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The Vanished Man: A Lincoln Rhyme Novel    by Jeffery Deaver order for
Vanished Man
by Jeffery Deaver
Order:  USA  Can
Pocket, 2004 (2003)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio, CD, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Though I have read all the Lincoln Rhyme/Amelia Sachs novels to date, and am hooked on the series, their resemblance to Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe mysteries only struck me recently. Though decades apart in setting, types of characters (and especially in technology), the series share a brilliant, irascible and housebound (most of the time) New York investigator, and a more people-oriented associate sent out to gather clues.

This time it's all about illusion and misdirection (and I'd be surprised if Jeffery Deaver had to do much research on his topic as his plots show that he's already a master). Malerick, a serial killer soon called the Conjurer, takes his murder methods from magic acts (beginning with the 'Lazy Hangman') and dedicates each death to a 'Revered Audience'. He is a 'born prestidigitator', a master of disguise and indeed of a variety of magical traditions.

Early in the case, Amelia brings in young Kara, an illusionist in training, to consult to the investigation. She explains that the Conjurer's getaway method after the first murder 'is a classic illusionist trick. It's called the Vanished Man.' After meeting Rhyme, Kara dubs him 'the Immobilized Man', and suggests he would himself make a master illusionist. Malerick soon learns to fear Rhyme's abilities and decides to put him in the act as 'the Charred Man'.

A secondary case involves a tie in to the fundamentalist 'Patriot Assembly', whose leader is about to go on trial, and whose members are after the prosecutor. And Amelia is being tested for promotion to Sergeant. As we learn more about the art of illusion (and knowing the author's past penchant for surprises) readers wonders what is real in the maze of misdirection of unfolding events. Plots spiral into surprising inner plots in a seemingly endless duel of wits between the Vanished Man and the Immobilized Man.

If that were not enough to make an excellent read, add in descriptive prose like 'Las Vegas is a mirror surrounded by glaring lights; stare at it for hours but all you'll ever truly see is yourself, with your pocks, squinty wrinkles, vanity, greed, desperation.' The Vanished Man is vintage Deaver, one of the very best by a master of the macabre thriller.

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