Paul Bern, a forensic artist, has a fascinating job: re-creating the facial features of homicide or accident victims. But his job gets even more fascinating when a woman shows up at his door with a skull in a bag. She believes it's the remains of her husband, and she wants Paul to confirm her suspicion. Paul soon learns some things about himself that shock him, and in no time he's railroaded by the U.S. government into helping them ferret out a group of terrorists in South America. This is a troublesome novel from a brand-name thriller author. Its plot is needlessly far-fetched (you can feel Lindsey struggling to justify putting his fish-out-of-water protagonist into the places the plot requires him to be). Its characters are thin, and Alice, the 17-year-old girl whose "cognitive disconnect" allows her to sense when someone is lying, belongs in a different novel altogether (perhaps something by Dean Koontz, who knows what to do with this kind of character). The prose is workmanlike, for the most part, although the final chapter contains some of the worst writing of the year. Although Lindsey has a large fan base, and he has written some good novels, this is not one of them. It will sell, but finishing it--even for his keenest fans--will be an act of sheer willpower.
Forensic artist Paul Bern uses his impressive talents as a sculptor to reconstruct a face on an anonymous skull brought to him under mysterious circumstances in Lindsey's latest in a long line of expertly constructed thrillers (The Rules of Silence, etc.). The more Paul works on the skull, the more he's convinced that there's something distinctly disturbing about the emerging features. Soon after he figures it out (long after the reader has done so), he finds himself caught up in a murky world of spies, smugglers and international terrorism. Forced to abandon his idyllic central Texas home, he travels to Mexico City, where he must impersonate his own, recently murdered, CIA agent twin brother. Heavy Rain is the code name of the mission; the purpose is to capture or kill the world's most feared terrorist, Ghazi Baida. There's a beautiful agent, Susana Mej�a, and the usual collection of Mexican hoods, but the real showstopper is Vicente Mondrag�n, a man whose entire face has been removed in a drug vendetta, leaving him with nothing more than exposed muscle, bone, gristle, protruding lips and a naked pair of googly eyes. This horror is kept antiseptic by a thin transparent membrane that Vicente must spritz at regular intervals. The novel's suspense lies in Paul's ongoing efforts to maintain his identity as his own brother and at the same time attempt to uncover Baida's terror plan. The plot is deftly handled, the characters are sharp and memorable, there's a shocker twist at the end and the background information on faces, or the lack thereof, is fascinating.
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Grand Central Publishing
April 30, 2005
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