Hello everyone, and welcome back to The Bookworm’s Fantasy! I hope you’re all doing well. Today I’m posting my review of Jeffery Deaver’s novel, ‘XO’. I read this as “research” for my Creative Writing Project/dissertation at university this year (I’ll update you on what I’m doing soon!) I haven’t heard much about this book at all, so I thought I’d review it for you all! So, here goes…
Kayleigh Towne is a beautiful and successful singer-songwriter, and Edwin Sharp is her biggest fan. When she replies to one of his fan letters with ‘XO’, Edwin is convinced she loves him, and that her latest hit song ‘Your Shadow’ was written for him. Nothing Kayleigh or her lawyers can say persuades him otherwise.
Then the singer gets an anonymous phone call; it’s the first verse of ‘Your Shadow’ playing. Soon after, one of the crew is horribly murdered. Kayleigh’s friend Kathryn Dance, a special agent with the California Bureau of Investigation, knows that stalking crimes are not one-off occurrences, and, sure enough, more verses of the song are played as warnings of death to follow. With a little help from forensic criminalist Lincolyn Rhyme, Dance must use her kinesic and investigative skills in an attempt to find the killer before more people die.
** TRIGGER WARNING ** Contains descriptions of physical, emotional and sexual abuse. Also makes references to substance abuse and pregnancy issues.
‘XO’ (2012) is the fifth book in Jeffery Deaver’s “Kathryn Dance” crime series: consisting of ‘The Cold Moon’ (2006), ‘The Sleeping Doll’ (2007), ‘Roadside Crosses’ (2009), ‘The Burning Wire’ (2010), XO and ‘Solitude Creek’ (2015). Deaver is the number one bestselling author of over 30 novels, including the “Lincoln Rhyme” (best known for these books), “Rune” and “John Pellam” series’. He also published the James Bond novel ‘Carte Blanche’ in 2011. His novels ‘A Maiden’s Grave’, ‘The Bone Collector’ and ‘The Devil’s Teardrop’ have all been made into films/TV shows.
The “Kathryn Dance” novels have received many positive reviews, for example from Daily Mail: “[Deaver’s] intricate twists and turns catch out even the hardened thriller reader”, The Times: “An engaging who-dunnit that revolves around the way in which social networking websites can end up spreading poison’, and Heat: “Deaver is a master of the narrative twist”. Author Kathy Reichs also praised the series, stating “Jeffery Deaver is grand master of the ticking-clock thriller”.
‘XO’ is a tense, claustrophobic Crime Thriller all about the dangers of obsession. The narrative follows singer-songwriter Kayleigh Towne, who is being staked by a dangerous fan. When her friends and family begin to die, agent Kathryn Dance must step in to solve the case and stop the killer once and for all.
The narrative is told in the third person and follows the key characters of the novel. Chapters are divided into days of the week, beginning on a Sunday planning Kayleigh Towne’s big concert. The narrative is all-knowing and omniscient, sometimes acting to distance the reader from the action, and sometimes giving the reader an insight into the character’s head.
Kayleigh would have to be my favourite character in the novel. As the victim of a relentless and obsessive stalker, I felt a great deal of sympathy towards Kayleigh. She’s beautiful, rich, talented and has a large fan base, but it soon becomes clear that there’s a lot more to her than the reader may first perceive. Her stalker knows all her weaknesses, and won’t stop until he’s hurt everyone she loves – something which Kayleigh really struggles to cope with. She’s an extremely realistic character, as she soon begins to crumble under pressure.
Agent Kathryn Dance is also a really likeable character. She does everything she can to help Kayleigh and ultimately save her from harm. But she’s a much more complex character than first anticipated, and there are some secrets lurking deep beneath the surface. Dance gets more and more involved with the investigation and the girls’ form a good relationship, and Dance’s determination to save Kayleigh is heart-warming and inspiring.
Edwin Sharp is a deeply troubled character who is obsessed with Kayleigh and her music. He knows everything about her and will not stop until he gets what he wants – her. He’s set on ruining Kayleigh’s life and exposing her. The insights the reader gets into his head are dark and worrying, and he is truly blinded by love for her. Other characters include: Bobby and Sheri Towne (Kayleigh’s father and step-mother), Suellyn and Mary-Gordon (Kayleigh’s sister and neice), Alicia Sessions and Bobby Prescott (Kayleigh’s bandmates), and various members of the police force.
** TRIGGER WARNING ** (I apologise for any spoilers here.) The novel contains descriptions of emotional, physical and sexual abuse inflicted by the stalker. It contains the dark, chilling account from Edwin’s perspective, and the reader is given a detailed insight to his stalking tendencies. The novel also contains references to substance abuse, and also pregnancy issues. If any of these issues may trouble you, I suggest you skip this book.
As the novel motors forwards, Edwin’s behaviour only gets more and more concerning, and his stalking of Kayleigh gets more persistent. More members of Kayleigh’s close circle begin to die and so the police team must work hard to find out who’s behind the killings – and collect enough evidence to arrest this cold, calculated killer. Kayleigh’s troubles only increase and she is forced to make some difficult decisions.
So, let’s talk about the ending. I will say that the ending disappointed me slightly. There’s a large twist towards the end that I thought was brilliant – but then there’s another twist, and I got totally lost at this point. I personally felt that too much was crammed into the ending and Deaver really didn’t need to introduce that extent of narrative complexity. But I can understand why others may like the ending, so hopefully you’ll enjoy it more than I did!
Overall, I recommend this novel to those of you who enjoy Crime Thrillers, particularly with stalking and obsession involved. The premise is unique and the book is unlike any I’ve ever read before. I really enjoyed the book throughout, although unfortunately the ending did bring down my rating of the novel. A good read!
Happy reading 🙂