Review: “Blind Alley,” Iris Johansen

Pros: Interesting mystery
Cons: Confusing and unnecessarily complex
Rating: 2 out of 5


From promotional material:

As the trail of faceless bodies leads to a chilling revelation, Eve finds herself trying to catch a master murderer whose grisly work is a testament to a mind warped by perversion and revenge. Now she must pit her skills against his in a showdown where the stakes are life itself—and where the unbearable cost of failure will make Eve’s own murder seem like a mercy killing.

Please note that although this is a book in Iris Johansen’s Eve Duncan series, the real star is Jane, Eve’s ward. The wording of that promotional material above is much more accurate if you substitute ‘Jane’ for every instance of ‘Eve’. As it turns out, there’s a serial killer who’s become convinced that Jane is the reincarnation of an enemy simply because of her facial appearance.

Blind Alley: An Eve Duncan Forensics Thriller is a book I found via the online public library, so I went into it not realizing it was part of a series. It made a lot of sense despite that, though; Ms. Johansen made this book stand alone fairly well.

Jane and Trevor are interesting characters. I did feel that Jane warmed up to Trevor a little easily, but when you remind yourself that the grown-up-seeming Jane is actually still a teenager, it makes enough sense. Jane displays a nice duality: she’s mature enough to sound older than her age, but she’s inexperienced enough that she’s still feeling her way through what is the right thing to do, how does she make that happen, and how far does she have to go? I can see why she and Trevor have a sort-of weird beginnings-of-a-crush going on. Trevor is just such an unrepentant pain, blithely lying his way into an investigation, spying on Jane; but he also rushes off to help Jane when it might not be in his best interest to do so.

By the time Trevor and Jane come up with an elaborate plan to attract and catch Aldo, the serial killer, Aldo has made it clear to Jane that now he knows who she is and he has all the time in the world to attack her. However, he’s shown himself to have absolutely no patience (such as killing a handful of additional women when he had difficulty getting to Jane), so I don’t buy that he really is going to take however long.

Because of that, the trap that Trevor and Jane set seems outlandishly and unnecessarily complex. It involves convincing (or hacking into) a handful of publications to plant false information. It requires flying to another country. It’s an intricate setup that could fall apart in any of a bunch of steps, and I totally fail to see how it’s a better plan than setting up a death trap back home would be. Because I couldn’t suspend disbelief in this it felt… hollow. It felt like seeing a page on which someone has been writing, but halfway through they switch to writing in a different script and using a green magic marker instead of a blue pen.

There are also some bald info-dumps. Some of the dialogue feels… stilted.

Ultimately I enjoyed some of the book, but it didn’t wow me.

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