Even Stevens’s CBR-III review #25 – Eve by Iris Johansen

I used to be a huge fan of Iris Johansen’s Eve Duncan books. As the series went on (and she cranks out about one a year), the quality definitely started to wane, but they were still enjoyable to me. I picked up the most recent book in the series, Eve, and as I began reading I realized that the general storyline was the same, but I didn’t remember a few of the events they were referring to. So I checked in with Amazon and it turns out I actually missed about 3 books in the series and I felt like I hadn’t skipped a beat (I say ‘about’ because there’s one that sounds familiar and I genuinely cannot remember if I read it or not). These books have sadly become the equivalent of a daytime soap opera; you can miss a huge chunk of time, tune back in, and jump right into the story with no problem. For daytime soaps, that’s ok, but for a book series, not ok. In addition, the dialogue has become both predictable and terrible. There are some seriously clunky passages going on in this book and the characters say things and express themselves in ways that no person does in real life.

The Eve Duncan books have always had a connecting plot line: Eve is trying to figure out who killed her 7-year-old daughter, Bonnie, several years ago. They never found a body but Eve still gets…hallucinations? Ghostly visits? Whatever they are, she still sees and talks to Bonnie (only when Bonnie feels like appearing, of course) years after her presumed death. So going back four books to the last one I had read, Eve had gotten information about three key suspects that may have killed Bonnie. All this time later, she still hasn’t gotten through the list. I tell you the plot of the previous books because this book has almost zero plot. The first quarter of the book is how she met Bonnie’s father, John Gallo, and lost her virginity to him, spending a few weeks in a sex haze with him before he goes off to the Army. Really. More than a hundred pages spent on this.

Predictably, John Gallo shows up, shocking Eve because she had heard he died years ago. Of course, her and John Gallo have a complicated relationship from that point on. Do you notice I keep calling him by his full name, John Gallo? That’s because Johansen does the same thing, like a tic she can’t get rid of. John Gallo wasn’t like other men. She could see John Gallo struggled to keep it together. John Gallo, John Gallo, John Gallo. Lord, it was annoying. But I digress. So anyway, one of her candidates on the list of people who may have killed Bonnie, Paul Black, shows up to hunt Gallo, as the two of them have a history together (because of course they do). The book spans all of three days and I think I’ve actually managed to make the events sound a lot more interesting than they are.

Eve used to be a strong, smart character that was fun to read. She has turned into a one note harpy, who does really stupid things and endangers the people she loves. Oh, and she’s on her way to being a bonafide Mary Sue, too. Lately all the slightly dangerous, unbalanced men she comes into contact with are drawn to her and they have “complicated” relationships. Johansen has also all but abandoned the fact that Eve is a forensic sculptor (who reconstructs skulls). That got about three mentions before it fell completely by the wayside. The rest of the characters, mainly Joe Quinn, have become equally one note and grating. The good guys are also super good and noble, and the bad guys are beyond-evil mustache-twirling fiends who also, quite conveniently, reveal all their motivations and evil plans before exiting the story (this is true of several of the books, actually).

Also, while I used to care about what happened to Bonnie, Johansen has gone beyond beating a dead horse with it. Several people have claimed they killed Bonnie over the years, and not one of them ever really did. It’s time to close that chapter and move on. If you can’t find another way to write for your character, then end her story altogether.

I’ll end my tirade her because I think that I could go on for days about my hatred of what Johansen has done to these books and characters. She’s going the way of James Patterson, cranking out a book a year, and this year it’s actually three books, so I’m sure they will be just as mesmerizing as this one. This book has convinced me to end my relationship with Eve Duncan. Maybe in ten years I can pick up another one and see if they finally found Bonnie, but I probably shouldn’t kid myself, they still won’t have found her killer by then.

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