Forensic sculptor Eve Duncan returns in this far-fetched but expertly plotted, eminently entertaining novel. When detective Joe Quinn is called to investigate the murder of a young woman whose skin has been peeled away from her skull, he presses the overloaded Eve to work her grisly magic. Eve is shocked to realize that the victim bears an uncanny resemblance to Jane MacGuire, the headstrong 17-year-old she and Joe have adopted, and who was already menaced by another serial killer in 1999's The Killing Game. Then a suspicious inspector from Scotland Yard, Mark Trevor, arrives with the grim news that a string of women with similar features have been murdered in Italy, England and Spain. A serial killer he calls Aldo has been working his way around the globe, butchering women who look like Cira, a beautiful young actress from the ancient Roman city of Herculaneum (which was destroyed by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius), whom he holds responsible for his father's death (such is the logic of the insane). Since Jane looks like Cira (and, incidentally, has been having nightmares about being her and trying to escape the volcano's destruction) she will be his prey or bait. Johansen fans will recall that Eve lost her biological daughter, Bonnie, to a serial killer, so her desire to bring Aldo to justice is tied up with her still-sharp grief. Meanwhile, Jane behaves like a typical teenager, living in denial of her own mortality while feeling intoxicated by the sexy air of peril that now surrounds her. Aldo never comes fully into focus as a villain, but that doesn't matter much, since one of the real engines of fear in the novel is Jane's burgeoning sexuality. (Sept.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Eve Duncan (Body of Lies, etc.), forensic sculptor, on the trail of an international serial killer this time. Mark Trevor, one of Scotland Yard's finest, contacts Eve and her true love, Atlanta police detective Joe Quinn. Why? Someone is meticulously ripping the faces off living women and then killing them. Trevor warns Eve that her foster daughter, 17-year-old Jane MacGuire, could be next. But why? Eve discovers the answer when she reconstructs the facial features of a recent victim's skull-and finds that the dead woman is a dead-ringer for Jane. After a briefing on the strange ritual killings-volcanic ash was found near each mutilated body-Eve, Jane, and Joe (and sexy Trevor, of course) head to Italy and an archeological dig in Herculaneum. Seems that a former worker on the site, Guido Manza, was obsessed (to the point of neglecting Aldo, his mentally unstable son) with Cira, a beautiful courtesan of ancient Herculaneum whose ravishing likeness was preserved on a villa wall. She still has the power to drive men mad after thousands of years. Guido found and hid the box of gold that Cira's noble lover gave her, but the explosion he rigged to cover his misdeeds killed him. Somewhere along the line, Aldo became a full-blown psychotic, working out rage over his childhood mistreatment by finding-and killing-modern women who look like Cira. Will Trevor keep his hands off nubile Jane? Yes . . . for now. (A sequel is in the works.) Will Eve step back and let Jane into the spotlight? Yes. Plagued by dreams of Cira's death in the long-ago volcanic explosion that buried Herculaneum and Pompeii, Jane seems to be conveniently psychic, a favorite plot device of this megaselling author.Nonetheless, Johansen breathes new life into tired themes by bringing supporting characters front and center, and the preposterous storylines and lazy writing of her last titles (Firestorm, 2003, etc.) are nowhere to be seen. Solid thriller, intriguing setting: Johansen's back on track. Agent: Andrea Cirillo/Jane Rotrosen Agency