XO by Jeffery Deaver: Book Review/Interview/Giveaway

Oct 6, 2012 | 2012 Articles, Lorie Lewis Ham, Mysteryrat's Maze

by Sunny Frazier
& Lorie Lewis Ham

At the end of this post you will find info on how to enter to win a copy of XO & a link to purchase the book where it will also help support KRL.

XO by Jeffery Deaver
Review by Sunny Frazier

Think Taylor Swift in Fresno. That’s the image I conjured up by the description Jeffery Deaver gives of Kayleigh Towne, a country Western singer from our neck of the woods.

Kayleigh signs all her generic replies to fan letters with XO. But, for rabid fan Edwin Sharp, those hugs and kisses seem meant for him alone. “Stalker” doesn’t even begin to describe this deranged guy.

This is not part of the Lincoln Rhyme series, but the third one featuring Katherine Dance (I’m not including the crossover, Cold Moon). Dance is an agent with the California Bureau of Investigation (the Mentalist’s stomping ground).

Dance is on vacation in Fresno, which definitely makes this fiction. It’s a working vacation as Dance, in her free time, records multi-cultural music, and this time she’s in our area to record illegal immigrants. It’s a “sweltering” 96 degrees in September—sorry she had to miss those triple digits, right?

Some of the descriptions are on target, some a miss. Here’s the description of the Valley: “This was the agricultural heart of the country. The working fields were verdant or, if harvested already, rich black, but everything else was dry and dun as forgotten toast.” Hmm. We’ll let that slide.

We do get accolades as “the most productive agricultural county in America,” but then comes the backhanded slap from one of the characters: “Fresno’s not the glitziest place on earth. We come in real low on nice-place-to-live surveys.” You had to go there, didn’tcha, Mr. Deaver.

Of the Tower Theatre (renamed The Rialto”) and the Tower District, Deaver nearly gets it right: “Featuring the famous Art Deco theater, at Olive and Wishon, which boasted an actual, if modest, tower (although the neighborhood had probably been named for another tower some distance away).” Anybody got a clue? I lived in the Tower District for a decade and have no recollection of any other tall buildings.

Now, let’s talk about some of the characters. The sheriff is a Hispanic woman (move over Margie Mimms) and the lead detective is a man addicted to ice cream. I’ve worked with detectives and I’ve seen them addicted to smelly cigars, overtime and bad coffee, but never ice cream. Kojak had lollipops; Det. Madigan has Haagen-Dazs.

I’m wondering why Deaver consolidated Fresno Sheriffs with Madera Sheriffs, truly a “novel” idea. They even share an office. NOT gonna happen.

Within the stalker plot, readers get a quickie course on the Country Western scene as well as the psychology of a stalker.

I wrote Jeffery, asked a few polite questions and received this reply: “I had driven through Fresno in the past and thought it would make a wonderful backdrop for a book. About a year ago, I traveled there to do some in-depth research and eat some great food! It’s a great city.”

Thank you, Mr. Deaver. We think you’re pretty terrific too.

Sunny Frazier worked with an undercover narcotics team in Fresno County for 17 years before turning her energies to writing the Christy Bristol Astrology Mysteries. Based in the San Joaquin Valley of California, the novels are inspired by real cases and 35 years of casting horoscopes. Sunny is also acquisitions editor for Oak Tree Press.

Author interview with Jeffery Deaver

Lorie: When did you first begin writing?

JD: I was about 11 when I wrote my first “novel”—a thriller. It was really a short story, but I called it a book, because I loved novels and had been reading since I was young.

Lorie: What was the first book you ever published?

JD: The Complete Law School Companion, a nonfiction guide for students, in the early ’80s. A few years later I published Voodoo, my first fiction—a horror book a la Stephen King.

Lorie: What brought you to choose the setting and characters in your latest book? Tell us a little about the setting and main character in this series.

JD: I’d always wanted to write a book about a stalker—having been inspired by “Every Breath You Take” by the Police. Since my heroine in this series—Kathryn Dance—is a song-catcher and music archivist in addition to being a policewoman, I thought I would create a stalker who goes after a country western singer in California, where Kathryn is based.

Jeffrey Deaver

Lorie: Why Fresno in this book? Have you been to Fresno?

JD: Fresno is an interesting mix of cultures—Latino, Anglo, rich and poor, idyllic in parts and rugged in others. And there’s a good music tradition there. It can also be a tough town, and I thought it would be a good setting for a crime story. I needed it to be in California because that’s where Kathryn lives and works (in Monterey Bay area). Yes, I researched the book in Fresno.

