It is said that hero is often measured by his enemies. Lincoln Rhyme has been dueling with the Watchmaker from his bedside for a few years now. And readers are very much the better off for the battles between the two. They certainly create the very best of the Rhyme books by Jeffery Deaver.
So, it's not surprising that the latest Rhyme-Watchmaker battle, The Burning Wire, is good. Good enough to be the best Rhyme book, even better than the much-lauded first book, The Bone Collector, that started this series nine volumes ago.
We read two different storylines, the one involving the Watchmaker in Mexico, and the other involving a homicidal psychopath who's using electricity and an intimate knowledge of the electrical under-system to kill and sow terror throughout the streets of Rhyme's home base, New York. Super sleuth Rhyme, torn between continuing to follow the pursuit of the Watchmaker and resolving a terror spree in New York, gradually allows his focus to come home. He (being a quadraplegic) sends out Amelia Sachs and Ron Pulaski to gather evidence. And, in doing so, he places their lives in danger. Again.
In addition, long time stalwart Fred Dellray is also out and about, in disguise, trying to hunt down the nut that's behind all this.
Oddly enough, having everybody elsewhere, rather than at Rhyme's house surrounding the bed-ridden detective works well. There are moments here and there where Amelia gets in a few hand-squeezes, but we are long-past the suicidal tendencies and occasional rages of earlier books, even past the awkward time where Lincoln and Amelia were finally coming to grips with their affection and attraction to each other.
So, it's a rather solid piece of detection that leads the team from suspect to suspect, including power company executives and the usual folks who hate Big Electric. Deaver does a good job of discussing both sides. But eventually he gets around to figuring out who's who. And yes, not everybody is who they seem to be.
And gets back to the Watchmaker in time for a confrontation that thrills at the end. And like Moriarty to Holmes, the Watchmaker finds failure in his last-ditch attempt to kill off his one equal. Or is it superior?
It was once asked of a super-villain why he kept trying to take over the world when he would be beaten by Superman or some such hero each time. His answer? "You only have to win once." The corollary? If Lincoln Rhyme was asked about all of his defeats by the Watchmaker prior to The Burning Wire, he would have said, "I only have to win once."
Ah, but the joy for the reader is getting to that 'once.'