SO COLD THE RIVER

By Michael Koryta

Little, Brown. 508 pp. $24.99

THE BURNING WIRE

By Jeffery Deaver

Simon & Schuster. 414 pp. $26.99

If there were a prize for the novel best suited for summer reading, my 2010 nominee would be Jeffery Deaver's "The Burning Wire." It's a big, flashy stretch limo of a thriller that brings back Lincoln Rhyme and his assistant, Amelia Sachs, to stop a killer whose weapon of choice is electricity.

The action starts when a bus stops in Manhattan and an electrical booby trap designed to melt the whole vehicle ends up taking out just one victim, who meets a grisly fate indeed. This, however, is only a warm-up for mayhem to come: The chief suspect works for Algonquin Consolidated Power and thus knows the ins and outs of volts, amperes, currents, circuit breakers and all the other concepts and gizmos that keep our lights burning, our appliances humming and our traffic moving. Rhyme, a forensic consultant to the NYPD and a quadriplegic who relies on Sachs to be his feet and eyes in the field, knows next to nothing about "juice" -- which is convenient because we readers can learn about it by looking over his shoulder.

Among the book's many strengths is giving a sense of what it's like to be paralyzed (except for some finger movement) from the neck down. Before it's all over, Rhyme weighs the possibility of improving his condition via surgery against the chance that he might not be the same crime-fighter afterward. "My power comes from my disability," he reflects -- a strange but plausible assessment from a pro who is all business, no self-pity and a pleasure to watch.

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SO COLD THE RIVER

By Michael Koryta


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