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The Empty Chair - Jeffery Deaver

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Author: Jeffery Deaver / Genre: Crime / Thriller

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    8 Reviews
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      06.11.2012 10:19
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      Disappointingly unbelievable elements in an otherwise exhilarating third Lincoln Rhyme thriller

      The Empty Chair is the third book in Jeffrey Deaver's series featuring quadraplegic criminalist Lincoln Rhyme. If follows the international success of The Bone Collector, which was made into a film and is an intricate and hard to put down book about an abductor leaving people to die in and around a city; and The Coffin Dancer, which focuses on an elite killer for hire who is the master at deception and quite possible, according to Deaver, the most dangerous man alive.

      Imagine my initial surprise then, when this book purported to be about a slightly unhinged teenage boy who has been accused of being key to numerous incidents in a sleepy North Carolina backwater town and is now the prime suspect in the abduction of two teenage girls. Rhyme and his preferred scene sweeper, Amelia Sachs, are in the location as Rhyme is endeavouring to have an operation to improve his physical condition with one of the best doctors in the country, and a former colleague's cousin is the local sherriff. Unable to locate The Insect Boy, as they have named the fugitive kidnapper, he turns to Rhyme and Sachs for help.

      The key to these books is in following the evidence, much like you'd see them do on CSI on TV. The evidence doesn't lie is an adage well used but also very true, it's just a case of analysing it and drawing conclusions from it. Rhyme is the very best, his knowledge second to none, but Deaver overplays the whole 'fish out of water' phrase when it comes to the locale, Rhyme not familiar with the territory and therefore chemicals and components of the area. This opens a door for some separate characters than usual to come to his aid, such as using a local marine botanist for the scientific side of work, and relying on sleepy backwater town law enforcement to go along with his slick city action style. Sachs and the other officers in the field clash because of this and there is a complete lack of trust from the start.

      The interesting elements of Deaver's books are usually in how Rhyme analyses the evidence and draws his conclusions. This requires a certain amount of facts to be divulged to the reader, and I end up finding his books informative and educational to a certain point as well as thrilling to read. While this is no exception in this way, it's by no means perfect and of the three I've now read is the least believable and most far fetched.

      Perhaps it's taking them out of the city and putting them in a completely remote location that does it. The unfamiliarity and jumping to conclusions results in more tenuous links than normal, and while the characterisation is spot on with new and old characters, their actions are somewhat surprising. At the half way point, for example, Sachs does something so completely out of character that you think there must be something serious than has arisen, but although Deaver tries to justify the actions, it falls well short of being believable and ends up negating some of the more entertaining elements of the book that follow. Part of the lure of a series of books for me is in keeping them fresh and offering something different alongside the familiarity that you associate with developing characters and locations. Authors such as UK's Ian Rankin and Peter Robinson have done this expertly, as have US authors such as Michael Connelly and John Connolly. I'm fans of all of their work, and to be fair there are plenty of other authors I'd rank highly too, occasionally surpassing my love for these four but rarely so.

      What Deaver does is flood us with intricate detail, and I love this, but where it falls down is in the weaker elements of the plot, the actions and developments that just aren't believable. When this happens, the intricacy falls even harder as the believability factor reduces to lower levels than you'd expect from a top author. There are plenty of twists along the way in this book, and to be fair some of these have the necessary effects that they need to on me as an innocent reader not necessarily expecting any more to come along. Deaver luckily doesn't follow the same path of single twist followed by bigger twist to catch you out - it's more about you not really knowing if there are any more twists to come along or if that's your lot.

      The Empty Chair is also one of those books with a curious title that makes you think. It refers to a psychological procedure in the book but I'm still somewhat flumuxed as to why this was chosen. It makes you think a little, I guess, but it's another tenuous link that is ironically in keeping with some of the content that's hanging on by a thread. The pace of the book is mesmerising and despite the intricate detail it flows really fast. You don't feel like you need to take your time and to be honest the only time I stuttered and struggled to get into it was when the unbelievable elements started. Aside from this it was a very fluid read.

      Overall then, I have to say that a Jeffrey Deaver book is always going to be enjoyable as far as I'm concerned, but it's to what level this reaches that is how I must make the comparison. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this, although my disappointment in the weaker elements is what remains with me after the fact. I have the next one lined up ready to read, but will come back to it in a few books' time. I'm just hoping the realistic elements are addressed in it as another similar disappointment may make me put the remainder of the books to the back of the queue for the foreseeable future.

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        05.02.2010 16:56
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        Don't buy

        This has to be the most ludicrous Lincoln Rhyme book I've read. Lincoln and Amelia are so out of character throughout that Jeffery Deaver has made a mockery of his own characters.

