Sunday, September 25, 2016

Review of "Shadow Play" by Iris Johansen

After a storm the skeleton of a nine-year-old girl, who has been buried for eight years, is exposed in a forest in Sonderville, California. Needing a facial reconstruction to get an identification, Sheriff John Nalchek sends the skull to famous forensic sculptor Eve Duncan in Atlanta, Georgia.

It turns out that Eve can communicate with the child's ghost, who says her name is Jenny. Jenny recalls being frightened and hurt at the time of her death, but can't remember much else. Eve - who lost her own daughter Bonnie years ago - forms a relationship with Jenny's ghost and is determined to bring Jenny's killer to justice.

Meanwhile, Jenny's murderer - a demented sociopath named Walsh - is furious that the skeleton has been unearthed and will do anything to prevent the girl's identification. Walsh makes his way to Georgia to steal the reconstructed skull, hoping to kill Eve and her protective boyfriend, Detective Joe Quinn while he's there. Walsh gets the skull but doesn't get the chance to kill Eve and Joe.

After the skull is stolen Eve and Joe go to California to help with the investigation. Sheriff Nalchek is chagrined by their presence because he doesn't like interference on his turf. Nalchek is even more annoyed when Eve's friend/protegé, nineteen-year-old Margaret, shows up. Margaret can communicate with animals and receives clues about the case from a coyote who has been watching over Jenny's grave. The supernatural episodes are common in this series and form an integral part of the story.

Meanwhile the murderer Walsh is looking for a certain young girl whom he plans to kill. As the story continues we learn who the girl is and why Walsh is determined to find her. To me the reason is overly complicated, doesn't make a lot of sense, and isn't believable.

Once the action shifts to California the story unfolds as a kind of cat and mouse game. Walsh maneuvers to get rid of Eve and Joe while he searches for the girl. At the same time Eve, Joe, and Nalchek try to identify and locate the girl and stop the sociopath.

The book seemed to concentrate mostly on the personal lives of the characters, especially Eve and Joe, with the murder investigation taking a back seat. Moreover, many of Walsh's actions seemed irrational and didn't make sense to me. For these reasons I didn't love the book.

Big fans of the Eve Duncan series will probably like this book. For other mystery fans I would only mildly recommend it.  

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