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Iris Johansen’s latest Eve Duncan novel, VENDETTA, features the return of Catherine Ling, a longtime ally and protector of Dr. Rachel Venable. Rachel is the daughter of Carl Venable, head of the CIA task force on terrorism, who has been murdered by terrorist ringleader Max Huber. With his dying breath, Carl gives his friend Jude Brandon a mandate: keep Rachel safe at any cost. Huber’s vendetta is to kill both Venables as a way of avenging his father’s death, and he will stop at nothing to accomplish this ghastly mission.

Leaving Carl to his death, Brandon escapes, knowing that he is the sole agent left to dangle a carrot in front of the villain to catch him, the carrot being Rachel. But Rachel is in Guyana on a medical mission, so Brandon makes immediate plans to travel there before Huber finds her.

Rachel is told that One World Medical must evacuate their clinic because a revolutionary force has moved in from Venezuela and will overtake the village within days. Her eight-year-old patient, Maria, is in danger of succumbing to a rare viral disease but may have a chance to survive with her herbal concoctions. Rachel would rather stay with her patient than exit without trying her cure. Accompanied by the child’s mother, she decides to vacate the clinic and hide in the rainforest.

"Johansen manipulates her plotline with care, introducing multiple characters who figure into both Rachel’s safety and coordination to foil Huber’s plan."

Rachel has no idea that she is in danger of abduction, torture and violent death by Huber. Her close mentors, Dr. Hu Chang and CIA operative Catherine Ling, know that her father is dead and fear for her safety. They soon realize that Rachel will cooperate with them only on her own terms. A four-year-long captivity in a prison camp at the hands of Huber’s diabolical father has hardened the young woman to believe in her own intuitions. She respects Chang and Ling, but is skeptical of Brandon’s abilities. They are both extreme individualists, stubborn and independent, but feel intense physical attraction for one another.

The compound is quickly overrun by terrorists who slaughter villagers and medical personnel. A Spanish-speaking fellow named Morales, on Huber’s Red Star payroll, snatches Rachel when she goes back for Maria’s mother once the girl is secure in a cave. Brandon’s team arrives just in time to fight Morales’ men and rescue Rachel.

Meanwhile, Ling is assigned to the task force that Brandon runs to shut down the Huber operation and keep Rachel safe. Red Star is the vehicle by which Huber will implement a dastardly scheme to bring about a nuclear disaster. At the same time, he plans to torture and kill Rachel.

Ling’s past life confronts her present when Richard Cameron comes to her aid. She is reluctant to renew their involvement but knows that his talents may be the needed response to Huber’s plot. Cameron’s deep blue eyes entice her more than she admits, but his extrasensory gifts will be needed. Chang’s extraordinary edictal explorations prove necessary to the solution. Tensions mount between Rachel’s caretakers, but genuine concern for her unites them.

Johansen manipulates her plotline with care, introducing multiple characters who figure into both Rachel’s safety and coordination to foil Huber’s plan. She drives the reader’s imagination through a dangerous plot full of conflicts. Because revenge underlies the motivation for Rachel, Brandon, Ling, Chang and Huber, VENDETTA is the most appropriate title for this gripping, fast-paced thriller.

Reviewed by Judy Gigstad on December 7, 2018

by Iris Johansen

  • Publication Date: June 25, 2019
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Mass Market Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • ISBN-10: 1250075947
  • ISBN-13: 9781250075949