Skeletal cupcakes accompanied Iris Johansen’s The Face of Deception to last night’s mystery discussion – along with flyers for the upcoming Love is Murder mystery conference (the Chicago area’s only mystery conference!) that will be held at the InterContinental Chicago O’Hare on February 7th & 8th , 2014. The bookmarks on the right are for our final discussion groups cross-over event: the BBC TV show Sherlock episode of The Hound of the Baskervilles shown by our Just Between Frames film group on Nov. 7th, to follow up on the book-based discussions MAF and Fixed on Fiction members had on this classic tale by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. (Click the links to go: The Love is Murder conference site, The InterContinental Chicago O’Hare hotel information, or the Just Between Frames blog info on the BBC Sherlock event.) Click on the picture of author Iris Johansen above, to go to her website or these bolded words to get Fantastic Fiction‘s list of all her books – and some fun information on the author!
Accompanying enthusiastic cupcake consumption, the group discussion on The Face of Deception was lively and forthright. One member stated unequivocally, that she found the billionaire, John Logan, to be a manipulative, unappealing character and wondered what Eve was thinking to accompany him to Tahiti at the end of the novel. This led to a discussion about the two male leads who are strongly interested in Eve: John Logan, and Lieutenant Detective Joe Quinn. We found that both men are not being completely straight with Eve and are still treating her as though she was still as fragile as she was when her daughter was kidnapped and murdered. This tragic event happened eight years ago, and Eve has come a long way since then, although her ability to connect with people beyond a work context is still shaky.
Patti shared background about the author, and how she came up from the ranks of series romance writing, to writing historical romance, and then trying her hand at the evolving genre of romantic suspense and thrillers. We talked about how the structure of the story is unusual, and could be considered a “who-is-it” versus a “whodunit”. Logan finesses Eve into working on the skull of an unknown man. Initially it is strongly hinted that the skull could be that of a famous and powerful politician. All Eve knows, is that the people who do not want her to identify who it is, are willing to do any number of heinous things to keep the identification from happening. Once this occurs, the story shifts into a “how will they prove it” as well as a “can they survive it” – both classic elements of a thriller/suspense story. We discussed how the era of the late 90s romantic suspense was becoming more thriller-oriented and less gothic-romance based (as it was with past read, The Ivy Tree by Mary Stewart).
Other writers who traveled the path from category romance to the new romantic suspense/thrillers were: Tess Geristen, Jayne Ann Krentz, Nora Roberts, Tami Hoag, & Sandra Brown among others. From this base, female authors in particular have launched into the current straight thriller camp, bringing an element of deeper relationships to their fast-paced thriller plots. We also talked about how Johansen has been something of a trail-blazer in “developing the habit of following characters from book to book, sometimes introducing minor characters in one novel who then become major figures in another. She developed families, relationships and even fictional countries in her romance novels, which stretched the boundaries of the standard formulas, “according to Barbara E. Kemp in Twentieth-Century Romance and Historical Writers.” (quote from Fantastic Fiction’s web page on this author.)
The group was very appreciative of the plot twists, although a couple of elements broke their suspension of disbelief, in particular, the scene where Joe has gone into the woods after the major evil henchman, and Eve blindly follows him – accompanied by Logan – when neither one of them is anywhere near as skilled as Joe, and the outcome of the scene shows what a mistake it was for them to attempt to help him. MAF members found the strongest element in this story was the character development. One member commented on how she liked the fact that even a secondary character who didn’t play a large part of the story, had some depth to him. We all liked the way Johansen hinted at the troubled past that both Eve and her mother endured and how – through Bonnie’s existence and tragedy – the two women establish a strong, and loving relationship.
We are also highly curious as to who Bonnie’s father was, and debated how come Joe held back his feelings for Eve and married Diane. We’re hoping that there’s more detail about this piece of Joe’s and Eve’s backgrounds in the next story. We also agreed that Eve needs some form of counseling to help her to break free from her obsession with Bonnie and to develop a life beyond her work. It becomes clear by the end that there are a couple of potential sources for her to establish a romantic relationship. Again, there were strong feelings expressed about whether or not Eve should do (or will do) more with Logan in Tahiti than bask on the beach! The scene in the hospital where Joe and Logan face-off in a very, territory-staking way, annoyed one member and we all agreed that Eve would have had words with both of them, had she been party to the conversation.
In group voting at the end of the discussion, all members were glad they had read this book, and all plan to read at least one more book in the series. Other handouts at the discussion will be made available in the Johansen “Author Docket” currently under construction. Patti will send out a post when it is live on this blog!