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The Associated Press Book Reviews

Thursday, May 15, 2014 - Updated: 6:36 AM

"The Skin Collector"

Grand Central Publishing

by Jeffery Deaver

Jeffery Deaver brings back detective Lincoln Rhyme in his tense new thriller, "The Skin Collector."

Rhyme and his colleagues must face a killer inspired by a maniac known as the Bone Collector (Rhyme's first case), who tattoos his victims with a cryptic word or phrase.

At first the message seems meaningless, but Rhyme quickly figures out there will be more victims to complete the puzzle.

A survivor of an attack spots a bizarre centipede tattoo on the attacker's arm.

This clue leads investigators to tattoo parlors to try and learn who designed and inked the artwork.

Pages from an out-of-print book are discovered at one of the crime scenes, and Rhyme soon deciphers the text as from a book chronicling him and his methods.

This antagonist has studied Rhyme and can anticipate his every move -- even plant evidence to lead police astray. How can Rhyme stop a madman who seems to know what he's going to do before he does?

Rhyme has a superior mind, and the people he surrounds himself with are the best of the best in the police department.

The story becomes all about following the evidence, even when it contradicts the facts.

Deaver's ability to tell the reader everything and still manipulate the story with diabolical twists is the sign of a master at work.

Readers unfamiliar with Lincoln Rhyme will find a detective that rivals Sherlock Holmes, and fans will enjoy the familial and reflective aspects of previous cases.

-- Jeff Ayers

"The Possibilities"

Simon & Schuster

by Kaui Hart Hemmings

In the resort town of Breckenridge, Colorado, Sarah St. John is mourning her son, Cully, who died in an avalanche while snowboarding.

Author Kaui Hart Hemmings demonstrates a light touch with heavy subject matter in "The Possibilities" as Sarah, her father, her friend Suzanne and Cully's father, who had been a summer fling when Sarah was in her 20s, navigate through their loss and a world without Cully, as they learn about the kind of man Cully had become.

Sarah resists sentimental forms of grief, and turns away from what she considers generic support (as when an acquaintance suggests she join Parents Against Avalanche Disaster).

While she knows that, three months after Cully's death, it's time to move on, she is reluctant to do so, especially as she learns how little she really knew her son. We feel her loss on every page.

There's a somewhat predictable plot point involving a young woman who knew Cully showing up on Sarah's doorstep, and it follows a somewhat predictable narrative arc, right up to the point where it deviates elegantly into something more realistic and ultimately more meaningful.

I have no doubt that Hemmings knew she was writing a well-worn trope and actively fought against it.

Those who enjoyed Hemmings' debut, "The Descendants" (or the movie directed by Alexander Payne), will find much to like here.

-- Michelle Scheraga

     

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