When the charismatic and highly intelligent head of a cult responsible for the 1999 wholesale slaughter of a suburban family escapes from jail, Special Agent Katherine Dance launches herself into the case. After all, if she hadn't had him brought to a lower security facility so she could analyse his behaviour (a kinesic specialist, Dance is adept at interpreting small movements, changes in tone, and evasive language),or if only she'd been a little quicker at interpreting his behaviour during the interview, she might have helped prevent Daniel Pell's escape. Using all her resources, including meeting the women who once lived with Pell and carried out all his commands, Dance tracks him down and, in the process, uncovers the startling truth about the crimes that shocked the country. As the story of what happened in 1999 begins to emerge, and it's more complicated than anyone, including Pell, realised.
I decided after reading the Lincoln Rhyme novel Cold Moon that I'd had enough of Deaver, but he introduced Dance, and I was so intrigued by her character, and by a science I hadn't heard of but found fascinating, that I acknowledged I might give Deaver himself another go. I'm glad to report that a full length outing hasn't changed that. The analysis is interesting, the plot fast paced and unpredictable, though plausible, and the heroine engaging. Deaver alternates Dance's perspective with Pell's, and unfurls the plot, both current and past, in a tense and brisk manner, and though the plot is complex as it emerges, all the pieces fit weasily together, without creating a too-pat ending. The Sleeping Doll certainly has some of the elements that annoyed me in Cold Moon - in parts it's overwritten, with irritating additional detail that serves no narrative purpose (like the two paragraphs on page 186 about how Dance and her friend met, and how Martine rallied around her when Dance's husband was killed). However, the character is engaging, the plot was fast-paced, the villain was intelligent and dynamic, and the twists were plausible and unexpected. All in all not a bad addition to the genre, and I'll try Dance again on her next outing.- Alex