And Then You Die

Face of Deception

Firestorm

The Killing Game

Long After Midnight

The Search

 
Killer Dreams by Iris Johansen
(Bantam, $26.00, PG-13) ISBN 0-553-80344-1
**
I was certain that my review of Killer Dreams was going to begin: “This book suffers from trilogy-itis–that condition whereby a reader’s comprehension of the plot and characters will depend upon her having read the previous two books in the series.” Only I couldn’t turn up even one previous book let alone two. I’m not familiar with the author’s most recent books, but as best as I can tell, this is a standalone masquerading as a series book. Characters and situations are casually mentioned as though the reader will know exactly who and what they are.

The plot is fraught with logic jumps. Here’s what I’ve figured out with a warning that some of it is conjecture.

Heroine Sophie Dunstan has both an M.D. and a Ph.D. in chemistry. Her specialty is sleep disorders. Prior to working with patients, she conducted research for a pharmaceutical company owned by Robert Sanborne. She left when she became concerned that her research was being converted into development of mind control technique.

Her personal life is highly dysfunctional. Her father shot her mother to death in front of her then turned the gun towards her son Michael. Sophie threw herself in front of him and deflected the bullet. Michael suffers – not surprisingly – from severe nightmares. Following her recovery from the gunshot wound, Sophie had a nervous breakdown and was hospitalized for mental illness. Her marriage to an attorney disintegrated under the stress. Her ex-husband has remarried, but he and his new wife feel incapable of handling Michael’s nightmares.

Sophie has reason to believe that the rich and ruthless Sanborne is still unethically using her research REM-4 (REM, rapid eye moment, is a stage of sleep) to create a drug that induces mind control. Her attempts to get authorities to look into Sanborne’s activities have been futile. She is determined to stop him. Jock Gavin has taught her to use a gun, and Sophie is debating killing Sanborne.

Jock Gavin (Sophie has been telling people he’s her cousin – it’s never explained how he entered Sophie’s and Michael’s lives) is worried that Sophie may carry out her threat to assassinate Sanborne. He tells MacDuff, aka the Laird, and MacDuff (another character who lacks background, at least in this novel) recommends calling in Matt Royd, but Jock is reluctant. Meanwhile, Royd has determined that Sophie was instrumental in the development of REM-4. He’s out to eliminate anyone who created this drug that led to his torture and his brother’s death at the mysterious Garwood.

Royd comes to Sophie’s house to eliminate her but arrives just in time to prevent her from being killed by one of Sanborne’s operatives. Jock (another survivor of Garwood) convinces Royd of Sophie’s innocence. She and Royd will join forces to prevent Sanborne from further perverting REM-4 for his nefarious purposes.

Killer Dreams is plot-driven ... if it’s possible for a plot to drive a book when the plot itself lacks substance.

The action – and the paragraphs – come rapid fire.

Run.

She heard a shout behind her.

She skidded down the slope of the hill, fell, picked herself up, and flew down the bank of the creek.

A bullet whistled by her head.

“Stop!”

Run. Keep on running.

What passes for character development is thrown in between chase scenes, explosions, and assassination attempts.

Sophie is supposed to be brilliant and committed to her patients. Her mental instability is a thing of the past. But she sure has a few screws loose. She’s trained herself to be a hit woman, but she doesn’t seem to have examined the consequences of her actions. What if she is killed, and Michael is left to the care of her ex-husband and his wife? (And there are more complications later.) The boy has already witnessed his grandfather kill his grandmother and shoot his mother and himself. This is a kid who needs his mom not an assassin-on-the-make. And isn’t there something about being a killer that conflicts with the Hippocratic Oath?

Royd (a former SEAL, wouldn’t you know?) is a one-dimensional character straight out of central casting. He’s a perfect physical specimen, capable of performing great feats of derring-do and oozing testosterone. Who needs a personality with all that? He’s got the hots for Sophie, and she has sex on the brain whenever he’s around. Together that equals romance in Killer Dreams.

Iris Johansen is a prolific author with a lengthy backlist. Readers who have enjoyed her romantic suspense novels in the past may want to check out this one. Readers who want a comprehensible plot and solid character development are advised to look elsewhere.

--Lesley Dunlap


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