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Blind Alley (Eve Duncan)

1 rating: -3.0
A book by Iris Johansen

Forensic sculptor Eve Duncan returns in this far-fetched but expertly plotted, eminently entertaining novel. When detective Joe Quinn is called to investigate the murder of a young woman whose skin has been peeled away from her skull, he presses the … see full wiki

Author: Iris Johansen
Publisher: Bantam
1 review about Blind Alley (Eve Duncan)

This does more than just hurt! It's truly painful!

  • Dec 21, 2010
"Blind Alley" is the fifth novel in the continuing story of Eve Duncan, forensic sculptor, Joe Quinn, Atlanta police detective and Jane MacGuire, their precocious seventeen year old adopted daughter rescued from the streets. Be warned that much of this review might be construed as spoilers but I'm betting that it's not going to matter much since you'll likely be giving the book a pass anyway!

I used to treat Iris Johansen as a sure thing! You know what I mean - the kind of author whose new title you'd add to your reading list without even caring what the plot line was or you'd pick up a copy at the store without even bothering to flip open the dust jacket for a peek! "Blind Alley" buried that thought - cold, deep and fast! It was a great deal more than just bad - it was truly painful!

A shadowy serial killer named Aldo is on the loose slaughtering women in a most unseemly, gruesome fashion. Carving their living faces right off their skulls, Aldo imagines himself responsible for the systematic elimination of all women who resemble Cira, a courtesan/actress/prostitute killed two thousand years ago in the town of Herculaneum when Vesuvius erupted. It would seem that Aldo is a little upset at having lost the love and attention of his father, an archeologist who became obsessed with Cira when he discovered her statue and some details of her life.

As if that isn't deep enough in left field as the premise for a thriller, imagine the eyebrows you'll raise when you read that Jane MacGuire, Eve Duncan and Joe Quinn's adopted 17 year old daughter is a ringer for Cira. Not only does she find herself stalked by Aldo but some inexplicable psychological attachment to Cira plagues Jane with regular nightmares in which she is trapped in caves or tunnels fleeing for her life from the eruption of Vesuvius.

It doesn't end there - Johansen tosses Mark Trevor into the mix. He's a con and an antiquities smuggler (picture Lovejoy with a nasty streak!) who had a run-in with Aldo and is intent on killing him. To that end he intrudes himself into Eve Duncan's and Joe Quinn's life and sets himself up as Jane's protector. Now, I'm no prude but the scene in which Trevor, a grown man at least as old as Joe, has a near sexual encounter with Jane, a typical seventeen year old teenager with respect to her hormones and sexuality, is just plain distasteful and, frankly, scored well into the red zone on the "yuk" meter!

There is just so much wrong with this novel, it's difficult to know where to begin and where to stop - nightmares that start, happen and end with no explanation or psychological development at all; unlike any previous Johansen novel I've read, the characters and dialogue seem trite, wooden and completely contrived; the outcome of Mark Trevor as a character is left spectacularly un-resolved; Eve Duncan's obsession with her murdered daughter, Bonnie, continues unabated and is definitely becoming downright irritating; a wonderful sub-plot concerning Eve's forensic reconstruction of a real skull from the Vesuvius eruption was simply deep-sixed!

I still own a few Johansen titles that I haven't read so there is perhaps hope. But she'll have to prove to me that she hasn't jumped the shark before I'll spend another cent on a new title!

Paul Weiss

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