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Saturday 12 November 2022


Jeffery Deaver’s 1999 novel The Devil’s Teardrop is yet another fast-paced race against time thriller which he does so well.

It’s the last day of the year. Washington DC. Parker Kincaid is a top expert on document analysis, ex-FBI, now working privately so he can look after his son and daughter. Joan, his ex-wife has remarried and is making waves about getting custody – something Parker definitely does not want.  Joan had been an irresponsible mess, a drunk – and that’s why he’d been awarded custody. This fraught relationship is relevant and has a king of resolution in an amusing manner towards the end.

In a nearby mall there’s a shooting, many shoppers killed by The Digger, who has left Mayor Kennedy a note: pay $200,000 by noon or similar shootings will take place at 4pm, 8pm and midnight. 

FBI agents Cage and Lukas drop by Parker’s house with a copy of the ransom note. Can he discern from it any helpful clues? They’re working against the clock here. Parker has worked with Cage before, but Margaret Lukas, the agent in charge, is new to him. Inevitably, there is friction between them – until they gradually appreciate each other’s strengths in moments of intense drama.

So begins a battle of wills: Parker against the anonymous writer.  One clue is useful – the tail of the dot of the lower case I went straight up so it resembled a drop of water. Parker had encountered this unusual feature before – and he’d christened it ‘the devil’s teardrop’. However, the perpetrator in that case had long since been apprehended, tried and executed…

We encounter The Digger, a damaged individual – always narrated in the present (thus immediate) tense. 

Deaver’s done his research into document analysis – whether that’s the type of paper, the ink’s composition, or the writing style; all intriguingly and interestingly conveyed.

Interestingly, there is a scene – via a telephone conversation - between Parker and Lincoln Rhyme. The motivation of the perp in this book has echoes of the guy in The Bone Collector (1997), Rhyme’s first appearance. Yes, indeed, the reader is being expertly manipulated. 

Inevitably, there’s a twist or two before the denouement.

As this is a standalone novel, any reader new to Deaver could start here and become addicted. [I got hooked by his A Maiden’s Grave (1995) which was made into a riveting TV movie Deadly Silence (1997) starring James Garner and Marlee Matlin, which is hard to get hold of as a DVD]. 

This book was made into a TV movie of the same name in 2010 and is available on DVD in the US.

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