The people who read last year's BLIND ALLEY by Iris Johansen were no doubt intrigued by the number of loose, tantalizing threads left unresolved at the conclusion of that work. They --- and Johansen fans in general --- will be pleased to find that her latest book resolves a number of the issues left open in BLIND ALLEY while creating a couple of new ones for future novels to deal with.
COUNTDOWN occurs some four years after the events of BLIND ALLEY. Jane MacGuire, now a 21-year-old college student, is a success by any definition as she juggles work, education, friends, and family with equal aplomb. She is still haunted, however, by the memory of the intriguing, enigmatic, and dangerous Mark Trevor. When an attempted kidnapping of MacGuire ends unsuccessfully, but nonetheless tragically, Trevor makes a sudden and dramatic return into MacGuire's life. Trevor, for the sake of MacGuire's safety, spirits her away to an ancient, brooding castle in Scotland, where the two of them must confront their unresolved and unrefined feelings for each other while dealing with the dangers of the outside world.
MacGuire also finds that renewed contact with Trevor results in a resumption of the enigmatic haunting dreams that previously had troubled her. These dreams involve a woman named Cira, a proud slave of the Roman Empire who seems to lie at the heart of a mystery that spans two millenniums and that involves a treasure of immeasurable historical and monetary wealth.
As in BLIND ALLEY, Trevor is aligned against those who feel that MacGuire holds the key to the mystery of the treasure's whereabouts. But the stakes are much higher in COUNTDOWN. One of the treasure seekers has entered into a mutual aid agreement with terrorists who threaten the United States. MacGuire and Trevor ultimately find themselves in a race against time and distance as they leave safety and security to bring the battle home --- and to hopefully solve the mystery of Cira's treasure.
Fans of BLIND ALLEY will be thrilled with COUNTDOWN. The novel fully comes to terms with the relationship between Trevor and MacGuire, while leaving the possibility of more --- or less --- between them open for the future. There also is an extremely interesting development concerning MacGuire's heritage coming totally out of left field that provides a possible key to the dreams that have haunted her for so long.
Johansen therefore simultaneously satisfies readers who were seeking resolution of issues left open at the end of BLIND ALLEY while leaving them wanting more after COUNTDOWN. This is an enviable position for an author, and one that Johansen is sure to utilize to its fullest in future books.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on May 10, 2005