Newest in Duncan series disappoints

October 28, 2010

Iris Johansen’s latest Eve Duncan thriller, “Chasing the Night,” is exactly what I was expecting it to be: well-written, suspenseful and full of “Oh no!” moments. It also had the predictable twists, turns and tyrant. The only real surprise in the entire book was the last two words which left the reader hanging, waiting for the next book.

Newcomers to Johansen will be caught in the thrilling plot each turn of the page brings, but veteran readers have learned Johansen is caught within the trap of having the same formula to writing every book. Even her romance novels follow the formula. Her 10th book in the Eve Duncan series is no different.

The main character, Eve Duncan, a famous forensic sculptor with a dark, saddening past, is working to bring victims of violence or natural disasters home by reconstructing their skulls to create a face lost to time. Her ex-Navy SEAL-turned-cop lover, Joe Quinn, is there by her side as she sinks herself into a new reconstruction, as always.

She is interrupted by a call and is immediately dragged into a story line that is as predictable to Johansen as the sun rising.

A CIA agent’s 2-year-old son was kidnapped in the middle of the night, and her husband slain as an act of vicious vengeance. Nine years later, Catherine Ling is driven by the belief that her son is still alive, but she needs the help of someone as driven and obsessed as she is to find him. Thus Eve is brought into her life of murder and dismay. Eve has walked the same nightmarish path of losing a child as her daughter, Bonnie, who disappeared many years ago. Her presumed death is what sent Eve onto the path of a forensic sculptor.

As Eve uses age progression science to create an image of Catherine’s now 11-year-old son, she is drawn deeper into Catherine’s horror, eventually forcing her to face the fact her own daughter is never coming home.

Johansen is a dynamo at creating strong, female leads. With two unconquerable women enduring the worst fear any mother can imagine, “Chasing the Night” is a testament to a mother’s fierce love and devotion and an anxiety-filled journey into the darkest corners of a person’s soul.

A person who has never read Johansen can easily fall into the Eve Duncan story line as she writes a small summary of Eve’s history into the books without disturbing the flow of the story. I would advise that this not be the first Johansen book you read, though, because it is not a true testament to her skills as a writer.

This book is wishy-washy, lacking the same intense mystery, and can throw newcomers for a loop. Veteran readers will ask what happened to Joe and his new-found skills from the previous book. Returning fans will wonder what is happening to Eve and Joe’s relationship as the passion which has been present from book to book is no longer present. It makes one wonder if Johansen is going to eventually split the couple up. I feel as though the Eve Duncan story line and character have fallen flat, and it is time for her to finish this plot and let it rest.

Verdict: 2 1/2 of five stars.

E-mail comments to mkd009@latech.edu.