Eve Duncan (<\I>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.