Hello, hello! It’s that time again. Time for another book review! I got another Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) from NetGalley, so I must thank them and St. Martin’s Press for allowing me access to the book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. This month, I requested access to Shattered Mirror (An Eve Duncan novel) by Iris Johansen, which was released on the 24th (yesterday). It’s a thriller/mystery; genres I seem to be drawn to lately. What I didn’t realize when I requested the book was that it’s the 23rd in a series. That means I’m coming into a bunch of established characters and relationships that I know nothing about, which is always a little difficult no matter how well the author explains existing situations. With that in mind, I’ll get into the review now.
Shattered Mirror opens on a lake cottage where Eve Duncan (one of the top forensic sculptors in the world), her husband Joe Quinn (ex-SEAL, current cop, and who knows what else), and their six-year-old son Michael (basically a wise old man in a kid’s body with a touch of ESP or something) live. The scene is serene until a gold box containing a burnt skull and a two-sided mirror shows up in the passenger’s seat of their jeep. As Eve starts the reconstruction, she and her family are drawn into a psychopath’s trap. Throw in some family members that were sort of adopted along the way (Cara, an eighteen-year-old violin prodigy with a tragic past, and Jock, a retired assassin) and a Russian mafia leader (Cara’s grandfather, Kaskov), and things get volatile pretty quickly.
First, let’s talk about the plot. It’s a pretty standard revenge plot, and a portion of the story is from the psychopath’s (Norwalk’s) perspective, which I liked. The story actually starts in his POV, which threw me a bit because I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to know him from previous books or not. When I figured out what was going on, that it was going to be told from multiple points of view, I settled into the rhythm quite nicely. In the end, I would describe it as Criminal Minds and Bones meets *insert any ‘over-the-top action film with lots of explosions and a hero who fails to take the kill shot just to extend the action’ of your choice*. In other words, it’s fun as long as you don’t take it too seriously.
Then, there were the characters. I actually found myself focused on Cara and Jock more than on Eve and her immediate family. You have this young girl who was saved as a child by this super attractive ex-assassin with a Scottish accent and they’ve been best friends ever since. Well, now she’s older and totally in love with him. Except he’s kind of a manipulative dick. I mean, the guy ignored her for three months then showed up and expected her to drop everything and talk to him because he was ready to talk. And she did. The mysterious bad boy routine would probably have intrigued me when I was younger, but now I just keep hoping she runs away from that crap (spoiler: she doesn’t). And, if I’m being honest, all the men in this book were jerks to some extent. On the flip side, the women felt a little flat until the last third of the book when they seemed to finally come alive. Maybe if I had read the series from the beginning, I would feel different, but coming in at this point left a lot to be desired on the character front.
As far as the writing goes, I enjoyed it. Johansen introduces the characters and gives new readers all of the pertinent information without it feeling heavy handed or like an infodump. She’s wonderful at manipulating the pace through sentence structure (something I need to study and work on). I found myself reading this book like a writer and noticing useful techniques that I can try out later. I also really liked how she wove a supernatural thread through the story by giving Michael and Eve a kind of spiritual connection. It didn’t feel awkward or forced like those things sometimes do.
Ultimately, it’s not my favorite series and, since I didn’t connect to the characters, I don’t really have any desire to hunt down book one to start there. But it was an enjoyable read nonetheless.
Overall, I would give it three stars. It’s kind of corny and over-the-top, which was fun, but the characters just didn’t draw me in. If you like thrillers and mysteries, give it a shot. If not, you’re not missing anything spectacular.