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Posted on January 28, 2010 at 1:08 PM by Lisa Miyako
Jeffrey Deaver is a prolific writer of mysteries and detective fiction whose latest novel, Roadside Crosses, features Kathryn Dance, a kinesics (body language) expert for the California Bureau of Investigation based in Monterey, California. As someone who has recently discovered the television series Lie to Me on the Fox network, a show about an expert in facial expressions and body language, I was particularly interested in Deaver's novel as the subject holds an especial interest. These kinesics experts interpret nonverbal language to assess whether witnesses and suspects are being truthful or deceitful, which, perhaps, was the next logical step after the slew of forensics television shows and detective fiction.
The main mystery revolves around an unpopular teenager, Travis Brigham, who was at the wheel when he lost control of the car, killing two classmates. A third passenger survived the crash. A local blog writer with a large audience questions whether or not that stretch of the highway was adequately safeguarded to prevent such accidents and readers' comments about the question degenerate into an attack on the driver's character, with rumors obfuscating fact and deteriorating into cyberbullying.
Roadside crosses appear on the side of the highway before the car accidents that the crosses are meant to memorialize. The victims of these "accidents" are classmates of Travis who have participated in the cyberbullying.
This mystery is well-crafted in that while I suspected one character's innocence and believed I knew who would be unmasked as responsible for the deaths and attempted murders, I was wrong. Meanwhile, there are subplots that deepen the characters and keep the story moving along at a good page-turning rate.
Another facet of modern technology that Deaver weaves into the story (in addition to the kinesics angle) that should interest you, since you're reading this on-line, is the Internet, specifically blogs and the democratization of so-called news and how rumors spread almost instantaneously. Deaver quotes heavily from the blog, The Chilton Report, and even provides the URL, www.thechiltonreport.com, which he encourages readers to visit, which I did only after I read the book. Don't expect much. (Sorry.)
I will say this: Deaver's heroine, Kathryn Dance, and other characters rightfully express concern over the amount of personal information that people unwittingly reveal about themselves on the Internet, and it's a good reminder to those who enjoy reading and commenting on blogs – and even writing blogs – that it is very easy to give up one's anonymity and privacy while participating in on-line fora and to keep one's guard up.
Reviewed by Lisa Miyako
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