And Then You Die

Face of Deception

Lion's Bride

Long After Midnight

The Ugly Duckling

The Killing Game
by Iris Johansen
(Bantam, $23.95, V) ISBN 0-553-10624-4
Another dark and compelling novel of suspense by the talented Ms. Johansen, The Killing Game is a fine sequel to its predecessor, The Face of Deception. There's also a nice dash of romance in the story line, which complements the book and doesn't take anything away from the suspense.

Although it's been ten years since the murder of her eight-year-old daughter, Bonnie, forensic sculptor Eve Duncan has never been able to put the murder behind her. The murderer was executed but he never disclosed the location of Bonnie's grave.

Eve was never able to bring Bonnie home and give her a proper burial. She chose her profession so that she could do for others what she has never been able to do for herself: provide closure for victim's families by giving identities to unidentified corpses and sending them home to be buried with dignity and love.

Given her past and her profession, it's hardly surprising that Eve decides to leave a Tahitian island paradise when her best friend, tough cop, Joe Quinn, shows up to tell her that a number of bodies have been discovered in the woods of Georgia. Especially since one of the bodies is that of a young girl.

Eve returns to the U.S. to reconstruct the skull of the young girl and give it an identity --maybe that of her daughter. Her arrival draws the attention of the media and the serial murderer responsible for the pile of bodies.

Deadly and cunning, “Dom” is also bored; he craves more excitement to go along with his kills. Dom decides to take Eve's life, but first he wants to play with her head - to destroy her emotionally before he physically kills her. So he calls Eve and asks her whether she believes in reincarnation. Eve deduces that Dom is going to kill a child that is supposed to remind Eve of Bonnie.

Eve finds the ten-year-old girl, Jane, a smart, tough little redhead who's the product of several foster homes. Jane doesn't remind Eve of Bonnie, she reminds Eve of herself and her own very difficult, poverty-stricken childhood. Dom's cat-and-mouse game continues with Eve trying to protect Jane and stay a step ahead of Dom, and Dom delaying his kill until he's sure that he has Eve exactly where he wants her.

Although this book stands on its own, that is, you don't need to have read The Face of Deception to enjoy or understand The Killing Game, I think a little more rehash of Eve and Joe's relationship was in order. And the rehash should be from Joe's perspective. Also, a little more effort should have been made to get into Joe's psyche. However, to be fair, it seems like part of Joe's psyche is not to talk about himself, or his past, or his years of unrequited love for Eve.

Sometimes romance and suspense work wonderfully together and sometimes one seems to ruin the other-here they work wonderfully. Longtime romance fans of Ms. Johansen's will enjoy the romance between Eve and Joe. However, it's the suspense that gets top billing in this tale; fans of the genre will certainly appreciate the taut, gripping story line and perfect pace that makes The Killing Game a nail-biting read.

--Judith Flavell

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