        Firstly doing integrate forensic work in a back room with a student of fish species doing the work, what on earth was he thinking there. Coupled with a backwater police division that doesn't even have a lab being able to conjure up expensive machinery, that would have to be requisitioned months earlier, at the drop of a hat is just the start of the stupidity.

        Then Amelia, not only a law enforcement officer, but an officer who is totally dedicated to the job, whose father was her ultimate role model, just decides at the drop of a hat that she's going to ignore her training and the law itself and break a killer/kidnapper out of jail and go on the run with him. Give us a break Deaver, do you really think we're that stupid.

        The book was well paced, and apart from the story being ridiculous it was also totally clichéd, and the ending totally obvious. I think there was supposed to be a twist when the kidnapped women was found, that came as a shock...........NOT..... so completely obvious a child would have been able to work it out.

        To enjoy this you'd really have to be desperate or a Deaver stalker.

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        02.06.2009 23:13
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        Recommended

        I just finished The Empty Chair last night, having only actually started it two days before! The twists and turns in this book were so good that I just couldn't put it down, and had to find out how it was going to end.

        The Empty Chair is a title that doesn't really fit the book, although once you've read it you'll understand where they got it from. It's actually about a kidnapping case, that eventually turns into a multiple murder investigation. Lead criminologist Lincoln Rhyme is on the case with his assistant Amelia Sachs. Fans of Jeffrey Deaver will know the characters from previous novels, but new readers might be surprised to find that Lincoln Rhyme is a quadriplegic who's only real functioning body part is his brain.

        When you first read about Lincoln Rhyme, it's amazing and you can't help but be amazed with Deaver for coming up with such a great and novel idea as a quadriplegic detective! It does wear a bit thin sometimes though, and this book overdoes things a bit with the "crip jokes" as they refer to them as. There's a bit too much emphasis on Rhyme's medical condition in this book for my liking, and it detracts from the story in the beginning.

        Having already read quite a few Lincoln Rhyme novels, I already knew all about Rhyme's condition and didn't need or appreciate the volume of repeated information that was included in this novel. I know they have to give some explanation for new readers, but this novel contained far too much.

        The main perpertrator in this book is a gangly 16yr old boy called Garrett, that locals refer to as 'The Insect Boy'. Everyone is convinced of his guilt before he's even been questioned, because the whole town knows he's just not right in the head. It's true he's guilty of kidnap, but the novel takes us on an alarming journey behind the reasons why he's taken Mary Beth and Lydia deep into the woods.

        I really can't say a thing about the second half of this book without spoiling it for anyone, but it's one of the best crime thriller plots I've read in a long time. The second you think you've got it all sussed, you realise you don't know a thing! It all seems like it's going to be an obvious ending with a tiny twist for the first half of the book, but then the goal posts keep moving and you can't work out what really happened last, never mind what's going to happen next.

        You can get a copy of this brilliant crime thriller from Amazon for £5.02, or other book shops for the retail price of £6.99. I got mine as part of a special offer from the Book People for £1 when I bought the 10 book Deaver set for £10.

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          16.06.2002 22:35
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          Being a fairly new reader of Jeffery Deaver, I was so impressed with "The Blue Nowhere" that I had to get more of his novels. Luckily my step-father had "The Empty Chair" sitting in his bookcase, so I started with this novel. The winner of the 2001 W.H. Smith Thumping Good Read Award "The Empty Chair" is a continuation of "The Lincoln Rhyme" series of books. The novel starts with Lincoln Rhyme attending the University of North Carolina Medical Centre for a pioneering operation to hopefully help the quadraplegic criminalist regain some of his movement. With his aide, Thom, and his ever present sidekick, Sachs, Rhyme gets a request from a local police force to investigate the kidnapping of two young women and the murder of a young boy, which the local force believe was committed by a teenage orphan known locally as "the insect boy". As with other Deaver novels, the plot twists and turns at an alarming pace. It seems that just when you have one piece of evidence digested another contradictory piece surfaces. Although the book is 594 pages long(paperback), the chapters fly by as you are drawn into the world of the deep south, and into the criminalist's mind. I read the book in two days, hardly able to put the novel down. It grips you from the start, and takes the reader on a rollercoaster ride as the suspence intensifies. For fans of a good thriller/suspence novel this is an absolute must. Deaver again manages to make the reader into an integral part of the story. This book is a fantastic thriller and makes emotions fly up and down, in an emotive piece of writing.

