Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
While not as unrelentingly grim as its predecessor, And Then You Die, this suspense thriller--from an author who has successfully written historical romance with a dark edge--has its share of grisly scenes, beginning in medias res at the execution of Ralph Fraser, the serial killer who has murdered protagonist Eve Ducan's only child, Bonnie. To overcome her grief, Eve takes up a (notably icky) career as a forensic sculptor, making busts from the skulls of unidentified murdered children so that their parents can identify them. New trouble comes when computer mogul John Logan recruits Eve to reconstruct and identify an adult male skull. The job comes with unforeseen risks and political implications; various criminal figures want to keep the skull's identity a secret and are ruthlessly determined to go to any lengths to avoid exposure. Eve, who combines a tough survivor's instinct with emotional vulnerability, is led to fear for her own life and for the lives of her mother and dearest friends. Despite slow early chapters and stilted dialogue, Johansen makes an admirable effort to give psychological depth even to her villains, and her action scenes use terse prose to build tension. With the help of well-timed, steady disclosures and surprising revelations, the book's twists and turns manage to hold the reader hostage until the denouement, a sure crowd pleaser (since it promises a sequel). Major ad/promo. (Oct.) FYI: A 16-page excerpt of The Face of Deception will be included in the paperback reprint of And Then You Die, out in September.
Forensic sculptor Eve Duncan is in trouble--the face she has just reconstructed belongs to a man who is supposedly alive.
Johansen (And Then You Die, 1998, etc.) leaves romance behind for some pedestrian adventure and a stab at emotional healing. Ever since best-selling Patricia Cornwell introduced medical examiner Kay Scarpetta, romantic-suspense authors have driven their plots by means of coroners and forensic anthropologists. And now hereþs what may possibly be the first forensic sculptornamely, Eve Duncan, who takes skulls and, with the use of computers, scientific measurements, fake eyeballs, and her own sculpting talent, re-creates the fleshed-out heads of possible murder victims. Why? Because she's searching for the body of her daughter Bonnie, who was killed by a psychopath but never found. Calling them her "lost ones," Eve obsessively rebuilds the heads of slain childrenuntil now unidentifiedso that she can send them home to their families for burial. Meanwhile, Eve, being one of the best forensic sculptors around, is solicited for a top-secret mission by computer billionaire John, who fails to tell her of the many dangers he's involving her in. With a cock-and-bull story about finding the real head of John F. Kennedy, he hires her to sculpt a face around a mysterious skull that turns out to belong to the corpse of the now-President of the US (Ben Chadbourne). A double, it turns out, is occupying the White House and being manipulated by the brilliant First Lady and an official in the Treasury Department. Johansen gives hints of a budding affair between Eve and Logan and between Eve and her best pal, Atlanta police detective Joe Quinn. The trouble is that with three strong, silent types like Duncan, Logan, and Quinn, there isn't a whole lot for the reader to sink herromantic teeth into, and, with the exception of a great red herring at the start, there isn't a whole lot of suspense, either. A sequel is on its way, and perhaps with that Johansen will deliver what she only promises here.
From the Publisher
“A fast-paced, nonstop, clever plot in which Johansen mixes political intrigue, murder, and suspense.”—USA Today
“The book’s twists and turns manage to hold the reader hostage until the denouement, a sure crowd pleaser.”—Publishers Weekly
Read an Excerpt
"Good night, Eve." He stopped at the pedestal and looked at the skull. "You know, he's beginning to grow on me."
"She's a girl."
His smile faded. "Sorry. It wasn't funny. I guess we all have our own way of dealing with what we become after death."
"Yes, we do. But sometimes we have to face it before we should. Mandy wasn't over twelve years old."
"Mandy? You know who she was?"
She hadn't meant to let that slip. What the hell, it didn't matter. "No, but I usually give them names. Aren't you glad now that I turned you down? You wouldn't want an eccentric like me working on your skull."
"Oh, yes, I appreciate eccentrics. Half the men in my think tanks in San Jose are a little off center." He moved toward the door. "By the way, that computer you're using is three years old. We have a newer version that's twice as fast. I'll send you one."
"No, thank you. This one works fine."
"Never refuse a bribe if you don't have to sign on the dotted line for return favors." He opened the door. "And never leave your doors unlocked, as you did tonight. There's no telling who could have been waiting in here for you."
