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1 rating: 4.0
1 review about Stalemate

Eve Duncan's obsession over her missing daughter is put to good use in "Stalemate"

  • Dec 29, 2009
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Eve Duncan, one of the world's best known forensic sculptors, specializes in the recreation of facial features from skulls. Having lost her beloved daughter, Bonnie, to abduction and murder and having suffered the anguish of never having found the body, her passion is helping parents in a similar situation. She reconstructs heads and faces and confirms the identification of skeletal remains so that grieving parents can find closure and move on with their lives.

When she receives a call from Luis Montalvo, a sleazy but powerful smuggler of illegal armaments and drugs in South America, asking for help with the identification of a skull, her first inclination is to tell him to push off; that she simply isn't inclined, at any price, to help someone who enriches himself by doing so much harm in the world.

But, in exchange for her forensic reconstruction of this skull, Montalvo promises to put all of his wealth, all his manpower and all of his underworld contacts into an effort to find Duncan's daughter's body and to identify her killer. This is a lure that Duncan is helpless to resist and she finds herself quickly on the way to South America even though she doubts Montalvo will keep his word. Duncan is quite certain that she'll find herself in an unmarked grave after she completes the task.

I've read a couple of other Johansen novels in which I found Eve Duncan's angst and never-ending obsession with the disappearance of her daughter to be tiresome. But "Stalemate" avoids this problem entirely. It's a topnotch thriller that keeps the excitement meter pushed to the stops for the entire novel. Instead of allowing Duncan's angst to become tedious, Johansen has cleverly used it to allow Duncan's complex character to grow and develop and to add depth and details to the story of her stormy relationship with former FBI agent Joe Quinn. Best of all, she allows Duncan to experience an almost irresistible attraction to Montalvo, a man who at the same time represents everything that repulses her.

But that infernal ending (that's not nice, Ms Johansen!) ... it's a cliff-hanger that almost guarantees you'll be off to the bookstore to purchase "Quicksand". You'll want to find out where this whole thing with Montalvo and Duncan is going to end!

Highly recommended.

Paul Weiss

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