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            16.03.2002 03:57
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            This new Lincoln Rhyme mystery is as intricate, well written, and enormously satisfying as its predecessors. Rhyme, a criminalist, is a quadriplegic, directing crime-scene investigations from his wheelchair; his associate, Amelia Sachs, the fashion model turned cop who "walks the grid" while Rhyme watches, is at least as tough, smart, and independent as Rhyme himself. This time the pair looks into an apparent case of kidnapping and murder that keeps getting more complicated. Deaver, a former attorney, supplies enough forensic detail for the most demanding readers, but he also creates characters who feel like real people (his dialogue is so realistic that we don't read it so much as hear it). But what really sets Deaver's novels apart from most of his competitors' is his ability to pile plot twists on top of plot twists until readers are frantically flipping pages, trying to get to the end of the maze before Deaver is ready to lead them there. It's a futile gesture, of course; Deaver is the master of the plot twist, and readers will only drive themselves crazy trying to outguess him. Better just to enjoy the ride. A magnificent thriller.

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              02.11.2001 03:06
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              Have you seen the movie “The Bone Collector”? I loved that movie and was delighted when I stumbled across other books starring the quadriplegic criminologist Lincoln Rhymes and his young assistant/partner Amelia Sachs. “The Empty Chair” starts with Rhymes, his care assistant and Sachs pulling into North Carolina where Rhymes is going to have an experimental operation involving replacing part of his nervous system or spinal cord (I forget which!!) with a baby shark’s – this is hopefully going to give him more movement or at least more feeling. This may or may not work – he could come through, or he could die! Sachs is a bit worried about this, and when a local police chief comes to them in the hospital for help Sachs persuades Rhymes that they could help out before the surgery (basically using delay tactics!). They need Rhymes, practically the world’s best forensic scientist, to help them find Mary Beth McConnell, who had been kidnapped by a young local boy…… known as the insect boy. They fear for her safety, he probably raped her, if not killed her. Not only that, but a local nurse, Lydia Johannson, who was taking flowers to “the spot” has also been kidnapped, and local boy Billy Staill was beaten to death. Sachs & Rhyme take over the police dept and lead the man hunt through “The Great Dismal” swamps – which is all based on evidence found at the scene of the crime – for the boy. The boy, Garret Hanlon, is an orphan who is obsessed with insects and is known about the area for killing people using insects. I don’t want to give too much away, as it will spoil the whole story if I do…… The book was very well written although as I already had an image of Rhyme & Sachs from the movie, I didn’t notice if their characters were described well or not! All other characters were suitably described and I fel
              t like I knew them all. Not knowing anything at all about forensics, it all seemed really believable and it wasn’t taken for granted that you would know what any of the stuff was, it was all described in detail. This was the second Jeffery Deaver novel I have read, and this one had a mention about characters in the other one I read! I would highly recommend them to anyone, although it was not quite as gripping as the Bone Collector was (I have not read that book, only seen the movie!).

