Solitude Creek is the fourth in the Kathryn Dance series of novels by Jeffery Deaver. As the story opens, Dance, an agent with the California Bureau of Investigation, who is a master of reading body language, finds herself suspended from duty when an interrogation goes really badly. She’s busted down to the Civil Division of CBI and given the boring assignment of checking permits after a stampede in a local roadhouse results in several deaths and a number of injuries.
Dance soon learns, however, that the panic was intentional—a classic case of someone yelling fire in a crowded venue—and unofficially begins to investigate.
So begins a deadly match of wits between Dance and the eerie perpetrator, Antioch March, who is planning more such panics in the Central California area. He’s obsessed with the idea of people turning into pure animals to escape from threats he creates. No one attending a play, sitting in a movie theater, dining in a restaurant or stepping into an elevator is safe.
Dance’s personal life adds to the pressure, as do issues with her children, Wes and Maggie. The consequences of her botched interrogation, resulting in her suspension, return to haunt her and may permanently end her career.
This book, unlike most other stories by author Deaver, really just isn’t that great. The plot is convoluted and it seems the majority of the story is torn between being a romance novel or a suspense novel. Focusing on one or the other would have been a major improvement. This alone made it really hard to finish the novel.
Another strike against the novel is the antagonist. He explains that he is exploiting fundamental fears (primarily confinement and claustrophobia) to satisfy a compulsion that he calls “the Get.” There is little to distinguish him from thousands of other crime novel villains who are driven by compulsion. His obsession with the “brilliant” and “captivating” Kathryn Dance after glimpsing her from afar is hard to swallow. In fact, not much about the bad guy is believable. His second motive to commit the crimes (apart from enjoyment) is spectacularly silly.
Also an issue in this story is the multiple plot lines that all going on all at once. In the 464 pages that comprise this story, there is the main storyline, then 2 subplots, plus 2 romantic interests for Dance to dwell on, as well as the sub-plots revolving around Dance’s children. This many smacks of overkill, so to speak, and there was a mad rush to bring all of them to conclusion that just seemed contrived. That said, author Deaver is given credit for not turning any of them into a cliffhanger. He did wrap them all up fairly neatly.
All in all, this really was not Deaver at his classic best. Unless one is a fan of the Kathryn Dance character and novels, one would be better served by picking up one of Deaver’s older novels, such as The Bone Collector.
Solitude Creek is available at the Howard County Public Library. Copies are limited, so if it is unavailable, ask at the front desk to be put on the waiting list for it.
In addition to serving as an associate librarian with the Howard County Library, Nicole Tracy has years of experience in literary fields. She writes an exclusive weekly column for The Nashville News.