Johansen’s sixth entry about forensics sculptor Eve Duncan (Blind Alley, 2005, etc.), who shapes human faces from the skulls of murder victims.
This time, Duncan’s psychic 20-year-old foster daughter, sketch artist Jane MacGuire, takes a starring role. Jane, an archeology major at Harvard, has been on three digs to Herculaneum, where she learned that her face is identical to that of Cira, a Roman courtesan 2,000 years dead. Cira’s ravishing visage appears painted on a wall uncovered from the volcanic ash in Herculaneum, but seemingly buried with her was a chest of gold, now lost. Or not lost. Shortly after Jane’s close student friend, Mike Fitzpatrick, is murdered, back into her life comes risk-taking Mark Trevor, a Scot whose restrained lust for Jane has built up in the four years since they struck sparks in Italy. Trevor flies strong-willed Jane to Aberdeen to let her read ancient scrolls found in a buried tunnel at Herculaneum and to keep her from the clutches of the abominable seekers after Cira’s box of gold: Grozak, a murderer, smuggler, whoremaster and dabbler in drugs whose strings are pulled by gold-obsessed slimeball Reilly. This leaves Eve and her true love, Atlanta police detective Joe Quinn, to worry back in the States. Now more or less alone in the historic castle Trevor has leased, will Jane (at last over 18) and her sexy Scot find velvet nights and silver mornings? Only in passing. To find Cira’s gold, Reilly needs to kidnap Jane. So Trevor, his crew and Jane fly to Idaho to off Reilly, whose suicide bombers are on countdown to blow up a nuclear plant. Will Jane then find the gold?
Hey, she’s gotta get back to Harvard, and Cira’s gold, the stuff dreams are made of, must surely reappear.