Jeffery Deaver - Shastrix Books

Jeffery Deaver

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Jeffery Deaver

10th August 2014

This is the fourth Jeffrey Deaver novel I've read, and is the third in his Kathryn Dance series, about a California Bureau of Investigation agent with a speciality in reading body language. I was quite dubious going in, and held off buying the book for a long time after publication, as I wasn't a particular fan of the earlier novels in the series.

I'm pleased to say that the things that niggled me about the previous novels seem to have been improved. The characters are generally more rounded, I'm able to suspend my disbelief without problem, the narration is much smoother and less (though not fully) impartial, and everything adds to the plot.

I was particularly impressed by Deaver's ability to create the universe of the story, with a focus on folk music, that includes writing an entire albums-worth of song lyrics that are presented as an appendix. Having that available throughout actually helped me engage with the story and made the world feel much more authentic.

I was frustrated though by what seems to be Deaver's thing of continual twists to the point of irritation, particularly in the latter half of the book - I don't think it's a spoiler to say that every time you think something's been wrapped up nicely then he throws in a new spanner. I just found it a little absurd how many times this can happen, and it leaves me with less and less faith each time that at the very end they got anything right.

Overall though, I enjoyed reading this much more than I expected, and hope that Deaver is able to extend the Kathryn Dance series further - I certainly won't be as reticent about picking up the next book.

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Carte Blanche

Carte Blanche

Jeffery Deaver

30th May 2011

James Bond returns, rebooted, in this new novel set in the modern day, where he works for the ODG, a secret agency of the British government whose task is the 'protect the realm'. When a text message is intercepted mentioning an attack and potentially thousands of deaths, 007 is called in and given carte blanche (the modern equivalent of his old licence to kill) to save the day.

The novel is presented as an interesting blend of author Jeffrey Deaver, and Bond-creator Ian Fleming's writing styles. For the most part, Deaver's language and plot structure comes through, but there are a few passages that are distinctly Fleming, some to the extent that I felt they could have been lifted straight from the original Bond books.

The characters, while slightly updated for the contemporary setting, are exactly those that Fleming gave us, especially Bond himself (fortunately not Daniel Craig) and M (back to the original male version), and a number of other familiar names crop up. This does become something of a cliché though in the first half of the book, where I found myself wondering which classic character would show up next rather than focussing on the plot.

I was very impressed by Deaver's plot, which departed somewhat from what I had been led to expect from some of the early publicity around the book (a little distracting as it meant I was constantly expecting something that never came). It moves at the perfect pace to hook the reader while remaining true to the attention to detail of Fleming's prose.

Twists and turns fly rapidly off the pages, however this is actually where I think the book is let down. There are several instances of what I consider to be Jeffery Deaver's trademark suspense technique - resolving a cliffhanger by utilising something that happened earlier but his narrative didn't tell us about. I find this really frustrating and it comes across as extremely lazy writing - especially when it affects a major part of the novel. In other places however, plot points are resolved without resorting to this method and I just can't see why Deaver does it.

Overall though I must confess to being impressed - my feeling from reader a couple of other Deaver novels recently was one of trepidation, but this book has managed to impress. The die-hard 007 fan may not appreciate the effort Deaver has gone to in order to update the settings, but I found it tastefully done, and look forward to finding out who the publishers will select when James Bond returns.

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The Sleeping Doll

The Sleeping Doll

Jeffery Deaver

4th February 2011

I am ambivalent about this first book in the Kathryn Dance series, similar to how I felt about its sequel. In this she is on the trail of escaped prisoner Daniel Pell, a murderer who seems able to brainwash people into helping him.

While the concepts of the two main characters are really interesting, Dance as the kinetics (body-language) expert and Pell as the mind-controlling evil-doer, the plot and the writing style just fail to bear the weight.

Unlike a traditional mystery story, there's no opening for the reader to work things out - every twist comes completely out of the blue, and I found that to be really frustrating. Deaver also has a habit of ending chapters on suggestive cliff-hangers, only to change direction immediately after the break, completely ruining the suspense he has built up.

The narration is opinionated, which seems very strange presentation. If it was aligned with a character, as many other authors do, then this style would make sense but presented as the opinion of a faceless third person narrative it is jarring and rips focus away from the story.

Finally it is too complicated - there's more going on than is needed to tell the story, and particularly at the end where Deaver throws in some unexpected and ultimately unnecessary twists that just cause it to feel dragged out. I'm all for tying up loose ends but these ends weren't even there up to this point.

Overall I probably shouldn't have bothered after my experience reading the sequel. I can only hope that Deaver's attempt at a James Bond novel later this year turns out more satisfactorily.

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Roadside Crosses

Roadside Crosses

Jeffery Deaver

29th September 2010

I bought this book after hearing that Jeffery Deaver was to write the next James Bond novel, to find out what his writing is like. I'm a little disappointed.

While it was a fairly enjoyable read, there are a lot of little niggles which irritated me as I read. This started right at the beginning. Throughout the book, Deaver has the habit of building up red herrings to absurd levels. Unfortunately it's blatantly obvious what's happening, and so rather than tempt me into reading on it leaves me wanting to sigh wearily.

The characters mostly come across as two dimensional. Apart from the main one, Kathryn Dance, they tend to be simply defined as a personality type and left at that. A few improve towards the end but not enough to make a difference.

The novel involves murders that are linked to a particular blog, social network and online game. This leads to a lot of jargon, and the way this is explained comes across as horribly patronising and inaccurate. My biggest quibble here is the use of l33tspeak, which is portrayed as commonplace on the web rather than being used by a small minority. Deaver's depiction of his made up MMORPG and social network as the biggest of their kind pushed my suspension of disbelief too far and really got in the way of the plot for me.

Finally, the characters are bad detectives. They jump to erroneous conclusions again and again with no consideration that they might be wrong. They only manage to make any progress through coincidence and being in the right place at the right time. It annoyed me that there was never a real sense of mystery nor an impression that this was a whodunnit style of novel.

Well, rant over. I still feel that I enjoyed reading it, even though not as much as other books of the genre. I'm still in two minds over whether to explore further into Deaver's canon, so will wait and see how the mood takes me in future. I'll still be buying the James Bond book though.

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Unreviewed books

Solitude Creek
The Bone Collector

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