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                13.07.2001 17:25
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                A couple of years ago (is it really that long?), the film _The Bone Collector_ was released. It was based on the book by Jeffery Deaver, and starred Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie. The trailer looked slick: a forensic expert is left crippled by an accident while tracking down a serial killer, and his young protegée must take up the investigation where he left off. Many tense, and intense shots of him directing her actions from the confines of his bed. Very dark and broody, much in the style of _The Silence of the Lambs_ and _Se7en_. Unfortunately, I never caught the film while it was showing at the cinema. Then, a couple of months ago, it was playing on cable pay-per-view. I didn't see it then, either. But now that I have read _The Empty Chair_, I sense a trip to Blockbuster in the very near future. _The Empty Chair_ features the same two main characters as _The Bone Collector_: Lincoln Rhyme and Amelia Sachs. Lincoln Rhyme is the world-famous, brilliant, arrogant quadriplegic forensic expert and criminalist who is capable of tracking down a killer from mere grains of sand left at a crime scene. Amelia Sachs is his beautiful, sharp-shooting, fast-driving, former model, former patrol cop sidekick. With arthritis. To be honest, when I was bombarded with these character sketches (developed over the course of the first few chapters rather than in the space of two sentences) I was put off by their blatant unreality. These people are perfect heroes, with perfect flaws to make them perfectly sympathetic. Over the course of the book, however, they do take on much greater depth and become more plausible. The story starts with Rhyme, his personal aide Thom, and Sachs travelling to a clinic in North Carolina. Rhyme is going there to undergo radical therapy that may restore some of his mobility. Before he even checks himself in, though, the local Sheriff comes and asks him for help in an urgent kidnapping case. Ga
                rrett Hanlon, a local teenager known as the "Insect Boy" because of his fondness for the creatures, has killed one man and abducted two women. The police believe that if they don't find him quickly, he will kill the women as well. Rhyme, anxious for nothing to interfere with his scheduled surgery is initially unwilling to lend his assistance, but Sachs talks him into it. They set up an improvised forensics field office at the local police station. Sachs goes out with a search party to try to track Garrett, and acts as Rhyme's eyes and ears, while he sits like a spider at the centre of his web, evaluating the evidence and clues she finds. All the while, the narrative is cutting between Garrett and Lydia (the most recent kidnapping victim), Sachs, and Rhyme, showing the action from all angles. At this point (about a hundred or so pages in), I expected the book to turn into a standard thriller cat-and-mouse chase. There would be blind alleys, some of the evidence would be misleading, and the bad guy would seem to gain the upper hand just before the good guys win through. I could not have been more wrong. At less than half way through the book, the police actually track down Garrett and take him into custody. They rescue his second victim, but he is unwilling to tell anyone where he has stashed away the first woman. This is where the plot starts to take devious turns. All the while this manhunt has been going on, Deaver has been developing an intricate cast of secondary characters. They appear to fall into standard stereotypes: Lucy Kerr, the female cop who feels threatened by the presence of Amelia Sachs. Jesse Corn, the male cop who is infatuated with Amelia. Mason Germain, the disgruntled cop who bears a grudge against Garrett, and who is angry at not being sufficiently involved in the investigation. The three local rednecks trying to hunt down Garrett's victims on their own to collect the reward that&#
                39;s being offered. None of these people turn out to be as straightforward as they seem. But then, neither does Garrett Hanlon.... It's been a long time since I've ever come across a book with as many twists and turns as this one. Every time you think you're following the main plot, Deaver ties up that thread and reveals the next layer of the mystery. And even though this is a series book with recurring characters, he made me feel like I couldn't rely on them all finding a happy ending, or even _surviving_ to the end. This is always a problem with series books, or TV shows: most of the time it is be all too obvious that no matter how much danger you place your heroes in, they'll make it through to the next book, or episode. Even if the writer doesn't kill off any of main characters, if they can make you believe that they _might_, you care about them much more strongly. Deaver has this all figured out. The second half of the book hits you with reversals of fortune at an ever-increasing pace. Towards the end, every chapter is a heart-stopping cliff-hanger followed by a startling revelation. And while I may not have cared much for the characters at the start, the last few pages produced a minor lump in my throat. The greatest compliment I can pay an author is to go out and buy more of their books. That is exactly what I'm going to do. If you enjoy a good edge-of-your seat mystery thriller, _The Empty Chair_ is definitely a book for you.

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                  23.05.2001 15:49
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                  Well, well, another Lincoln Rhyme thriller. For people who have not read previous books by Jeffery Deaver, ie The Bone Collector, now a movie with Denziel Washington, Lincoln Rhyme is the main character. Rhyme is a criminalist who was badly hurt when solving a crime. A beam fell on his back and paralysed him. His is now only able to move his ring finger of his left hand and his head. However in his brain (which must have a fantastic storage capacity) he has the ability to put pieces of puzzles together to solve crimes. To do this he uses forensic evidence which is always correct unlike the emotional evidence of human beings. Together with him, acting as his legs is police women Amelia Sachs. Amelia is the person who does the leg work and goes out and walks the crime scene, picking up any evidence that has been left and in these books anything is evidence even types of soil. She keeps in touch with Rhyme who hears what the site is like, then with the hilp of a forensic team examines the evidence. She also takes into account more than the forensic evidence and listens to what people have to say. In the Empty Chair, Rhyme has left New York to visit a spinal specialist in North Carolina. He hope this experimental surgery will give him a little more movement. However as they arrive at the hospital they are visited by the local police. A murder and kidnapping have just occurred and Rhyme is asked to assist in catching the perpetrator, a young boy locally known as the insect boy. He is known as the insect boy due to his fascination with - you guessed it insects. The chase begins and Amelia with the local police start to track the insect boy through the swamps. Rhyme is based in an office putting together all the evidence that Amelia reports back to him. He then uses this to direct them as to which way they should be moving to follow the insect boy. From here the book moves into twis
                  ts and turns that have the reader guessing who the killer is to change it a chapter later. This book gives a good background into how evidence can be used to solve a crime. However at times I believe it is a little over the top. I have read several of Deavers previous books and loved them, but this one was disappointing. For a start, I did not find the story line ver good and I feel it is a plot that has been done to death already. Near the end of the book, I felt it was all finished, but no, it twisted again and there was another solution, but then it changed again. I felt it tended to go on and on, much like my review. Another problem I had with the book was the romance between Rhyme and Sachs. Perhaps I am not so romantic but throught the whole book the repeated theme was their concern for each other and it all just got a bit much. It seemed to take over the book. If I am to be harsh I would say I think Deaver needs to take a break from writing for a bit as I think he has run out of good ideas, maybe he just needs to write a book that is not about Rhyme. I sometimes feel that these books are being churned out for the public to buy and they are written too fast.

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                • Product Details

                  Thriller with detective Lincoln Rhyme.