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Roadside Crosses: A Kathryn Dance Novel    by Jeffery Deaver order for
Roadside Crosses
by Jeffery Deaver
Order:  USA  Can
Simon & Schuster, 2009 (2009)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

In the Monterey Peninsula, people begin to find rough roadside crosses and flowers - the kind usually left after an accident claims one or more victims - but they're oddly dated a day ahead. It seems that a serial killer is marking his sites ahead of time. The first victim survives being left in the trunk of a car on the beach at high tide, but others are not so lucky.

California Bureau of Investigation Kathryn Dance is a kinesic analyst (also a songcatcher), who interrogates subjects, studying their body language, as well as verbal and written communication, to determine whether or not they're lying. She investigates, initially helped by Deputy Michael O'Neil. Colleagues and good friends, they try hard to ignore their mutual attraction, since Michael is married to Anne, a professional photographer.

The killing trail quickly leads to teenager Travis Brigham, who has been viciously attacked by his peers online (after a car accident in which two teen girls died) on the Chilton Report blog (which purports to represent 'The Moral Voice of America'). But Travis - a skilled player of MMORPGs, Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games - disappears before Kathryn is ready to make an arrest. Aiding her with the Internet aspects of the investigation is handsome Professor Jon Boling. He explains different categories of cyberbullying to her, and suggests that Travis might be 'losing the distinction between the synthetic world and the real world.' Unfortunately Jon also tries to play cop.

In parallel with these events, Kathryn's mother Edie is arrested, charged with the mercy killing at Monterey Bay Hospital of the young deputy, Juan Millar, who suffered horrific burns in The Sleeping Doll. Special prosecutor Robert Harper (from the attorney general's office in Sacramento) seems politically motivated in vigorously pursuing the case, and Kathryn is not as confident of her mother's innocence as she'd like to be. Also hovering over - and muddying - her investigation is Hamilton Royce, ombudsman from the Sacramento attorney general's office. What is he after?

In addition to the puzzle (whodunit and whydunit) itself, I enjoyed Roadside Crosses for its portrayal of Kathryn's work as a kinesic analyst and for its fascinating exploration of the power of blogs for good and harm, of the assumed authenticity of the unreliable and ego-driven blogosphere, and of the increasing blurring of the boundary between the virtual and real worlds. Roadside Crosses is another intelligent thriller from Jeffery Deaver, not to be missed!

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