Jeffery Deaver - Roadside Crosses

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Jeffery Deaver, "Roadside Crosses": Think Before You Hit that Return Key!

Aug 17, 2009
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:An interesting perspective on internet communication habits

Cons:Sometimes a little... ummm... "unbelievable"?

The Bottom Line: After reading Roadside Crosses, you'll begin wondering wbout the wisdom of some of the online information-sharing you've been doing. I warned you...


Roadside Crosses - Jeffery Deaver

When a passerby found Tammy Foster hogtied and gagged in the trunk of her Camry, the Pacific Ocean come within inches of finishing her off, but whoever had trussed her up and tossed her in there had miscalculated. A few feet further down the beach, and the rising tide would've done his work for him. The cops should've known it was going to happen: after all, whoever attacked the high school senior had left an amateurish memorial cross on the roadside a day earlier...

California Bureau of Investigation detective Katherine Dance drew the case; interviewing Tammy in a hospital near the Monterrey Peninsula office of the CBI. Dance's special talent extracted the truth from the teenager in a single interview. Her attacker was someone she knew, and on that one piece of information the foundation of a case was laid. This perp's motivation, however, was entirely new to Dance and her team: another student had apparently snapped after being cyberbullied in the comments of the Roadside Crosses thread on a prominent locally-based blog. Everybody knew the attacker was Travis Brigham. After all, he fit the stereotype: unpopular, nerdly, loner, product of a dysfunctional family, often lost in an online role-playing game. Clearly, another Dylan Klebold, no?

It certainly looked that way, as other posters who'd attacked the boy in that thread began suffering vicious attacks, each foretold by another crude cross posted on the roadside - and then one turned up dead. Since Travis had disappeared, Dance had no chance to use her skill at kinesics (reading the body language of interviewees to assess their truthfulness) to nail the little dweeb. With the help of a professor (hunky and single, natch) in a local university computer department, Dance and her team sought Travis within the virtual walls of DimensionQuest, his favorite online role-playing game. Tracking down potential victims (even lacking cooperation from the blog's owner) looked promising - until the killer began targeting people who'd posted in entirely unrelated threads. An ever-expanding universe of potential targets certainly complicated matters.

Dance's personal life was a mess, too: just as the case ratcheted up, her mother was arrested and charged in a mercy killing; and Katherine found herself embroiled in not one but two political firestorms, with only her "Mr. Wishy-Washy" boss standing between her and Sacramento. Talk about your getting tossed to the wolves...

One thing you can say for Katherine Dance, though: she will get to the truth...

After her introduction in the Lincoln Rhyme Novel A Cold Moon (2006), author Jeffery Deaver spun off the character of Katherine Dance for 2007's The Sleeping Doll. She makes her second solo appearance in Roadside Crosses; accompanied by the same supporting cast. Like many a fictional cop, the young widow - her FBI-agent husband died two years ago in a highway accident - has a great working relationship with her co-workers but generally finds herself at odds with the brass of the CBI. Deaver obviously believes in The Peter Principle...

Dance's talent and training in kinesics, a field über-skeptic Lincoln Rhyme initially deemed pseudoscience, is now the topic of at least two prime-time television shows ("The Mentalist" and "Lie to Me").  Kinesics (though not necessarily under that name) has also recently been in the news as police forces around the country reconsider interrogation techniques - as do television writers. That, of course, doesn't mean it isn't pseudoscience; but whatever the case, it makes for some good fiction. Between Dance's ability to read the subtle signs unconsciously given off by a subject and her ability to alter her aspect to raise (or lower) the interviewee's stress level, she makes a compelling character. As is voiced several times by her family - two preteen children - those same skills also make her a formidable parent! As opposed to her character in A Cold Moon and The Sleeping Doll, however, this time out Dance seems much more "girly"; with an obsession with shoes worthy of a Lisa Scottoline heroine, and a romantic itch that seems like something that the O'Shaughnessy team ("Perri") would concoct. Gotta wonder if Deaver had to dress in drag for some of those passages.

That being said, Roadside Crosses is vintage Jeffery Deaver. The plot builds slowly at first, but the pace follows an almost exponential curve. Suddenly, with a hundred pages left, the killer is unmasked - or is s/he? Like other Deaver novels, whether Lincoln Rhyme or Katherine Dance, there are red herrings galore; tiny clues are sown through the text to suddenly come together and form a surprise final twist - or two.

As is usually the case, Deaver's latest novel explores new territory for the author. Not content with a rote serial killer novel or plug-and-chug police procedural, Deaver's put his crack research team to work to offer interesting insight into modern culture, especially the side effects of the internet. He's crafted a killer who uses the information shared online by potential victims; mines their blogs and other posts to find a means to waylay them on their favorite jogging route, or to frighten them with their deepest fears. The culture of what one character calls "escribitionism" - continual online revelation of one's habits, fears, routines, likes, dislikes, schedule, and other personal and semi-personal information - has now collided with a culture of cyberbullies emboldened by their anonymity. Scary, huh?

And just think - Twitter is never mentioned...


Recommend this product? Yes


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