cover image The Skins of Dead Men

The Skins of Dead Men

Dean Ing. Forge, $24.95 (352pp) ISBN 978-0-312-86530-6

Despite a cookie-cutter kidnapping plot, first-class characterizations save this story about a schoolteacher who comes to the aid of a young boy with a problematic royal heritage. Teresa ""T.C."" Contreras's Puerto Vallarta vacation is interrupted when she stumbles onto the kidnapping of seven-year-old Al Townsend and then puts her life in peril to save the boy. The man behind the kidnapping plan is Al's Kurdish father, who wants to return his son to their homeland so he can fulfill his birthright as an Islamic leader, a rite of passage that was interrupted when his American mother took off with Al in violation of their custody agreement. T.C. manages to sneak the kid out of Mexico after his mother dies in the kidnapping attempt, but when the team of terrorists continues to stalk the pair into the U.S., she turns to Ross Downing, an old friend severely burned years earlier in an unsuccessful effort to rescue T.C.'s child in a tragic accident. The climax lacks spark, but what saves the narrative is the intriguing interplay between T.C.'s optimistic resourcefulness and Ross's darker history, a balance that adds depth to the narrative when they finally become lovers. Despite the relative lack of imagination, Ing (Wild Country) fans who enjoy quality characters and solid storytelling will find merit in this title. Author tour. (Nov.)