|High school student Geneva Settle is researching one of her ancestors for a class assignment. She is reading the vivid account of a freedman Charles Singleton, who served in the Union Army during the Civil War and owned a farm in New York, in the July 23, 1868, issue of Colored’s Weekly Illustrated. Accused of burglary, Singleton is fleeing pursuit. Peering at the microfilm in an isolated corner of the African-American museum library, Geneva is riveted by the magazine story when she hears someone come in. Her instincts kick in.
Geneva cleverly escapes the intruder’s attack and flees. When police arrive on the scene, they suspect attempted rape because found on a library shelf is a rape kit which also includes the Hangman, the twelfth card of a tarot pack. The only thing missing is the magazine microfilm.
Curious bystanders are watching the police search the library, the librarian among them. He is the first to be murdered by the determined hitman. It seems that someone else has been inquiring about this particular article, and the librarian was the only one who could identify him. When the killer continues to try to get to Geneva, Lincoln Rhyme knows she won’t be safe again until he can find the killer and the reasons behind the crimes.
The cover of The Twelfth Card touts this as “A Lincoln Rhyme Novel,” but while Rhyme is orchestrating the expanding investigation from his apartment and Amelia Sachs is “walking the grid,” sixteen-year-old Geneva Settle steals the show. Her dedication and self-determination make her such an admirable character that the others seem bland in comparison.
Dedicated to the late Christopher Reeve, this is the author’s sixth novel featuring quadriplegic criminalist Lincoln Rhyme and his sometime partner (professional and personal) Amelia Sachs. Readers who have enjoyed the previous five books have something to celebrate – this may be the best one yet. It’s not necessary to have read the earlier books to enjoy this one, but the relationships between the main characters are already well-established so it helps to be familiar with the dynamics.
Instead of a single mystery, the story line skillfully weaves together two whodunits – one present-day, one from the late 1860's – along with a subplot focusing on Geneva’s life. The identity of the killer is revealed early in the book, but there’s more to him yet to be uncovered. The historical mystery surrounding Charles Singleton is divulged gradually through his letters and contemporary sources. What appears at first to be an interesting digression gains increasing importance as the story progresses. It’s a pretty safe bet that no single reader is going to solve all the various mysteries before Rhyme does – although I can say I did figure out one.
A professional observation: this seems to be the season for librarians in the crosshairs. In The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, multiple librarians either end up dead or among the Undead. Now Jeffery Deaver’s hitman is targeting one of us. And this is usually considered such a safe, non-violent career!
With its intricate plotting and strong character development, The Twelfth Card earns TMR’s highest rating and my strong recommendation. Mystery buffs won’t want to miss this one.