The Empty Chair

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Quadriplegic forensic detective Lincoln Rhyme is awaiting experimental surgery in a North Carolina hospital when he is asked to help solve a local kidnapping. A disturbed teenager has dragged two young women into the woods. The boy, Garrett Hanlon, known locally for his obsessive interest in insects, has also been a suspect in several recent murders. Rhyme agrees to help local police find Hanlon and his two victims. Rhyme’s partner Amelia Sachs takes his physical place during investigations; her detailed findings allow Rhyme to solve crimes based on physical evidence.

Before long one of the young women is found and Hanlon is in custody; however, Amelia Sachs believes the boy is innocent. Acting on an almost maternal feeling for Hanlon, Sachs breaks him out of jail and the two become refugees. Sachs pits her skills as a criminalist against those of her mentor Rhyme, and the two match wits as time runs out for the second kidnap victim.

The Empty Chair takes a few chapters to hit its stride. Initially Rhyme’s ill temper and his colleagues’ tolerance of his genius seem contrived, and forensic machinery is described in monotonous detail as a makeshift crime lab is set up at Rhyme’s direction. Rhyme’s relationship with Sachs is fleshed out in later chapters, and the mystery picks up pace as Rhyme and Sachs are pitted against local police, backwoods bounty hunters, and each other. The novel winds up with no fewer than four plot twists in quick succession.

Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Like many suspense/thriller novelists, Deaver uses multiple points of view to lead the reader through the Great Dismal Swamp with each group...

(The entire section is 322 words.)

Ideas for Group Discussions

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Jeffery Deaver combines scientific research and discussion of criminology with a sympathetic portrayal of a paralyzed man who struggles to do...

(The entire section is 301 words.)

Social Concerns

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

In the North Carolina of Jeffery Deaver's novel The Empty Chair, the presence of Yankee criminologist Lincoln Rhyme and New York...

(The entire section is 1088 words.)

Literary Precedents

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Deaver's novel fits into the tradition of cat-and-mouse suspense thrillers such as those written by James Patterson or Ridley Pearson....

(The entire section is 173 words.)

Related Titles

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The Empty Chair is the third in a series of Lincoln Rhyme novels. The first, The Bone Collector, appeared in 1997. It...

(The entire section is 210 words.)