“X O” is the oddly titled Jeffery Deaver novel of a stalker who trails after a country-pop engenue named Kayleigh Towne. It is a topic was played for laughs in one of the Stephanie Plum novels (Fearless Fourteen), but that's OK. Deaver is good at realism and thrillers, and of course with his recurring character Kathryn Dance, he can't miss.
The stalker, Edwin Sharp, is spooky the way he hacks her newest email address within hours – never mind bombarding her with 50 or so emails. He shows up at a lunch at her fave roadside diner early in the book; how did he know when she would be there?
Kayleigh is an enormously gifted singer-slash-songwriter in the country genre, the daughter of another country legend. Her squeaky clean image is the result of burying a deep secret from her teen years. Her mother, incidentally, died about the same time as that other ahem, incident. Strangely enough, her stalker has also gone through a tough period of rejection from a girlfriend and the death of his mother. Geez, they have so much in common, y'know? It's like, in another world, they'd be soul mates.
The bodies start to pile up, with the victims having in common a motive clear to the mind of a stalker. They all stood in the way of the stalker and the object of his desire, or they threatened the well-being of the performer in some fashion.
We know very early on that there is a stalker out there, and we meet him very early in the novel. But Deaver keeps the spinning the needle between Guilty or Innocent so many times that we, the reader, get dizzy from it. Sure he's weird, but he's just a harmless loser. Or no, he's not harmless, he's just a good faker and a really dangerous psychopath.
We don't learn the answer till several red herrings have been played out. There are, as usual in a Deaver novel, several twists and turns in the plot, which turns out to have two guilty parties in this instance. The final, small twist on the last page is the one I am not buying, tho it hardly makes any difference in the larger picture.
I'll give it three and a half stars out of five. I am a very tough grader, so you may rate it higher.
X O, Jeffery Deaver, Simon & Schuster, 2012. 371 pages not including the lyrics to the songs mentioned in the story, which appear at the back of the book. ISBN 9781439156377