Ouch weblog: individual blog entry
4 Sep 07, 11:33 AM - Lincoln Rhyme
I ought to have known about Jeffery Deaver’s Lincoln Rhyme series of novels a long time ago. It’s not as though I haven’t spent a lot of time over the last few years discussing the generally one-dimensional representation of crips in fiction with like-minded friends. (See m’learned Goldfish’s list of embittered crip Bond villains here .)
Two of my favourite novels of all time are Mary Webb’s lyrical, haunting “Precious Bane”, which I have read at least once a year for the last thirty years, and William Horwood’s heart-rending, triumphant “Skallagrigg”. Marmite Boy fell so much in love with Skallagrigg that he now carries a permanent reminder
of it around with him. And the Goldfish (again) wrote an excellent review of it on Blogging Bookworms.
So, y’know, given that, as a community, we express so much distaste for the fact that disabled characters in fiction are almost always portrayed as either angelic and inspirational or twisted and evil, I find it nothing less than astonishing that Lincoln Rhyme has never come up in conversation. I mean, for heaven’s sake, the first novel – The Bone Collector - has actually been made into a film!! (OK, so the film is pants, but still…)
How did I find the books? The first four were on very, very special offer from my book club. They were so cheap that, despite the fact that their covers didn’t appeal to me in the slightest, I nipped over to another website which allows customers to post reviews. People seemed to have been kept on the edges of their seats by them, so I thought I’d give them a go. Once they arrived, I couldn’t put them down.
Lincoln Rhyme was formerly head of forensics for NYPD. A beam fell on him and trapped him while he was investigating a crime scene, and now he has quadriplegia. He has control of the ring finger on his left hand but, apart from that, is paralysed from the neck down. And he is Not Happy. In fact, at the beginning of The Bone Collector, he’s arranging for someone to help him kill himself. Those plans are interrupted by the fact that his knowledge and experience are desperately needed to thwart the actions of a serial killer. He’s tremendously reluctant to work the case but, ultimately, the pleasure he gets from tracking the murderer down gives him a reason to carry on.
Having said that, Rhyme’s response to his impairment remains convincing as the series progresses. He’s brilliant, and he’s a decent human being at bottom, but he’s cranky, cantankerous and frequently bitter. I don’t know what sort of research Jeffery Deaver did into responses to acquired impairment but, whatever he did, he did it well. The only thing which really stands out for me as being unrealistic is that Rhyme’s PA, Thom, works 24 hours a day and appears to survive without any sleep.
Why did Deaver choose a quadriplegic main character?
"Lincoln Rhyme came about in, I guess I'd say, a very calculated way," said Deaver of his franchise player. "I wanted to write a book with this very simple concept: My hero is in a locked room at the end of the book, utterly helpless, no one coming to save him, the killer -- the bad guy -- is there. What does my hero do to get out of that? And I thought about, well, possibly having him tied up, or handcuffed or duct-taped or something like that -- but that's a cliche. I wanted to go to the extreme. I like high-wire acts. I like to push everything as far as I can. So I decided to make him -- based on that very simple, rather calculated thriller premise, a quadriplegic -- completely, permanently immobile.”
Rhyme was originally intended to appear in just one book. But Deaver’s readers loved him so much that he, and his partner Amelia Sachs (who has arthritis), now have a whole series devoted to them.
Health warning: Deaver is one heck of a skilled writer, but his books are not for the squeamish. People are killed unpleasantly by the use of a surprising variety of imaginatively-brutal methods and, while the deaths themselves are rarely, if ever, explicit, the forensic studies of their aftermaths are detailed and realistic. If you find Agatha Christie gory, I’d advise you to stay well away. If, on the other hand, you’re made of sterner stuff, there’s a chronological list of the Lincoln Rhyme novels here.