And Then You Die

Face of Deception

The Killing Game

Lion's Bride

Long After Midnight

The Ugly Duckling

The Search by Iris Johansen
(Bantam, $24.95, PG-13) ISBN 0-553-80091-4
There are two tests of an authorís ability to pull off a story with characters who continue from previous novels. First, does she provide enough backstory so that the uninitiated reader has a complete grasp of the characters and their motivations? I can say with certainty that The Search passes this test with flying colors. The second test is probably more telling. Does the uninitiated reader develop a strong desire to read the previous books. Since I rushed off to the bookstore this afternoon to purchase The Killing Game and The Face of Deception, it would seem that Johansen deserves an A on this part of the exam as well.

The Search is a gripping, tightly written thriller that had me on the edge of my seat. For her fans who have followed her into the suspense genre, Johansen also provides a strong romance. But a word of warning is in order. The Search also has a one of the highest body counts I have encountered in quite a while.

John Logan, billionaire tycoon, has a vicious and determined enemy who will stop at nothing to gain revenge. When Loganís research facility in Colombia is bombed and one of his scientists is abducted, he knows that Rudzak is behind the murderous act. Determined to rescue his employee, he knows the one way he will be able to find his enemy in the jungle; he needs to assistance of Sarah Patrick and her wonder dog, Monty. And heíll use any means to make her cooperate.

Sarah wants no part of the mission. Logan had forced her to work for him before and she doesnít much like the man. Moreover, she and Monty are just back from an emotionally and physically exhausting search and rescue mission in earthquake ravaged Turkey. But Logan pulls his strings, and Sarah and Monty are on their way to South America in no time flat.

Logan assures Sarah that all she has to do is locate Rudzakís camp. He and his mercenary friend Galen along with their hired guns will do the dirty work. But it doesnít work out that way. Bassett is rescued, but Rudzak survives. Moreover, he knows that Sarah played a part in Loganís mission. Now, she becomes a target of one of the most diabolically evil villains you can imagine. And Logan is determined to protect her, whether she wants him to or not.

Johansen demonstrates consummate skill as she slowly reveals the source of Rudzakís hatred in events that happened over fifteen years earlier. Rudzak is seeking vengeance for the mysterious Chen Li, the woman he loved with an unholy passion, the woman whom Logan also loved. Rudzak is determined to destroy Logan, but he is also determined to see him suffer. There are no limits to what he will do to destroy his enemy. Logan must use all his resources and all his intelligence to try to defeat this monster.

Thrown together, Logan and Sarah spar and bicker. They also develop unexpected passion. If Rudzak realizes what Sarah has come to mean to Logan, she will be in even greater danger.

Logan is an enigmatic man with a less than sterling history, a man who knows violence and is willing to use it. He certainly never expected to find himself in love with strong-minded, independent Sarah. Sarah hasnít much use for men. She has devoted her life to training her rescue dog, Monty, and to going wherever she is needed to try to save lives.

Some of the most powerful moments in The Search center on the relationship between Sarah and Monty and the dangerous, often heart-rending work that they do. This is fascinating stuff.

Johansen integrates characters from the two previous books into her story. She also provides an interesting cast of secondary characters, the most fascinating being Loganís friend Galen.

The Search is not really romantic suspense; rather, it is a suspense thriller with a romance. The tale centers on the conflict between Logan and Rudzak, with each trying to check the otherís moves. Since I donít usually read thrillers, I canít judge it in relation to other similar books. I only know that it sure kept me turning the pages.

--Jean Mason

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