DG MARTIN COLUMN: Almost nobody knows he lives in North Carolina

Published 9:20 am Tuesday, December 28, 2021

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North Carolina not only grows great writers, like Jill McCorkle and Clyde Edgerton, for instance. It also imports them from all over the place.

One of the most prolific imports, Jeffrey Deaver who lives in Chapel Hill, released his latest book, “Midnight Lock,” on Nov. 30.

D.G. Martin

“Midnight Lock” is the 15th book in his Lincoln Rhyme series. His first book in that series, “The Bone Collector,” was adapted for a film starring Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie.

From reading “Midnight Lock” or the other books in the series, you would not guess about Deaver’s North Carolina connection. In fact, most people do not know where he lives.

His main character, Rhyme, lives in New York City, where Deaver went to law school. Rhyme works as a consultant to the New York Police Department.

In addition to the Rhyme books, Deaver has written about 15 other thriller novels. He covers a wide territory and tries different formats that make his books interesting challenges. For instance, “The October List” (2013) starts with chapter 36 at the end of the story and then takes the reader back to its beginning in chapter one. It is tricky business, but Deaver makes it work.

In another book, “Carte Blanch” (2011), commissioned by the Ian Fleming Foundation, the central character is James Bond, made younger and living in modern times.

The Evening Standard newspaper in London wrote, “The most impressive feature of ‘Carte Blanche’ is the ingenuity of the breathless, blood-thirsty plot. A master of misdirection, Deaver manufactures more surprises than anyone flogging an old warhorse can be expected to produce.”

Somehow, Deaver can take us anywhere in his novels, except to North Carolina where he lives and writes.

But informally he has written about some of his favorite places in our state.

For instance, writing in the FT Property Listings newsletter in 2019, Deaver gives a reason why he lives in Chapel Hill.

“The epicenter of Chapel Hill is the University of North Carolina, and the epicenter of that sprawling campus is Coker Arboretum. As someone who’s lived in downtown Chicago and Manhattan, I’m the first to admit that Chapel Hill is hardly a churning and chaotic town. Nonetheless, during school term, 30,000 students swell the ranks of the population and the word ‘bustling’ applies quite nicely.

“A few steps off Franklin Street — the main thoroughfare on campus — Coker Arboretum transports you into a serene world of nature, just right for contemplating the environment, reflecting on your latest exam performance or, in my case, conjuring up my next thriller plot.”

Maybe Deaver could set his next thriller in the Arboretum, even using the unsolved 1966 murder of Suellen Evans as a backdrop.

Presently, he is concentrating on promoting “Midnight Lock.” There is a lot to promote — 434 pages of Lincoln Rhyme’s complicated adventures, beginning with his chemical testimony that meant to tie a murder defendant to the site of the crime. His careful analysis failed to convince the jury. The NYPD terminates his position as a consultant and forbids him from working on any case.

That situation handicaps him but does not ultimately keep him from solving the book’s central and most interesting crime.

A man who becomes known simply as “The Locksmith” has gained entrance to the heavily locked homes of two women. Undetected by the women, he leaves messages that taunt his victims, the police and Rhyme.

In several chapters, Deaver uses Locksmith’s voice to tell his side of the story and to educate readers about the inner workings and history of locks. Locksmith also describes how he uses Facebook-like computer programs to get detailed information that helps him select his victims and plan his exploitation of them.

At the end of the book the reader has been entertained, educated and amazed, just as Deaver, the North Carolina author, intended.

D.G. Martin hosted “North Carolina Bookwatch” for more than 20 years.