Maddy's Reviews > The Face of Death

The Face of Death by Cody McFadyen
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May 20, 10

bookshelves: 2007-reads
Read in June, 2007

PROTAGONIST: Smoky Barrett, FBI special agent
SETTING: LA
SERIES: #2 of 2
RATING: 1.5

How do you go on after everyone that you love has been brutally murdered and you yourself viciously attacked and scarred? Smoky Barrett, special agent for the FBI, is struggling to put her life back together after the deaths of her daughter, husband and best friend. The one ray of light in her life is her best friend's daughter, Bonnie, who she is raising as her own. Since Smoky has a gift for putting herself in the minds of the killers that she is investigating, she always has her foot in the dark side, so to speak.

Smoky is called to the scene of a terrible murder by 16-year-old Sarah Kingsley, who has been living in the home of the victims as a foster child. Since Sarah first read about Smoky's experience, she has felt that she would be someone she can trust. So she decides to reveal her life story to Smoky, both through interviews and a diary she's been keeping for 10 years. You see, Sarah has been the target of a psychopath since she was six years old, a man who kills everyone and everything that she has ever loved. She's witnessed her own beloved parents' murder; her dog was beheaded; and anyone that she has cared for has become a victim of this maniac.

My feelings about this book fluctuated wildly as I was reading. The family and friend relationships for both Sarah and Smoky were cloyingly sweet and mawkish, such perfection in the people around them! Several sections of the narrative were devoted to Sarah's diary, and the writing was very inconsistent. At times, the style was "Surfer Chick"; while other portions were far too literate and articulate for a girl of Sarah's age. The scenes involving the Despicable Villain had me on the verge of giving up entirely. The only thing that kept me reading the book were the police procedural sections, which were very well done.

The real downfall in this book was that the premise on which it was based was so unbelievable. As an avid crime fiction reader, I applaud inventiveness on the part of an author. However, McFadyen created a scenario that was so completely implausible that I was thrown out of the book. Why would a man select a 6-year-old girl and decide that he was going to remove every bit of happiness from her life for years? Yes, there were explanations provided in the book, but they didn't ring true at all. For over 10 years, he has been killing or hurting anyone that Sarah has cared about, kidnapped and tortured them and even forced her to commit horrendous acts on others. I could never buy into the fact that he could make her slice up and disembowel people who had been good to her just so that she could stay alive. At that point, she didn't value her own life at all.

I didn't want to spend time in the villain's head, and I didn't want to see what horrible things he had done to other people. The feel-good ending didn't make me feel good at all. I highly recommend that you give this one a pass.

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