Most thriller fans will pick up a Michael Connelly novel expecting that it's going to be about Harry Bosch. Similarly, most Jeffrey Deaver fans (and I expect there's a whole pile of crossover), will pick up one of his novels expecting a story about Lincoln Rhyme and his erstwhile lover, Amelia Sachs. So it's a very pleasant and unexpected surprise to be treated to a new heroine in Kathryn Dance, an investigator with the California Bureau of Investigation who is known for her near psychic interrogation skills, Kathryn Dance is a master of kinesics, the ability to read body language, facial tics, changes in skin tone, key words, intonation and the hundreds of other tiny indicators that let a skilled questioner know whether a subject is lying, uncomfortable, attempting to mislead, frightened or, in some other fashion, is simply avoiding the truth.
"The Sleeping Doll" is the story of Daniel Pell, a modern day Charles Manson serving life in a maximum security institution for the brutal, gruesome slaughter of the Carmel family - everyone in the family, that is, except for the little girl who was asleep in her bed when the murders took place. Now the "sleeping doll", as she was dubbed by the media when her family was taken from her, is a teenager and Kathryn Dance needs her help and her distant memories to re-capture Daniel Pell who has engineered a daring escape from custody and looks to be on the killing warpath again!
As a thriller, "The Sleeping Doll" is certainly workmanlike and quite compelling. The plot is exciting and there are more than sufficient twists and turns to keep a reader well glued to the pages. But it doesn't leap off the pages and stick in one's reading memory or have that deep down gut-wrenching shock value that would put it into a league with Thomas Harris' "Silence of the Lambs", for example.
The most enjoyable feature of "The Sleeping Doll" is actually the serious discussion of the science (or art) of kinesics. Deaver has also done a yeoman's job putting us into the very creepy mind of a serial killer in those sections where he has placed Daniel Pell into the role of a first person narrator.
I'll look forward to Kathryn Dance's return performance in her next novel "Roadside Crosses". Highly recommended.