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'The Vanished Man'

Fans of bestselling mystery writer Jeffery Deaver should be on the alert for his new book, "The Vanished Man."

Deaver explains on The Early Show that his latest book is a mystery filled with magic and illusions. His latest entry into the popular "Lincoln Rhyme" series tracks a psychotic illusionist who uses his skills with magic to get close to his victims and kill them.

This is Deaver's 18th novel and the fifth in the "Lincoln Rhyme" series. Rhyme is a forensic detective and a quadriplegic who solves crimes with the help of Amelia Sachs, a New York City police officer and his girlfriend. Those not familiar with the book series may remember actor Denzel Washington playing the paralyzed Lincoln Rhyme in the movie adaptation of "The Bone Collector."

Deaver says a circus performance inspired him to write his new book about a villain who is an illusionist. He says he found murder mysteries and illusions to parallel each other because they lead their audience to unsuspecting places.

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Deaver was born and raised in Chicago and, he says, he wrote his first book at the age of 11. He studied to be a journalist and he eventually went to law school at night at Fordham in New York City, eventually practicing law. But, at the age of 40, with one non-fiction and his first novel written, he decided to write novels full time.

The following is an excerpt from Chapter One from "The Vanished Man."

Greetings, Revered Audience. Welcome.

Welcome to our show.

We have a number of thrills in store for you over the next two days as our illusionists, our magicians, our sleight-of-hand artists weave their spells to delight and captivate you.

Our first routine is from the repertoire of a performer everyone's heard of: Harry Houdini, the greatest escape artist in America, if not the world, a man who performed before crowned heads of state and U.S. presidents. Some of his escapes are so difficult no one has dared attempt them, all these years after his untimely death.

Today we'll re-create an escape in which he risked suffocation in a routine known as the Lazy Hangman.

In this trick, our performer lies prone on the belly, hands bound behind the back with classic Darby handcuffs. The ankles are tied together and another length of rope is wound around the neck, like a noose, and tied to the ankles. The tendency of the legs to straighten pulls the noose taut and begins the terrible process of suffocation.

Why is it called the "Lazy" Hangman? Because the condemned executes himself.

In many of Mr. Houdini's more dangerous routines, assistants were present with knives and keys to release him in the event that he was unable to escape. Often a doctor was on hand.

Today, there'll be none of these precautions. If there's no escape within four minutes, the performer will die.

We begin in a moment...but first a word of advice:

Never forget that by entering our show you're abandoning reality.

What you're absolutely convinced you see might not exist at all. What you know has to be an illusion may turn out to be God's harsh truth.

Your companion at our show might turn out to be a total stranger. A man or woman in the audience you don't recognize may know you far too well.

What seems safe may be deadly. And the dangers you guard against may be nothing more than distractions to lure you to greater danger.

In our show what can you believe? Whom can you trust?

Well, Revered Audience, the answer is that you should believe nothing.

And you should trust no one. No one at all.

Now, the curtain rises, the lights dim, the music fades, leaving only the sublime sound of hearts beating in anticipation.

And our show begins....

Copyright © 2003 by Jeffery Deaver

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