The Broken Window Interview

April 2008

Question: You introduce us to Lincoln Rhyme’s cousin, Arthur Rhyme, in this novel and share with us quite a bit of Lincoln’s childhood history. Did you create this back story for Lincoln while writing this book or do you already know everything about your characters?
Jeffery Deaver: My fans have been interested in knowing more about Lincoln and his past. But, because the novels take place over a short time and there’s so much action going on, I haven’t had a chance to look into his childhood and family. I’ve been looking for a way to integrate some of his history and decided I’d have his cousin return into his life after a number of years, giving me a chance to keep the action going and yet talk about the past.

Question: Can you explain what the title, The Broken Window, means?
Jeffery Deaver: Of course, as with many of my books, there’s a double meaning to the title. “Broken Window” philosophy in sociology refers to an approach to lower crime rates and improve urban decay. In essence, the concept is that rather than increase external forces to stop crime—-like adding police to patrol bad neighborhoods—you spend money improving the bad neighborhoods, such as painting housing projects and fixing broken windows. The increased pride in the place will encourage the residents to do more self-policing and to shun crime. In my book, the title also refers to what may be the source of the murders: the huge data miner, Strategic Systems Datacorp, who’s corporate logo is a window, gazing out on society.

Question: What made you decide to write about data mining? Was there a particular inspiration?
Jeffery Deaver: I’m always looking for ways to make my dangers immediate, for my readers, rather than write about abstract threats (like stolen nuclear bombs and the like). As the victim of some small identity theft a few years ago, I learned how much information about us is freely available—and I’m not talking just credit card numbers and the like. I mean EVERYTHING. What a great villain, I decided: a killer who has access to all that information about individual citizens and who can use it to kill them and then frame the innocent.

Question: I’ve got to tell you, this book actually scared me a bit. It seems like the danger in The Broken Window is very realistic and could actually happen to any one of us. Were you hoping to get that kind of reaction from readers? Do you like to inform readers while entertaining them?
Jeffery Deaver: One of the greatest things about writing thrillers is that I get to learn things . . . and to impart some of that knowledge to my fans, who, I know, also love to learn details. The more I researched data mining, identity theft and the death of privacy, the more I realized that it’s one of our most crucial issues today and I know fans will love to read about it. Of course, these are thrillers first and I make sure I don’t lecture; rather all the information I present is not only fascinating but moves the story along quickly.

Question: The Broken Window is is the eighth book in the Lincoln Rhyme series. What’s your secret for keeping a series alive?
Jeffery Deaver: I have my fans to thank for that. The Lincoln/Amelia franchise continues to grow in popularity. And as long as readers like the pair, I’m delighted to write the books. Of course, I’m interspersing the Rhyme books with my other hero, Kathryn Dance. She’ll be back in 2009, and Lincoln and Amelia in 2010.

Question: If I was just discovering you and your novels, which book would you recommend I read first?
Jeffery Deaver: I think it would have to be The Bone Collector or The Sleeping Doll. Both of these are the first in the Rhyme and Dance series respectively. I myself always like starting with the first book that launched a series character.