In prolific suspense novelist Johansen’s energetic new Eve Duncan thriller (Countdown, 2005, etc.), the forensics sculptor makes a dangerous deal with a Colombian weapons dealer.
Eve is now living with her lover, Atlanta detective Joe Quinn, while working on her reconstruction of a skull she calls Marty, the remains of a boy murdered five years before in Macon. The phone rings: It’s Colombian crime lord Montalvo, promising to find Marty’s still-unknown killer and to unearth the fate of Eve’s daughter Bonnie, who disappeared years ago at age seven. Why? Because he wants Eve to come to his village, San Cristal, and apply her renowned skill to the reconstruction of his beloved wife Nalia’s head. A rebel double-crossed and killed by powerful local drug dealer Ramon Diaz, Nalia rests in a grave still under Diaz’s deadly watch. Joe arrives to watch over Eve and is promptly wounded. Ensconced in Montalvo’s cozy compound, Eve has to hurry with the reconstruction of Nalia’s head so that she and Joe can hightail it out of the country. Diaz, a dope-using child molester, threatens to harm Eve’s adopted daughter, Jane (ensconced in a CIA safe house, but you never know), and scatters grisly proof of his ruthlessness. Eve and the urbane Montalvo consider, then reject, their mutual attraction. Johansen serves up lots of nasty snarling among the principals, plus icky violence including the crucifixion torture of a henchman, but the locale is vaguely sketched and the characters interchangeably villainous. Also, it seems unfair to dangle the promise of solving Bonnie’s disappearance, then withholding it—until the next installment, no doubt.
All the usual elements, somewhat manipulatively reconfigured.