great armchair travel setting and some fresh characters to the story.
Unfortunately, I think that the series may have run its course for me. Apart from the armchair travel component, The Burial Hour did not hold the same fascination for me that I remember from previous books, and to be totally honest, I struggled to get to the end. Perhaps it is the simple fact that the last twenty years have turned me into an old cynic who finds it hard to suspend disbelief. I work in the health industry, which is not much different from law and order when it concerns budget and staff cuts, and I doubt that America is any different from Australia in that regard. So I wasn’t far into the pages when I snorted my first big huff of disbelief when an alleged kidnapping (only witnessed by a child) generates a full investigative team consisting of the top forensic experts in the country, as well as every forensic investigation the lab has to offer – stat! And no expenses spared! And there isn’t even a body in sight anywhere yet. Riiiiight .... nope, I don’t believe it. Ok, let’s cut the author some slack here and keep reading, since my family always remind me when I snort in derision during some medical TV soap when someone has once again shocked asystole: “Mum, it’s FICTION, get over it, OK?” But the story continued in the same vein, without the redeeming features of riveting, nail-biting suspense that may have distracted me from such blatant violations of fact, and I admit – I couldn’t get over it. Petty? Perhaps, but that is me.
I was also somewhat perplexed about the two main protagonists, who I remember as interesting and engaging in earlier novels. What has happened to Sachs and Rhyme in the last few years, to turn these quirky characters into such two-dimensional, boring people? For me, there was absolutely no chemistry between any of the characters, who gravitate around each other like planets around the sun without ever actually touching emotionally. Why Sachs and Rhyme want to get married eludes me – there wasn’t a tender moment or word between them throughout the whole book. The only likeable character for me was the Italian forestry cop Ercole Benelli, who unfortunately gets overshadowed by the complicated and somewhat contrived political plot unfolding in the story later on.
The Burial Hour may appeal to die-hard fans of the series, or readers who prefer a factual, somewhat unemotional read with a political conspiracy theory as the main premise. I, however, am a reader who needs to be able to forge an emotional connection to the characters in order to enjoy the story, and I struggled throughout the book to stay interested. So how do I do justice in rating a book by an author I have long admired and who so obviously can write, but whose novel just didn’t hit the mark for me? Going solely on enjoyment, I would give this book a 2-star rating, rounded up to 2.5 since it is well written, with occasional snippets of dry humour hidden amongst its pages. Sorry, but this one was obviously not the right book for me at this time, and I don’t think I will revisit the series again if it continues along the same trajectory.
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a free electronic copy of this novel and giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.