Sunday, August 21, 2011

BOOKS: Edge by Jeffery Deaver

It's been almost two whole weeks since I reviewed a Jeffery Deaver book. Time for another one, one that doesn't star Lincoln Rhyme, or even Kathryn Dance for that matter. In what I hope will be the start of the new series, Deaver has hit a home run with Edge.

Corte, one name, Corte. Oh, there are a couple of initials somewhere in some Justice Department database. Corte to his friends, Agent Corte to the people he protects or to the perps trying to kill or capture those same 'primaries.' Corte is the best bodyguard in the Department and as compelling a character in that field as Greg Rucka's Atticus Kodiak (who's no longer a bodyguard in that series). And that's pretty high praise.

The book starts with Corte as a by-stander. His mentor is escorting a witness knowing a 'lifter' is going to make an attempt at a snatch. His mentor, the best that was, thinks he's got the lifter boxed and harmless. And he's wrong. Henry Loving isn't even really after the witness. As it turns out. And suddenly, Corte doesn't have a mentor any more.

That's all in the pre-amble and a battle between Corte and the presumed dead Loving starts immediately in the first chapter. It's a game of wiles that swerves and switches back on itself time and time again. Loving is ruthless, a hitman with a desire to talk to his victims first. There's no bodyguard trick he doesn't seem to know. Only the fact that Corte had a great mentor and six more years to perfect his craft off-sets Loving's continued attempts to get to his charges, former hero cop Ryan Kessler and his wife Joanne. And no, this Kessler isn't at like a certain Vancouver Canuck.

Kessler was pretty badly wounded in a Deli shootout where he did manage to shoot the bad guy. His wife was at the scene too, as a hostage/witness. They kept in touch and when Kessler's first wife died of cancer, Joanne became his wife. That despite the fact that the intervening years saw the middle-aged Kessler start to lose his battle with booze. Still on the force, but now investigating financial crimes, Kessler happened upon something that prompted somebody, apparently, to put out a pick-up slip on him. So said the electronic chatter.

What results is this duel between Loving and Corte. Through a half-dozen close calls, Corte stays ahead of Loving. And Loving evades a trap or two along the way. We learn how Loving escaped the death trap that was presumed to have left him in the land of the unliving. And we get to know Corte, the loner who fights off attraction as if it would result in a painful death for the would-be loved one. He lives alone and likes playing board games. He's determined and unwilling to fight the political opponents his lone wolf approach creates for him. But he does fight dirty when necessary.

There's a conclusion to the battle, of course. The good guy, Corte, does win at the finish line. The stakes change rather dramatically before that. But it wraps up beautifully a few pages/clicks from the end. And then Deaver pulls off a one-time only, secondary conclusion that leaves you shaking your head in wonderment. It's a game-changer in that no sequels could follow the same template as the first book. Is that good or bad? Won't know 'til we see a sequel.

But I can tell you one thing. I'm sure hoping there is one.

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