Book Review: The Twelfth Card

Crime thrillers never cease to excite the readers when explored from a psychological perspective of the killer. For author Jeffery Deaver the task is a mere cakewalk. A recurring aspect of his novels, and quite an exception from the norm, is the fact that the criminal is known to us, the readers, right from the start (although not by name) while his psyche is sufficiently ferreted out to justify his actions. And the protagonist is a mere aide in tracking down this man (or woman). The Twelfth Card, featuring the quadriplegic criminalist Lincoln Rhyme and his sidekick Amelia Sachs, is no different.

The Twelfth Card
A high-school girl from Harlem, Geneva Settle, is digging into the past of one of her antecedents as part of her school assignment. The ancestor in question, a Charles Singleton, was a slave in Virginia who was later freed but got himself in a sticky situation when he was accused of stealing money from a black educational fund.

But little does Geneva know that this research of hers could be a deadly trap when she becomes the target of an ingenious killer, who plays by the book and resorts to cunning plans to put Rhyme and Sachs off the scent. Will they be able to unmask the culprit and save Geneva from danger? Read the book for answers.

Deaver has always been a master storyteller. His attention to detail is marvellous and needless to say, it shows up in the crime-scene procedures and the various methods the antagonist employs to fulfil his(er) mission. Lincoln Rhyme makes for an interesting character unlike others. Because of his body condition, he is immobile and completely relies on Sachs in a both personal and professional capacity. Their romance, though evident, is very much understated and never hinders the story's progress.

Rhyme's shrewdness and his uncanny ability to predict the killer's moves matches Sachs's presence of mind and both make for a formidable pair. For me, the best part in his books have been the charts which give a sneak peek into the developments made in the case so far, in addition to detailing the criminal's profile. The twists are surprising and manage to catch you off-guard. However, the motive is somewhat unbelievable and makes you question whether such an elaborate charade was required in the first place. The book also tends to be repetitive and stretched beyond necessity at a few places.

Furthermore, Deaver pays a timely homage to Christopher Reeve, an actor well-known for his portrayal of the fictional superhero Superman (the book was out in 2005, and Reeve had passed away in 2004). The actor too became a quadriplegic following a horse-riding accident and Rhyme sees him as an inspiration to follow "an exercise regimen similar to Reeve's"  in order to recover his lost "motor ability and sensation". Named after a tarot card left by the killer at a crime scene, The Twelfth Card is a riveting read.