Jeffrey Deaver- XO

Kayleigh Towne is a beautiful and successful singer-songwriter, and Edwin Sharp is her biggest fan. When she replies to one of his fan letters with ‘XO’, Edwin is convinced she loves him, and that her latest hit song ‘Your Shadow’ was written for him. Nothing Kayleigh or her lawyers can say persuades him otherwise. Then the singer gets an anonymous phone call; it’s the first verse of ‘Your Shadow’ playing. Soon after, one of the crew is horribly murdered. Kayleigh’s friend Kathryn Dance, a special agent with the California Bureau of Investigation, knows that stalking crimes are not one-off occurrences, and, sure enough, more verses of the song are played as warnings of death to follow. With a little help from forensic criminalist Lincolyn Rhyme, Dance must use her kinesic and investigative skills in an attempt to find the killer before more people die…

As you can see from the synopsis, this is the latest in Jeffrey Deaver’s ‘Kathryn Dance’ series and what could be a fairly straightforward tale of celebrity stalking is differentiated from the standard fare by Deaver’s ratcheting up of the sense of peril and tension that he is so accomplished at. As the story plays out, the reader is wrong-footed at every turn as the body count mounts and the killer remains undetected. This is all well and good and typical of Deaver as he adds the layers of kinesic science through Dance, and by a guest appearance by Lincoln Rhyme and Amelia Sachs, the forensic detail, but what really struck me, and what I was most impressed by, was how Deaver’s personal enjoyment and passion for music comes- excuse the pun- singing throughout the book. Whether he is adding detail about specific instruments, the performance arenas with the best acoustics or simply name-checking the luminaries of the Country and Western hall of fame, it makes you feel really involved with the story on a different level. Obviously he uses Dance with her mission to capture the traditional music of the California Fresno region for her down time music web site as an additional foil to indulge this love of music, as she sets about recording the music of Mexican migrants in between thwarting the evil aims of the seemingly psychopathic stalker. At the back of the book are the lyrics (composed by Deaver) to Kayleigh Towne’s greatest hits and by moseying onto his web site these songs have been recorded and are available to download. The lyrics are also very carefully constructed to add clues to how the main story will play out and give hints to the murders before they occur so again lets the reader play detective to some degree.

Again, we have the convoluted and troubled personal relationships of the main characters at the forefront of the book demonstrated by Dance’s increasingly complicated romantic attachments and her initially spiky relationship with the detectives at the local sheriff’s office. We also bear witness to the difficult relationship of Kayleigh with her ex-Country and Western superstar father and how her fame has led to some heartbreaking decisions under his influence. All this is nicely counterbalanced by the wonderfully understated personal and professional relationship of Lincoln and Amelia which is always a joy to behold. Another great read from Deaver with the added bonus of a musical accompaniment which I will certainly be downloading from

(Thanks to Hodder for the advance reading copy)

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