Duncan, a world-renowned forensic sculptor, pours her mind and
heart into her work, reconstructing the facial features of murder
victims in the hope of bringing closure and justice to their loved
ones. All the while, however, Duncan has carried the burden of her
own, similar sorrow --- the disappearance and apparent death of
Bonnie, her dear child. What begins in STALEMATE is nothing less
than what is perhaps the final chapter in Duncan's long and
heartbreaking search for answers.
Iris Johansen's latest novel begins with Duncan being contacted ---
harassed --- by an individual with whom she wants absolutely
nothing to do. Luis Montalvo is one of the world's most wanted and
dangerous men. A Columbian gun runner, Montalvo is possessed of
great wealth and has grown accustomed to having nothing but the
best. Accordingly, he wishes to retain Duncan for a forensic
reconstruction project of his own. Duncan refuses him twice but is
unable to resist when he offers her what she wants most: the
identity of Bonnie's murderer and the location of her body. Duncan
reluctantly acquiesces, over the strenuous objections of Joe Quinn,
her lover and strongest supporter.
When Duncan secretly travels to Columbia to undertake Montalvo's
project, Quinn, to Duncan's chagrin, isn't far behind, as he seeks
to protect her and to persuade her to return home. As Duncan
quickly learns, there is much more at stake than she imagined, and
her work is putting both her and Quinn in the direct line of fire
between two dangerous and deadly antagonists who have carried on
their private war against each other for years.
STALEMATE contains enough double- and triple-crosses for three
novels, as the results of Duncan's work cause alliances to be
ripped asunder even as old scores are settled and new ones are
created --- and Duncan and Quinn's relationship is tested as it has
never been before.
Duncan has evolved into one of the more interesting, if not
likable, characters in suspense fiction over the past several
years, and the unexpected vulnerability she exhibits in STALEMATE
is yet another facet of her personality that is presented credibly.
Longtime fans of the series will find plenty to sustain their
interest, not the least of which is what appears to be the opening
chapters of the resolution to one of the series's longest-running
mysteries. Their patience, it appears, eventually will be
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 23, 2011