I enjoy a good whodunit as much as the next guy and I am relatively easy to please when it comes to the type of detective novel/thriller so popular today. I do, though, expect a few things from the author: fully-fleshed main characters, explicit descriptions of crime scenes, and side plots to reveal more about the makeup of the main character’s life, among them. Most important of all, though, I expect the author to play fair with me as a reader. Just give me a chance to figure out “whodunit” on my own – fool me if you can, but give me a fighting chance. That is where Jeffery Deaver let me down in Roadside Crosses. I found out, only after reading well over 500 pages, that I never really had a chance.
Those roadside crosses placed along the highways of America at the scenes of fatal accidents seem a little creepy to many people even though they probably feel sympathy for those who placed the crosses there. In Roadside Crosses, Jeffery Deaver imagines just how creepy it would be if someone planted roadside crosses along the highway to announce the date of his next murder.
That is exactly what someone in California is doing and agent Kathryn Dance of the California Bureau of Investigation and her crew are finding it impossible to stop him. Dance suspects the killer might be a sixteen-year-old victim of cyber-bullying who is seeking the ultimate revenge on those who have most viciously attacked him on “The Chilton Report,” a hugely popular blog based in his home town. The young man is being vilified on the blog because of his involvement in an accident that claimed the lives of two popular high school girls he barely knew. Dance’s efforts to track the killer, and to identify his potential victims, take her deep into the worlds of blogging and internet gaming and she is shocked by the viciousness she finds there – and how the cyber world is more important to some people than the real world.
With every new victim, Dance becomes more desperate to stop the killer but she cannot escape the other distractions in her life. Her boss, who is all about bureau politics and covering his own butt, ups the pressure on her every day to end the case – or to show enough obvious progress to keep the papers and his own CBI bosses calm. Her mother has been arrested and charged with a mercy killing (see the previous Kathryn Dance novel for a tie-in from there) and Dance feels that she is letting her mother down by spending so much time on the Roadside Crosses case. To top things off, she is a single mom trying to raise two young children on her own.
Roadside Crosses is filled with enough twists and turns to keep the reader turning pages – there is, in fact, much to like about this novel. The concept of a killer pre-announcing his kills through roadside crosses is intriguing; the cyber-investigation into the gaming and blogging societies is interesting; and Kathryn Dance is an absorbing enough character to merit her continuing series. But, and it is a big “but,” I still feel so cheated by how the book’s ending unfolded that I feel I wasted my time with it.
Rated at: 2.5