The Burial Hour: Not Your Average Music Video
Ernest Hemingway said, more or less: If you want to send a message, go to Western Union (today, he might say instead: Send a Tweet or put a post on Facebook, though the image of Papa thumbing a smartphone is jarring, to put it mildly). His point: A novelist’s job is to tell a story, not to preach. But you only have to read one of his novels to deduce his true meaning: While proselytizing is an untrue arrow in a writer’s quiver, a novel can, and should, legitimately examine important topics.
Just don’t shout at your readers when you do so.
Which brings me to The Burial Hour, my latest Lincoln Rhyme thriller.
The book opens with a psychotic kidnapper, obsessed with the sense of sound in all its forms (he has gigabytes in his .mp3 collection–from screams to sobbing to bird songs). He snatches a victim from the streets of New York and posts a horrific video: the victim about to be hanged on an improvised gallows, the soundtrack a waltz featuring the victim’s own slowing heartbeat as the bass line. He dubs himself the “Composer.”
Learning of the kidnapping, Rhyme, Amelia Sachs and the crew you’re now familiar with begin a race against the clock to find the victim before he dies.
Yes, a typically cheerful (!) opening of a Jeffery Deaver novel . . .
But then, enter Western Union.
Like most of the rest of the world, I’ve been aware of the various refugee and immigrant crises in the news, their genesis the political unrest and climatic and economic disasters in the Middle East and Africa. After some research, I decided this catastrophe was a theme that could be woven into the book.
Accordingly, The Burial Hour promptly scoots Rhyme, Sachs and ever-loyal Thom to Italy, a country that’s been hit hard by the refugee influx.
Staying true to Papa Hemingway, I don’t lecture about what is or is not the correct approach to immigration and asylum seeking, but I raise questions that you might want to think about. I’ve often said that one mark of good book is that it’s not truly over when you finish reading the last page; it’s just beginning.
This is what I’ve tried to do with The Burial Hour–write a book that will stay with you for some time.
Now, in case you’re thinking the thriller is an op-ed piece, don’t panic. You can rest assured that it’s indeed a typical Deaver tale, calculated to keep you in suspense for the entire read. It takes place over only a few days, features dozens of plot reversals and offers up three surprise endings. Along the way we meet a number of characters, who are quirky and compelling, good and reprehensible (my personal favorites). They include prosecutors, refugee aid workers, immigrants, police officers and criminals–organized and otherwise.
And don’t forget about the Composer, who continues to refine his hobby of kidnapping victims and recording their gasps, heartbeats and groans to fit into his macabre music videos.
Of course, what would a Lincoln Rhyme/Amelia Sachs novel be without a subplot dealing with their personal stories? The Burial Hour offers one of those as well. As for what it might be, all I’ll say is that I’ve gotten a lot of mail asking me whether or not the couple will ever, in fact, marry.
I can’t help but note that Italy would be a wonderful place to get hitched.
I’d say more, but, sorry. Did I mention my love of keeping you in suspense?