September 18, 2012

Book Review: XO by Jeffrey Deaver

Kathryn Dance, an agent with the California Bureau of Investigation, thinks she is headed to Fresno to indulge her favorite hobby and record a few grassroots musical groups. However, upon arrival, she discovers that her good friend, country singer/songwriter Kayleigh Towne, is being mercilessly pursued by a stalker named Edwin Sharp. When tragedy strikes Kayleigh’s band, Dance abandons her search for undiscovered bands and volunteers her expertise to the local investigators. Her offer of help is unappreciated, however, until some critical oversights in the investigation threaten to sideline some of the local police officers.

Once Agent Dance takes charge of the investigation, it quickly becomes apparent that the perpetrator that they are looking for is much more than a simple stalker. As the crimes escalate, it becomes clear that Kayleigh is the ultimate target; the book becomes a battle of wits as Kathryn Dance matches her formidable instincts and investigative experience against an elusive criminal mastermind, with Kayleigh Towne caught in the middle.

Deaver does an excellent job of developing his characters throughout the story; it seems that every chapter you’re learning something new about one of the major players. However, the plot itself seems almost contrived in its complexity; while the characters are intriguing, the situation in which they find themselves becomes increasingly implausible as the story develops. Additionally, Deaver uses his characters to champion some currently polarizing political beliefs. While it can’t be argued that an author has every right to use his writings to speak to the current political climate, it seems an odd choice for a serial detective novel, and the political opinions that the characters occasionally espouse seem affected and out of place. There are certainly better examples of the genre out there, and as Deaver is currently writing in the James Bond series, I imagine there are better examples of his storytelling available as well. Unless you are an aficionado of the Kathryn Dance series, I’d give this one a miss!

As a note, I listened to this novel as an audiobook. As I got into the story I found myself inordinately annoyed by the names in this book. (I recognize that this is petty, but it is also true! It almost made me want to turn the book off in the middle.) In large part, my annoyance stemmed from the reader’s pronunciation of Kayleigh -- with equal stress on both the syllables of the name, almost as if it were two separate words.  Is there anyone ought there who actually pronounces Kayleigh that way?
It makes me happy to know that I'm not the only one who quibbles over name pronunciation. Thanks to my friend Meghan for joining me in my nitpickyness and for writing this review. Don't miss the rest of the posts in the Me(a)g(h)an Miniseries!

Have you read Jeffrey Deaver? 
How do you pronounce Kayleigh?