The Burial Hour by Jeffery Deaver (Grad Central, 2017)
Stop! Before reading another word of this review, I want you to try an experiment that should help you understand the enigma of the latest villain in the Lincoln Rhyme Series by Jeffery Deaver. Close your eyes for two minutes and just listen to the world around you. What do you hear? Tune out conversation and white noise. Do you hear the sound of your own heartbeat? Do you hear hummingbirds in the spring air? Do you hear the rustle of the wind or car horns beeping outside your window?
The Composer, a man who kidnaps victims in order to tape their dying breaths and insert them into musical compositions, is thoroughly obsessed with sound as is seen in this passage, “He turned the volume up and, as he continued to twine the gut strings together and tie the noose, he listened to the sounds caressing his eardrums, his brain and his soul. Most playlists people store on iPhones or Motorolas ranged from folk to classical to pop to jazz, and everything in between . . . But he had far more gigabytes of pure sound. Cricket chirps, bird wings, pile drivers, steam kettles, blood coursing through veins, wind and water . . . He collected them from everywhere. He had millions---nearly as many as the Library of Congress's National Recording Registry.” (p.73) The Composer is obsessed with sound, and in order to catch him, Lincoln Rhyme must relate to the perpetrator by tuning out his other senses and honing in on whispers, bells, and hums.
Our favorite Deaver characters take on the perplexing case of The Composer in the 13th installment of the Rhyme books. On the eve of the long awaited nuptials between quadriplegic, retired NYPD Captain Lincoln Rhymes and his beautiful girlfriend, Amelia Sachs, the couple is brought into the Composer case by Lon Sellitto, Rhyme's former partner with the NYPD. Something highly unusual for a Rhyme novel happens in this novel, however. After the suspect escapes to Naples, Italy, Rhyme, Sachs, and Rhyme's devoted aide, Thom Reston, leave the haven of Rhyme's apartment and home laboratory to continue to chase the elusive sound master.
Leaving the tight, constrictive world of Rhyme's New York home allows Deaver to open up his characters to the world at large, introducing fascinating new characters and broadening the types of crime in which Rhyme and Sachs have delved in the previous books in this brilliant series. The Burial Hour is also a longer, more complex novel than others in the Rhyme series, with unexpected turns that continue to open the scope of Rhyme's world, a much needed addition if the Rhyme saga is to continue without getting stale.
In Naples we meet Prosecutor Dante Spiro, referred to as Procuratore. Spiro is a pompous, offensive, ego-maniac who carries around a small, leather notebook, in which he is constantly writing, much to the consternation of his underlings. But what is it that the Procuratore is recording in his little book? Aha! Worth reading The Burial Hour just to find out.
Another charming new character is Ercole Benelli, a handsome, young officer with the Forestry Corps. Despite his lowly position as an inspector of pig styes and woodlands, (he is not considered a “real cop” by the Procuratore), Benelli shows an incredible aptitude and intuition in reading a crime scene and putting together the puzzle pieces to propose solutions to the odd turns of the case of The Composer. It is obvious that Rhyme sees something in the young Benelli that he recognizes as potential brilliance, and perhaps even a protege in the making.
While in Italy, where the Procuratore is stone-walling deviously the famous American crime-fighting duo, a second case is brought to Rhyme and Sachs to investigate by Charlotte McKenzie, a liaison officer with the State Department. A young American, Garry Soames, has been arrested for the rape and battery of a woman whom he met at a party. Soames swears that he is innocent of the crime, and McKenzie asks Rhyme as “the best forensic officer in the U.S,” to investigate. Despite the prohibitions imposed on them by Dante Spiro, Rhyme and Sachs, along with their new Italian friends, discover a thread that may link the two cases together and take them further down the rabbit hole.
And just where does the title of the latest Rhyme fit into the scheme of things? Two of the Composer's victims in Italy are residents in a camp for refugees flooding into the country from Africa and the Middle East. In a conversation with Rania Tasso, the director of the refugee camp in Naples, Tasso explains the term 'the burial hour' to Amelia Sachs, stating, “The Burial Hour refers to the asylum-seeker problem. Many of the citizens in Italy, Greece, Turkey, Spain, France, feel that they are endangered---they are being buried by the hordes and hordes of migrants pouring into their countries. Like a landslide, crushing them.” (p. 217) Tasso theorizes that perhaps the Composer represents one of the disgruntled citizens who resents the invasion by the Muslims who come seeking asylum.
By connecting the world-wide problem of displaced citizens searching for safe harbor to the investigation of Rhyme and Sachs, author Jeffery Deaver brings the saga of the renowned wheelchair detective into a more contemporary light. With its unexpected plot twists and cast of fresh characters The Burial Hour literally moves the house bound Rhyme into new and thrilling territory and definitely is a turning point for the world's most astute detective since Sherlock Holmes.