Iris Johansen brings to life a realistic page-turner. Readers
are reminded of the genocide in Rwanda through some of the
descriptions in this plot.
Women empowerment are always a part of the stories that Johansen
writes. “I like writing strong women. In this one, I
had a bunch of them. They showed the world what they could
do. One quality they all had in common was independence. They
are talented and bad ass. I think they complement each other
and their male counterparts.”
The plot begins with Journalist Jill Cassidy leaving the fictional
country of Maldara to approach forensic sculptor Eve Duncan
for help. She is given a heart-wrenching story by Jill, who
asks her to reconstruct and identify children who brutally
slaughtered. Eve agrees because she wants to give these children
back to their parents and help to provide closure. But Jill
has a different agenda and has manipulated Eve to this African
country under somewhat pretenses. The real reason Jill and
CIA agent Jed Novak need Eve is to determine if the skull
of mercenary Nils Varak is someone else, done to make the
world believe he’s dead.
Johansen noted, “I want to write fresher stories that
are new and different. This is why I emphasized Eve’s
career. I hope readers like the character, Jill. I see her
as tough, sympathetic, driven, determined, a loner, and a
manipulator. I had to strike a note in the book because I
did not want her to be too much of a manipulator of Eve. She
is basically an honest and forthright person who had a goal
and went after it. I admired her as a journalist. Much like
her, is Novak, who is also very driven, tough, and smart.
They are definitely simpatico. Together, they make a great
She went on to say that she plans on bringing back these new
characters, “In the next Eve book, Jed Novak will be
a major secondary character and Jill will be mentioned. There
will also be a dog in it because I am in love with dogs and
I think they should be cherished.”
As with all her books, the antagonists are truly immoral people
with no redeeming qualities. Varak and his men have raped
and beaten Jill and has burned beyond recognition 27 children.
He is assisted in his evil ways by Zahra Kiyani, who became
President of Maldara after her father was assassinated. She
seizes more and more power and wants to become the country’s
Queen. Zahra thinks it is her due as a descendant of Cleopatra’s
daughter Kiya. This plot-line actually enhances the novel
because the skulls play such an important part of the story,
and referring to ancient times seems a natural flow.
“My books these days are a little tougher. In this novel,
Zahra becomes an Cleopatra-like evil person. My bad guys must
be truly bad. I hope from the very first page readers root
for them to get their due. People should not feel sorry for
them. In my next Eve book, the bad guys are really bad.”
To counter those bad guys as the conflict rises, Joe Quinn
leaves London and flies to Eve’s side, intending to
help and protect her. As the plot becomes more intense, Eve,
Joe, Jill and Novak find themselves up against a much greater
evil; one they are determined to stop.
Johansen introduces new characters, which enhances those fan
favorites characters. At times, the focus of the book is Jill.
But this takes nothing away from the plot and actually adds
to this spell-binding page-turner.