cover image The Killing Game

The Killing Game

Iris Johansen. Bantam Books, $23.95 (368pp) ISBN 978-0-553-10624-4

Johansen is at the top of her game with this sinuous thriller. Emotionally damaged and self-contained forensic sculptor Eve Duncan (The Face of Deception) makes a return appearance, along with her old friend, the cynical, coolly smart cop Joe Quinn. At the start of the book, Eve--devoted to forensic reconstruction since her eight-year-old daughter was murdered in Johansen's previous novel, her body never found--has abandoned the day-to-day world for life on a Tahitian island. Eve's tropical exile is interrupted, however, when Joe shows up to tell her that a pile of bodies has been discovered in the Georgia woods, including that of a young girl he believes may be Eve's daughter. Determined to reconstruct the skull and hoping to lay her daughter to rest, Eve returns to the U.S. Her arrival draws the attention of Dom, the psychotic serial killer responsible for the Georgia murders. Random attacks on social outcasts don't produce the rush they once did for Dom, and now he needs to up the ante, by stalking and murdering more prominent people and interacting with his victims before he attacks. Eve, whose story he has long followed in newspaper accounts, becomes his next target. Delaying their confrontation until he feels it will have full impact, he interrupts her reconstruction work, plants doubts in her mind about the details of her daughter's death and threatens to kill a young foundling--a redheaded girl like her daughter--whom she befriends. An enthralling cat-and-mouse game ensues, throughout which Johansen maintains perfect pacing, always revealing just enough to keep the reader turning the pages. Aided by smart and realistic dialogue, the suspense holds until the very end. Major ad/promo; BDD audio. (Sept.)