While not as unrelentingly grim as its predecessor, And Then You Die, this suspense thriller--from an author who has successfully written historical romance with a dark edge--has its share of grisly scenes, beginning in medias res at the execution of Ralph Fraser, the serial killer who has murdered protagonist Eve Ducan's only child, Bonnie. To overcome her grief, Eve takes up a (notably icky) career as a forensic sculptor, making busts from the skulls of unidentified murdered children so that their parents can identify them. New trouble comes when computer mogul John Logan recruits Eve to reconstruct and identify an adult male skull. The job comes with unforeseen risks and political implications; various criminal figures want to keep the skull's identity a secret and are ruthlessly determined to go to any lengths to avoid exposure. Eve, who combines a tough survivor's instinct with emotional vulnerability, is led to fear for her own life and for the lives of her mother and dearest friends. Despite slow early chapters and stilted dialogue, Johansen makes an admirable effort to give psychological depth even to her villains, and her action scenes use terse prose to build tension. With the help of well-timed, steady disclosures and surprising revelations, the book's twists and turns manage to hold the reader hostage until the denouement, a sure crowd pleaser (since it promises a sequel). Major ad/promo. (Oct.) FYI: A 16-page excerpt of The Face of Deception will be included in the paperback reprint of And Then You Die, out in September.
Reviewed on: 09/28/1998 Release date: 10/01/1998 Genre: Fiction