Warning: this review reveals plot points in this book.
I enjoyed the last book of Iles' that I read and was happy to find this one in my local library. My sister had told me that all his books are pretty different so liking one was no assurance of liking the others. When I was reading it someone asked me how I liked it and I said “If it doesn’t go all freaky towards the end, then it’s great” Alas, it went all freaky. This doesn’t totally negate the book down to sorry-I-read-it status, but does make me strongly not recommend it to people who maybe enjoyed reading Footprints of God. Long story short the main character is a woman who is a photojournalist. Many of the people around her have died horrible deaths or disappeared. This is treated as just one of those things [father dies in the war, fiancee dies covering the war, first love drowns himself, twin sister is abducted and probably dead] and as baggage she carries around with her. A series of paintings depicting women asleep or dead start to surface and become cult objeects. One of them looks like her, or her sister.
She gets obsessed and starts trying to track down the origin of these paintings. Up to this point, it’s fascinating, moves quickly and I have to say that Iles does a reasonable job of writing a first person female perspective. Then the story gets lame. One of the possible angles, brought up by our protagonist, is “hey maybe the killer has multiple personality disorder and that’s why we can’t identify the painting style....” Someone else goes so far as to say “Nah, that only happens in movies” and then it happens in this book. The painter/killer is some sort of psychosexual MPD sufferer who abducts women and keeps them alive by maintaining them on IVs of alternating painkillers and insulin before finally killing them. The whole last scene is just a macabre “here is the story of my horrific abuse” tale recounted while our hero is locked in the torture chamber waiting for death. I have to admit that I would have put down the book at this point except that I was wondering whether the missing sister and/or Dad were alive or dead. The whole book is so tight, and non-derivative and then the last chapter or two read like a Dean Koontz novel with the main chacter frantically eating twinkies to keep her blood sugar out of coma-range. An undignified schlocky ending -- you can see how maybe it looked great on paper -- to an otherwise great book.