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The Stone Monkey    by Jeffery Deaver order for
Stone Monkey
by Jeffery Deaver
Order:  USA  Can
Pocket, 2003 (2002)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio, CD, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by David Pitt

I just wanna say, right off the bat, that this guy is one of my favorite thriller-writers. His plot twists are genuinely surprising - some of them are even shocking - his characters step right off the page, and his dialogue is so true it feels like you're hearing it, not reading it. He's written a slew of top-notch yarns, created a lot of first-rate heroes and villains, but his finest creation is Lincoln Rhyme, the wheelchair-confined criminologist. Rhyme has appeared in four novels: The Bone Collector, The Coffin Dancer, The Empty Chair, and now The Stone Monkey.

This time around, our hero is helping out the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and the FBI track down an evil fellow, the Ghost, who traffics in human beings: illegal Chinese immigrants, as a matter of fact. He promises them great things, if only they'll give him wads of cash to smuggle them into the United States. Rhyme and his sidekick/protégé/lover, the model-turned-cop Amelia Sacks, figure out where the next ship will land, but something goes wrong when the police try to capture the Ghost, and the ship never makes it to shore. Now the nutjob is on the loose, murdering the families that escaped the sinking ship. Can Rhyme and Sacks find him, and stop him, before it's too late?

As usual, Deaver packs the novel with plenty of excitement, false leads, last-minute escapes, and a couple of his magnificent, unpredictable, totally-out-of-left field plot twists. I frankly don't know how he comes up with these - he puts them in every novel he writes - but they're brilliant, and they put him in a class by himself. I look forward to them, and I'm thrilled when, yet again, he puts one over on me.

Is this his best novel? No. Is it the best Rhyme novel? No. But it's still a heck of a lot better than most of the stuff you'll find on the shelves. Deaver really is an exemplary novelist, and you know what? He hasn't even done his best work yet.

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