Friday, 30 June 2017

The Vanished Man by Jeffrey Deaver


published 2003



Vanished Man



[The hunted criminal is talking to investigator Lincoln Rhymes]

The Conjurer whispered. ‘There’s a trick called the Burning Mirror. My favourite. It starts out with a vain illusionist looking in a mirror. He sees a beautiful woman on the other side of the glass. She beckons to him and finally he gives in to temptation and steps through. The woman’s now on the front side of the mirror. But there’s a puff of smoke and she does a quick change and becomes Satan.

‘Now the illusionist is trapped in hell, chained to the floor. Flames begin shooting up from the floor around him. A wall of fire moves closer. Just as he’s about to be engulfed by flames he gets out of the chains and leaps through the fire at the back of the mirror to safety. The devil runs toward the illusionist, flies into the air and vanishes. The illusionist shatters the mirror with a hammer. Then he walks across the stage, pauses and snaps his fingers. There’s a flash of light and, you’ve probably guessed, he becomes the devil… The audience loves it…’


Vanished Man 2



commentary: My good friend Bill Selnes, of the estimable Mysteries and More blog, recommended this one to me: he correctly guessed that I would love the many clothes that feature in the book, and the fact that quick changes, disguises, and the invisibility of a man in uniform would all be major features of the book.

It’s part of a series of books – the first one was The Bone Collector, also made into a film – about Lincoln Rhymes: a top NY investigator, paralyzed in a work incident, now surrounded by a team of friends and colleagues, and still helping to solve crimes despite his disability. (I couldn’t tell whether he was still on the force, or in a consultant role.) He specializes in detailed analysis of physical evidence, and is also brilliantly clever at trying to out-think the criminal.

This time he is chasing a killer who seems to be following a Vanished Man 3clear trail, but one that is hard to predict from outside. He is, it quickly becomes apparent, a hugely-talented illusionist, with hundreds of tricks at his fingertips. He uses these in quick succession to target his victims, and then to escape – even if he has been captured. This element of the plot is hugely inventive and imaginative – the reader is breathless from the endless list of different tricks and layers of deception.

I am always pulled in by magic and illusionists, and I absolutely loved reading about the ways magic tricks and shows are constructed. Rhymes recruits a young woman illusionist, Kara, to help them in the search, and her parts of the story are the most interesting.


Vanished Man 4

The book constantly turns the tables, from both criminal and sleuth’s points of view – you end up not believing anything you read. There are tense chases and violent incidents. If the criminal is on the point of being captured/killed halfway through a book – then you do know that isn’t going to happen right now. But Deaver certainly keeps up the interest, and just when you think you are one step ahead, you find you aren’t.

And the costumes and quick changes are, as Bill promised, riveting.

I don’t know if I would read more of this series (Deaver has written SO MANY books, it is quite off-putting) but I certainly loved this one.

You can find more evidence for my fascination with magic and illusions elsewhere on the blog.

Elly Griffiths Mephisto books feature an illusionist to great effect, and have featured some fine pictures of magic posters – see here and here. And then there is The Prestige by Christopher Priest (also a fine film) – another blogpost, and more great advertising images.

I did a couple of entries on Glenn David Gold’s marvellous Carter Beats the Devil – a great book about a magician – a few years back, see here, but obviously hadn’t managed to source good posters back then…

Top magician’s poster from the NYPL.

B/w pictures, also NYPL, show a New York theatrical production from 1974, called The Magic Show.

And then one more rather marvellous theatrical poster. There are SUCH wonderful magician posters on the internet…






















17 comments:

  1. The Deptford Trilogy, by Robertson Davies, contains an extraordinarily convincing illusionist, Magnus Eisengrim. He's most prominent in World of Wonders, his life-story, but it fits together better if you read the other two books too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I read that trilogy a long time ago - thanks for the reminder. I love Robertson Davies, and I love magic, so as you imply, the perfect book for me...

      Delete
  2. The Lincoln Rhymes series is really an interesting one, Moira, so I'm glad you got the chance to read this entry. I like the way Rhymes interacts with the people on his team, and the way they function as a unit. You know, I have yet to do a spotlight on one of these books; I should...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope you will Margot - the series is quite new to me, and I'd love to read more about it.

      Delete
  3. I walked into my local library bookstore a couple of weeks ago, and Griffith's Zig Zag Girl was sitting on the shelf in hardback fir two bucks! On the strength of your recommendation, I snapped it up!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh you'd better like it now Brad! I like her Ruth Galloway series even more, but she does a good job of portraying dingy seaside towns in the 1950s, and adding great plots.

      Delete
  4. I'm enjoying Elly Griffith's magic series, I'm always a sucker for magic. I thought the Prestige was an incredible film, didn't realize there was a book too. Haven't read a Lincoln Rhymes book in years, but this sounds good.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thanks Janet, yeah any old magic does it for me. The Prestige is a wondrous film, I could watch it over and over. And the book is worth seeking out if you're a fan.
      Lincoln Rhymes is new to me... I've obviously been missing out!

      Delete
  5. Moira: Thanks for the generous mention of my blog. I appreciate it I am glad you enjoyed The Vanished Man. Magicians and illusionists captivate me. I was not familiar, before reading the book, with how a skillful illusionist can use quick changes of clothes to create a new persona in but a couple of seconds.

    I have not found every book in the series to equal The Vanished Man but enough have to keep me reading the series.

    If you were to try another I would go with The Bone Collector. It sets his background and status more clearly and introduces Amelia Sachs. It does not flinch from violence but did not for me be too heavy on the gore.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Bill, and I was so glad you pointed this book out to me. Yes, it sounds like a good idea to go back to the beginning of the series.
      This one did have so many features I love - the magic, the illusions, the clothes and the implications of clothes, and the very good clues and plotting and twists and turns. Very satisfying for me!

      Delete
  6. Based on your comments on this, and my experience with the one Deaver book that I read (relatively) recently, Deaver excels at knowing his subject. The book I read was the Coffin Dancer, and it features federal witnesses who own and run a charter flight service. A lot of flying-related info is part of the story and he does it well and gets it right. And it includes a villain who changes his appearance easily, although I don't remember that part so well. I read that book (which was #2) and Bone Collector and they were both good. I have heard that his books are very variable, and I think most of them are also pretty long, so don't know how far I will pursue the series myself.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know, Tracy! I am tempted to read more, but there are so many, and people seem to imply that the quality is uneven. I do like people who research their subjects thoroughly, even though I am not always interested in the particular subject matter of the book. Or think I am not...

      Delete
  7. I've read a couple of Deaver's books ( a Rhymes and a Rune). Enjoyable, but he's not someone whom I would rush out and buy all of his back catalogue. Terrific plotting, good storytelling, but he lacks that quality of readability that my favourite authors have. For me, there's just something lacking.

    It's strikes me that Rhymes is a pretty obvious throwback to the Golden Age Detective. Unable to move from his room, he is the Nero Wolfe idea taken to the very limit. The strong plotting also feels like a throwback, although he does suffer from 'book-bloat' where I feel that he could tell the story just as well at a shorter length.

    ggary

    ReplyDelete
  8. That should be 're-readability'!

    ggary

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I see what you mean about the setup, it is just like older books. Reading through the comments, I think I might try the first one, and then perhaps wait for another one to grab my attention, one that has subject matter and expertise that really tempts me.

      Delete
  9. I read something by Deaver long ago and never rushed back. I think it was a Rhymes book because of the wheelchair/ As a character I didn't particularly warm to him. No doubt I have this book in a tub somewhere.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm sure you have! I think it would give you a nice harmless read some time, though it is quite long.

      Delete