Hodder & Stoughton, £18.99
Xo, By Jeffrey Deaver
New thriller is as capable a piece of writing as Deaver has delivered
Thursday 28 June 2012
Authors of crime fiction know that there is a way to give their writing a certain cachet: mention music, a useful shorthand for characterising your detective. Conan Doyle has Sherlock Holmes enjoying the operas of Wagner, while PD James gives Adam Dalgliesh a taste for Elgar's Cello Concerto.
Jazz, of course, is frequently used in similar fashion (e.g. John Harvey’s jazz-loving sleuth Resnick). But all the music mentioned above has a certain cultural respectability (even jazz has long since attained this status), and confers a certain sophistication on your copper. What about country music, which saturates the new novel by Jeffrey Deaver? Although there are now serious studies of the new country singers, the genre still suffers from a perception that it is ‘redneck’ fare: lachrymose, right-wing and musically trite. And in Xo, despite Deaver's customary authority in dispensing an ineluctably gripping crime narrative, your attitude to country music may determine your response to the book, as shot through with the music as a stick of Brighton rock is with its place of origin. Deaver’s obvious dedication has extended to including the lyrics from the album by his book’s country singer; some of them are key to the plot but do not best represent Deaver's skills as a wordsmith – unless he is attempting a facsimile of the banality of most country lyrics.
The book itself, however, is as capable a piece of thriller writing as Deaver has delivered. Kayleigh Towne, is riding high in the country charts with such songs as ‘Your Shadow' when she agrees to a concert in her hometown. But a fanatical admirer called Edwin Sharp has been sending letters and e-mails extolling his eternal love for her; threats of legal action do not faze him, and he appears to have access to every detail of her past. The worried singer enlists the aid of an old friend, Special Agent Kathryn Dance. When one of the singer’s road crew is killed, the murder method appears to be inspired by the first verse of ‘Your Shadow’, and Kathryn realises that other verses in the song may lead to further murder. But is the killer the obsessed Edwin?
The plotting here is endlessly surprising, and it's necessary to keep a weather eye on every character as Deaver always plays fair with us concerning the various revelations. However, whether or not you will want to listen to the CD of country music that accompanies Xo will entirely depend on whether or not your taste is for Mahler or Dolly Parton.
Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 As an ex prostitute, I urge all the political parties to commit to the Sex Buyer Law
- 2 Nokia no more: Microsoft drops once-ubiquitous mobile name – in favour of its Lumia brand
- 3 Renee Zellweger on plastic surgery: 'I'm living a more fulfilling life and I'm thrilled that perhaps it shows'
- 4 Australian café owner sparks debate after saying 'No' to having unruly children on premises
- 5 Couple die within 28 hours of each other after being married for 73 years
Goodfellas star Frank Sivero sues for $250m over Simpsons character
American Horror Story season 4, Fox - TV review: Silly, sensational and sensitive
Breaking Bad season 6 hoax: Vince Gilligan has not confirmed a new series
MOBO awards 2014: Sam Smith sweeps the board with four gongs
The Apprentice, episode 3 - review: Lord Sugar hacks away at the deadwood with another double elimination
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Support for EU membership 'at highest level since 1991' with most Brits wanting to stay 'in'
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters
London bus driver 'kicks gay couple off for kissing'