Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Tuesday, February 14, 2023


"Rhymes with Prey" by Jeffrey Deaver & "John Sanford" (John  Camp) (from the International Thriller Writers anthology Faceoff, edited by David Baldacci, 2014)

Faceoff has a simple conceit:  Take the most popular series character from 23 of the world's best-selling thriller authors and pit two of them against each other in the eleven short stories in the book.  Thus, Dennis Lehane's Patrick Kenzie meets up with Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch, Ian Rankin's John Rebus works a case with Peter James' Roy Grace, Lee Child's Jack Reacher and Joseph Finder's Nick Heller meet up, and so one.  (Twenty-three authors -- an odd number -- are representated because Aloysius Pendegast is the creation of co-authors Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child; Pendergast meets up with R. L. Stine's Slappy the Ventriloquist Dummy in what is probably the strangest collaboration in the book.)

"Rhymes with Prey" features Jeffrey Deaver's Lincoln Rhyme (The Bone Collector,  and others) and John Sandford's Lucas Davenport (Rules of Prey and thirty-one follow-up novels thus far) in a twisted tale of a serial killer and a bunch of corrupt cops.  Lincoln Rhyme is a quadriplegic criminologist who works with the New York City Police Department.  His assistant and love is Amelia Sachs.  Lucas Davenport works out of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, and has occassionally worked in New York as a consultant with his former lover NYPD Detective Lily Rothenburg.   That's all the excuse Deaver and Sanford needed to feature all four in a case dealing with some pretty gruesome sex and torture murders.   All four victims were female; all were illegal Mexicans with some connection to the drug trade.  The killings may have been done by drug cartels, but there is a hint that they may have been orchestrated by a rogue group of narcotic cops anxious to send a message.  The cops in question have the highest drug-conviction rate in the city and have been rumored to use questionable tactics.

Rhyme has noticed something unusual in the autopsy photographs of the victims, a strange twist of light on the bodies that turns out to have come from a few miniscule metal fragments embedded in the bodies.   Forensic analysis determines the metal consists of various types of brass.  Rhyme, Davenport, Amelia, and Lily soon detemine that this metal most likely came from a studio of an artist who sculpted in brass.  Computer magic soon gave them a name -- James Robert Verlaine, a brass sculptor of kinky statues who has a history of drug violations and sexual assault.

As the police close in on Verlaine, his body is discovered in his studio -- dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.  There is also evidence aplenty of Verlaine's having tortured women in his studio, and there may be at least eight more bodies that authorities were unaware of.  But word has gotten out that Rhyme and Davenport are looking into a possible connection to dirty cops and soon Lily is detained by IA as a murder suspect -- the gun that was used to kill Verlaine was one that had been used in a series of previous murders that Lily had worked on, and one of the bullets remaining in the gun had her fingerprints on it.

A frame-up is in, but things are not as they seem.  The killer was not who they thought.  The police corruption was not as simple as they had first thought, either.  But good detective work (and a rather harrowing climax) showed that Rhyme and Davenport and their allies made a good team.

One problem with mixing series heroes is that each author may want his guy to take center stage.  Deaver and Sandford avoid this by putting much of the heavy lifting on Amelia and Lily, as Rhyme and Davenport try to feel each other out.  It works and. at the same time, has each charater act tru to the constant reader's expectations.  The team-up may even get new readers to explore each sries -- which is one of the purposes of Faceoff.


  1. Good to know...and, as I've yet to read a Deaver with a non-Idiot Plot, it might be good reason to pick the ITW antho.

  2. I think this is a clever marketing gimmick. I'll have to track down a copy. Once again, excellent choice!