in books, review

fear, family, and faith: cody mcfadyen’s the face of death

Well, my first thought at the end of this book (the first I’ve read by this author) was “Whoa, that was disturbing.” My second thought was on whether or not I’d locked the door to the flat, and the possible ramifications of choosing the one night my husband was away that week to read the book. Eeek. This book is nerve-stretchingly tense.

It’s the second book in the Smoky Barrett series.  In the previous book, terrible things happened to Smoky, and she is just now beginning to put her life back together.  Along with her adoptive daughter, Smoky is struggling to figure out what family means to her now.  Is it the family she has lost? The one she is making with her daughter? Or the friends she may decide to leave for a semi-retirement at Quantico? She is also being drawn deep into a terrible crime–made even more terrible by a teenager’s claim that she has been targeted by this killer before and never believed.

This book has a surprising format–Smoky’s point of view is interspersed with the diary accounts of the teenager, Sarah,  found at the first crime scene.  McFadyen does an excellent job creating two different voices for these characters.  In fact, the writing throughout is superb. Smoky’s and Sarah’s point of view are distinct in tone and style, but the story never slows down–an achievement when a large segment of the story is in diary form and discussing the past.

Smoky’s investigative team is one of the best.  Each of them have their own area of expertise, and it is refreshing that we see Smoky rely on her team for their help and insights.  Smoky’s expertise is in figuring out how the mind of the killer works.  Using a combination of intuition and hard-won experience, Smoky can work backward from a crime scene and discover how the mind of the killer works.

Smoky’s team is not merely a group of work colleagues. They are her family and friends as well, and she has come to rely on them for emotional support.  One of the most terrifying aspects of this particular thriller is the idea that anyone who loves you can be a target.  Somehow, the fact that all of the people around Sarah are in danger is worse than if Sarah herself had been targeted. Smoky knows personally how terrible it is when your family is targeted, and this particular fear ratcheted up the tension.  Half-way through the book you’re terrified not only for yourself but also for anyone you care about.

It’s enough to make you get up and lock the door before finishing.