Body of Lies
Ms. Johansen’s latest has got it all…and then some. And that’s still not saying much. Murder and mayhem in the bayous of Louisiana, explosions, poisoning, car chases – all the thriller elements are here, and yet this latest Eve Duncan opus falls remarkably flat. Forensic sculptor Eve Duncan first appeared in The Face of Deception, a novel that nicely balanced the external forces of plot with the internal forces of human relationships. Since then that balance has been lost. The thriller plots have become bigger (though not always better) and the character development has suffered.
Things are going pretty well for Eve. She’s in a committed relationship with detective Joe Quinn, her adopted daughter Jane is flourishing and the remains of her murdered daughter Bonnie have been brought home. So a call from U.S. Senator Melton offering her a hush-hush job in Baton Rouge doesn’t tempt Eve. Too bad Melton doesn’t want to take no for an answer. His henchman soon has Eve feeling betrayed and angry enough to want spend time away from Joe. She takes the job and finds herself in an isolated house overlooking an abandoned church in the bayou.
Eve’s job is to determine if the skull being stored at the abandoned church belongs to the Senator’s political enemy. Because she went years without knowing whether her daughter was alive or dead, Eve is willing to work on the skull even though she’s sure there’s a lot that Melton hasn’t told her. The need to reconstruct the skull and possibly put a family out of its misery is all she needs to remain motivated.
Problem is, Eve barely gets to work on the skull before the non-stop action starts. She does have the mysterious and sexy (do I sense a spin-off?) Galen to cover her backside, but the plotting requires that she hurry off here, there, and everywhere while toting the skull, worrying about Jane and flinging dirty looks at Joe, who has appeared to keep her safe. And that got a little tiresome too. Yes, she has reason to be upset with Joe, but her assumption that only she has a right to hurt feelings is increasingly hard to take as the book progresses. The book that introduced Eve was an in-depth character study of a woman dealing with tragedy and trying to get on with her life. This Eve is a shadow of that character.
Her insistence on proceeding in an obviously dangerous endeavor isn’t especially believable and the bad guys’ reasoning is all over the place. One minute they want her to do the work; the next they’re trying to eliminate her before it’s done. Most of this is explained by book’s end, but the author has to go through a contortion or two to get there and I began to lose interest. While all of this is going on, these people are getting nowhere emotionally. Eve’s mad; she’s very, very mad. Joe’s sorry; he’s very, very sorry. That’s it until the last chapters of the book. That’s when the book is somewhat redeemed and I felt like Eve was once again the character I’d first met a couple of books ago.
Galen is the one consistently interesting character in this book and I think that may explain some of the problems. It felt like Ms. Johansen was writing another Eve Duncan book because fans like her, not because she continues to be all that interested in the character. Perhaps she’s looking towards the next book already and if it does star Galen, I’ll be there. Readers who are familiar with Eve will probably still want to read this one, but they might be better served with a reread of The Face of Deception.