I’ve been an occasional reader of Iris Johansen’s writings, and have occasionally enjoyed the mysteries starring forensic sculptor Eve Duncan, who is employed by both public and private agencies to reconstruct murder victims from their skeletal remains and thereby help find their killers. A subtheme running through many of the Eve Duncan stories has been the unsolved mystery of who abducted Eve’s 6 year-old daughter Bonnie years ago. So when I saw this latest novel, entitled Bonnie, I figured the author had finally decided to “solve” the mystery for her readers. And I was right. Unfortunately, I think Johansen should have left it an unsolved mystery, and gone with what made her earlier novels interesting, namely Eve’s forensic skills.
The story behind Bonnie is so far-fetched as to be ridiculous. Her characters are largely cartoonish in nature, and the dialogue is equally so. Johansen creates two pairs, the brave but driven Eve and her long-time lover Quinn, and gorgeous CIA agent Catherline Ling and Bonnie’s back-from-the-dead father Joe Gallo, out to redeem himself and to win over the heart-hardened Ling. The four have gotten their hands on evidence pointing in the direction of Bonnie’s killer(s) and are closing in, but it appears to be someone from Gallo’s childhood whom he doesn’t want to betray. Johansen includes the standard chase in crocodile-infested waters, a mysterious father confessor, a schizophrenic killer, and a lot of macho strutting between Eve’s current love Quinn and her past love Gallo. Then there is the ghost.
Much of the story rests on the silly plot device of having Bonnie’s ghost periodically appear to Eve—and others!—as a means of directing the unending search for her killer through all-too-subtle hints and suggestions, and occasional bits of therapeutic wisdom delivered from on high. Bonnie’s spectral appearances in earlier novels were more of an aside to the story, and thus easily ignored, but as Bonnie is the centerpiece of this novel, her ghostly surfacing is both key to the plot and makes the whole story absurd, at best. Rather than tell you the ending, let’s just say that things resolve as expected and leave it at that. RIP.