Iris Johansen’s latest Eve Duncan forensics thriller plays out with Eve’s daughter, Jane, as the protagonist. Jane has established herself as an artist worthy of headlining a solo exhibit in Paris. Celine Denarve, owner and curator of the gallery, thinks that Jane’s work is exceptional. She’s heady with the anticipation of introducing a talented young new artist. That afternoon, before the opening, Jane feels an eerie presence with her while stopping at a sidewalk café.
Denarve proudly advertises her new artist and talks about the paintings she can sell at a good price. Several of her favorites center on portraits of Jane’s history. Her relationship with Lord John MacDuff of Scotland fascinates Denarve, who intimates that Jane is in a romantic friendship with the handsome Lord. Jane admits that the two had spent time seeking a lost treasure belonging to his family, a chest full of missing centuries-old gold coins. But, she insisted, MacDuff was no more than a friend to her.
The exhibit is a success, with a generous offer for “Guilt.” A depiction of a bearded man, cheeks sunken and dark red burning, the portrait was born of an obsession, from a dream. Jane cannot part with it, no matter the offering. Denarve hones her sales pitch in a Paris night club and plans to meet Jane for dinner.
Jane’s cell phone rings with an alarming call. A surly voice threatens her with taunts of “Liar, Blasphemer, Whore.” Chilled, she arrives at the gallery to meet Denarve. There, her scary caller waits, attacks her with a dagger while she screams for help. Jock Gavin, Jane’s Scottish friend from the Run, arrives in time to thwart the man’s murderous attempt and kills the fiend instead. But horrid reality hits with their discovery of Denarve’s crucified body, pinned against the oak door.
Gavin’s timely arrival, his past history as an assassin, his present arrangement with CIA agent Venable and ties to MacDuff lead the story along an incredible path. Jane has been targeted for a brutal death by members of a secret cult and is given eight days to live. Reunited with MacDuff and Gavin, she discovers that “Guilt” holds the secret to her survival.
Eve’s life is threatened by the mysterious cult members, led by Jack Millet (known as Sang Noir). Venable tracks Millet’s gang and unearths threats on Jane. According to an informant, she is given until April 1st before she must be put to death. But why? The cult tries to use Eve as bait to lure Jane to them. MacDuff conceals Eve at his estate to stop them. Millet and his Sang Noir are resourceful. Jane is their prey and must be captured, at any cost, to be delivered as a sacrifice.
EIGHT DAYS TO LIVE, unlike earlier Eve Duncan forensics novels, highlights Jane, not Eve, as its protagonist. We see Eve in the story briefly and as window dressing for her daughter. This is Jane’s problem to solve, her mystery to unravel. Johansen reveals enough backstories to pique the reader’s curiosity. At times, the entire previous book may have been an appropriate read.
When the clues have been revealed at the end game of her quest, Jane’s journey takes her to remote caves in biblical faraway regions. Her discovery may be of epic importance for both archaeological and biblical scholars. EIGHT DAYS TO LIVE is a compelling novel that brims with action, intrigue, intricate relationships and a refreshing headstrong heroine. Johansen continues to entertain with historical fact and mystical fantasy.
Reviewed by Judy Gigstad on January 21, 2011