Lorie: How did it come about that you wrote songs and a CD was recorded that goes along with XO?

JD: Writers nowadays must be business people and I liked the idea of offering readers some “value added” for the experience of the story. I contacted a producer in Nashville, Clay Stafford, and sent him the songs I’d written for the book,. He and his production partner, Ken Landers, set the songs to music and hired a wonderful singer, Treva Blomquist, to sing them. They’re available on iTunes and wherever CDs are sold.

Lorie: Have you written songs and/or been involved with music before this?

JD: Yes, I was a singer songwriter for a few years—a long time ago.

Lorie: Do you outline? If not, do you have some other interesting way that you keep track of what’s going on, or what needs to happen in your book when you are writing it?

JD: I’m a fanatical outliner. I plan each book out for eight months before I start writing. The outlines are 150 pages long. I never start to write until I know exactly where the story is going. I need to do this because I have three or four surprise endings in my books. They must be organized.

Lorie: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?

Yes, I had years of rejection. It’s the story of trying to break into writing fiction. Just remind yourself that rejection is a speed bump, not a brick wall.

Lorie: Writing heroes?

JD: Conan Doyle, John le Carre, Agatha Christie, Saul Bellow, JRR Tolkien.

Lorie: What kind of research do you do?

Mostly online. But I do a great deal of it. My James Bond novel, Carte Blanche (published last year) was based on 5000 pages of research.

Lorie: What do you read?

JD: Mostly nonfiction, research for my books.

Lorie: Favorite TV or movies?

JD: Hard to say. Probably my favorite movie of all time is the original The Godfather.

Lorie: Any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?

JD: Write what you enjoy reading.

Lorie: How do you feel about the growing popularity of e-books?

JD: It’s great. Anything that gets books into the hands of readers is good.

Lorie: Do you read e-books yourself?

JD: Yes. But I also read and will continue to read traditional books.

Lorie: Anything you would like to add?

JD: My next Lincoln Rhyme novel—published next year—will be The Kill Room, and I’ll be publishing a new collection of short stories in 2014, Troubled in Mind.

To enter to win an e-book copy of XO, simply email KRL at life@kingsriverlife[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “XO”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen October 13, 2012. U.S. residents only.

Click here to order this book & you support KRL & Mysterious Galaxy, an indie bookstore:

Lorie Lewis Ham is our Editor-in-Chief and an enthusiastic contributor to various sections, coupling her journalism experience with her connection to the literary and entertainment worlds. Explore Lorie’s mystery writing at Mysteryrat’s Closet.


  1. That’s a lot of research for a book.

  2. Sounds fascinating. How interesting about the outlining. I’m also going to have to look at that book on law school.

  3. Honest review and nice interview. The book does intrique me. Looking forward to reading it.

  4. Great review of the book, Sunny and a strong interview too. What a great place to set a novel, by the way. I don’t live in the Central Valley, but visit it often. It’s beautiful and I’ve set a great number of my short stories there, basically any time I want a little magic in it.

  5. Loved the review & the interview. His research fetish rings true with me. Lately, I wander in a research labyrinth with no inclination to write.

  6. Excellent review and a great interview. After reading how much planning, outlining, research he does before he even starts to write, it is clear while his books are so wel structured. Thanks for a top-notch post.

  7. Great review, Sunny. I put the book on my TBR list. I’m a fan of Deaver’s. I heard him speak this past Mar at Sleuthfest where he discussed how and why he outlines in such detail. BTW, that picture of him with his all-black clothing and quite serious face hides a man with a great sense of humor and a friendly gent.

  8. Hi, Sunny, nice to see you again!i liked the last Dance novel and will look forward to this one. I wondered about Jeff’s 5,000 pages of research – makes me think about keeping my scribbles and doing a count, in case I ever win an Edgars or such!! I’d add to the topic of research that it is so much more than pages … seeing a face on a bus, a line on TV, a paragraph in a newspaper, a bit of conversation overheard anywhere… etc. Be well, and talk to you soon! Thelma

  9. A Book with it’s own original soundtrack Wowsers! Mr Deaver I am even more impressed!! Great Interview and Sunny, entertaining as always!

  10. Nice review, Sunny. Nice interview, Lorie and Jeffrey. It’s all so intimidating. YIKES! If I did that much research and written prep, I’d be dead before I wrote the book. I am in awe…

  11. Check out Deaver’s love of music on the American Blackguard Records soundtrack he co-wrote with writer Clay Stafford at http://www.JefferyDeaverXOMusic.com. You can also download one of the songs there for FREE.

  12. We have a winner
    Lorie Ham, KRL Publisher


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