"I lock the lab up at night, but it would be inconvenient to keep it locked all the time. Everything in here has been insured, and I know how to protect myself."
He smiled. "I bet you do. I'll call you."
"I told you that I'm--"
She was talking to air; he'd already closed the door behind him.
She breathed a sigh of relief. Not that she had the slightest doubt she would hear from him again. She had never met a man more determined to get his own way. Even when his approach hadbeen velvet soft, the steel had shown through. Well, she had dealt with powerhouse types before. All she had to do was stick to her guns and John Logan would eventually get discouraged and leave her alone.
She stood up and went over to the pedestal. "He can't be so smart, Mandy. He didn't even know you were a girl." Not that many people would have.
The desk phone rang.
Mom? She had been having trouble with the ignition on her car lately.
Not her mother.
"I remembered something just as I reached the car," Logan said. "I thought I'd throw it into the pot for you to consider with the original deal."
"I'm not considering the original deal."
"Five hundred thousand for you. Five hundred thousand to go to the Adam Fund for Missing and Runaway Children. I understand you contribute a portion of your fees to that fund." His voice lowered persuasively. "Do you realize how many children could be brought home to their parents with that amount of money?"
She knew better than he did. He couldn't have offered a more tempting lure. My God, Machiavelli could have taken lessons from him.
"All those children. Aren't they worth two weeks of your time?"
They were worth a decade of her time. "Not if it means doing something criminal."
"Criminal acts are often in the eyes of the beholder."
"Suppose I promise you that I had nothing to do with any foul play connected with the skull."
"Why should I believe any promise you make?"
"Check me out. I don't have a reputation for lying."
"Reputation doesn't mean anything. People lie when it means enough to them. I've worked hard to establish my career. I won't see it go down the drain."
There was silence. "I can't promise you that you won't come out of this without a few scars, but I'll try to protect you as much as I can."
"I can protect myself. All I have to do is tell you no."
"But you're tempted, aren't you?"
Christ, she was tempted.
"Seven hundred thousand to the fund."
"I'll call you tomorrow." He hung up the phone.
She replaced the receiver. The bastard knew how to push the right buttons. All that money channeled to find the other lost ones, the ones who might still be alive . . .
Wouldn't it be worth a risk to see even some of them brought home? Her gaze went to the pedestal. Mandy might have been a runaway. Maybe if she'd had a chance to come home she wouldn't . . .
"I shouldn't do it, Mandy," she whispered. "It could be pretty bad. People don't fork out over a million dollars for something like this if they're even slightly on the up-and-up. I have to tell him no."
But Mandy couldn't answer. None of the dead could answer.
But the living could, and Logan had counted on her listening to the call.
Logan leaned back in the driver's seat, his gaze on Eve Duncan's small clapboard house.
Was it enough?
Possibly. She had definitely been tempted. She had a passionate commitment to finding lost children and he had played on it as skillfully as he could.
What kind of man did that make him? he thought wearily.
A man who needed to get the job done. If she didn't succumb to his offer, he'd go higher tomorrow.
She was tougher than he'd thought she'd be. Tough and smart and perceptive. But she had an Achilles' heel.
And there was no doubt on earth that he would exploit it.
"He just drove off," Fiske said into his digital phone. "Should I follow him?"
"No, we know where he's staying. He saw Eve Duncan?"
"She was home all evening and he stayed over four hours."
Timwick cursed. "She's going to go for it."
"I could stop her," Fiske said.
"Not yet. She has friends in the police department. We don't want to make waves."
"Maybe. It would certainly cause a delay at least. Let me think about it. Stay there. I'll call you back."
Scared rabbit, Fiske thought contemptuously. He could hear the nervousness in Timwick's voice. Timwick was always thinking, hesitating instead of taking the clean, simple way. You had to decide what result you needed and then just take the step that would bring that result. If he had Timwick's power and resources, there would be no limit to what he could do. Not that he wanted Timwick's job. He liked what he did. Not many people found their niche in life as he had.
He rested his head on the back of the seat, staring at the house.
It was after midnight. The mother should be returning soon. He'd already unscrewed the porch light. If Timwick called him right away, he might not have to go into the house.
If the prick could make up his mind to do the smart, simple thing and let Fiske kill her.