The Watchmaker's Hand
October 13, 2023

Book Review

The Watchmaker's Hand

In this 16th book in the ‘Lincoln Rhyme’ series, the forensic expert is on the trail of an old enemy. The book can be read as a standalone, but familiarity with the characters is a plus.

Criminalist Lincoln Rhyme was the head of the NYPD’s forensic unit until an accident at a crime scene left him a quadriplegic. Rhyme can operate his ‘miracle of mobility’ wheelchair with his left ring finger and, thanks to advanced medical procedures, can now use his right arm. Lincoln currently has his own forensics lab and consults for the police with the help of his wife and forensic partner, NYPD Detective Amelia Sachs.

As the story opens, an alarm on a towering crane at a New York City construction site begins to blare and flash red. The crane creaks and groans, and with an explosive snap, it falls twenty-two stories to the jobsite, injuring six people and killing one. New York City Mayor Harrison receives a message from the Kommunalka Project, claiming credit for the disaster. The group demands that the city build affordable housing instead of luxury high rises and threatens to continue the crane attacks until the city arranges to comply.

Soon after the tragedy, Detective Amelia Sachs arrives at the crime scene to examine the fallen crane and the surrounding damage. In addition to smelling damp concrete, sawdust, motor oil, and diesel exhaust, Amelia detects a strong chemical odor. It turns out that highly corrosive hydrofluoric acid, which can dissolve human skin in moments, was used to damage and take down the crane.

The NYPD can’t find anything about the Kommunalka Project, and Rhyme concludes the organization doesn’t exist. Instead, evidence leads Rhyme to believe the crane incident was perpetrated by his old enemy, Charles Vespasian Hale, also known as the Watchmaker – due to his fascination with timepieces. The Watchmaker’s devious criminal plots have been foiled by Rhyme several times in the United States and Mexico, and Hale is back to foment more trouble.

Mayor Harrison refuses to give in to blackmail, and the attacks on cranes continue, endangering lives, causing the stock market to dip, and disrupting construction in New York. In reality, the crane strikes are a diversion, and the Watchmaker has another agenda, which includes murdering Lincoln Rhyme.

Just as Rhyme is a brilliant criminalist who instinctively knows how to find evidence and follow clues, Hale is an evil genius who devises intricate plans to achieve his felonious goals. Thus, Rhyme and Hale engage in a kind of strategic game, with back-and-forth tactical maneuvers, in an attempt to outwit each other.

Concurrently, Rhyme’s trainee, NYPD patrolman Ron Pulaski, is on the trail of a dangerous terrorist. Pulaski finds the body of Wall Street broker Fletcher Dalton in a Manhattan warehouse and, using his methods to search for trace evidence, discovers a dark blue fiber. This leads to the identification of a suspect named Eddie Tarr, also known as the Bombmaker. Pulaski believes the Wall Street murder victim was in the wrong place at the wrong time, saw something he shouldn’t have, and was killed as a result. Pulaski learns Tarr’s last attack was on a government building in California, and the Bombmaker’s presence in New York is alarming.

The story is fast-moving with edge-of-the-seat tension and should appeal to thriller fans.

In addition, the novel includes informative snippets about diverse subjects such as jib crane design, the chemical composition of gasoline, components of soil, construction of watches, famous clocks, hourglasses, and more.

Thanks to Netgalley, Jeffery Deaver, and G.P. Putnam’s Sons for a copy of the book.

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