January 12, 2008

The Face of Death

The Face of Death by Cody McFadyen
464 pages
2007 Bantam
Finished on 1/6/08
Rating: 4.5/5 (Terrific!)

Book Description

In Shadow Man, Cody McFadyen took the suspense thriller where other writers have feared to tread. He introduced readers to a heroine every bit as dark and edgy as the serial killers she hunts: Special Agent Smoky Barrett. Now, in his latest novel, McFadyen brings Agent Barrett back to track down a killer who breaks all the rules. Get ready for a shattering confrontation with the very essence of human evil.

“I want to talk to Smoky Barrett or I’ll kill myself.”

The girl is sixteen, at the scene of a grisly triple homicide, and has a gun to her head. She claims “The Stranger” killed her adoptive family, that he’s been following her all her life, killing everyone she ever loved, and that no one believes her.

No one has. Until now.

Special Agent Smoky Barrett is head of the violent crimes unit in Los Angeles, the part of the FBI reserved for tracking down the worst of the worst. Her team has been handpicked from among the nation’s elite law enforcement specialists and they are as obsessed and relentless as the psychos they hunt; they’ll have to be to deal with this case.

For another vicious double homicide reveals a killer embarked on a dark crusade of trauma and death: an “artist” who’s molding sixteen-year-old Sarah into the perfect victim—and the ultimate weapon. But Smoky Barrett has another, more personal reason for catching The Stranger—an adopted daughter and a new life that are worth protecting at any cost.

This time Smoky is going to have to put it all on the line. Because The Stranger is all too real, all too close, and all too relentless. And when he finally shows his face, if she’s not ready to confront her worst fear, Smoky won’t have time to do anything but die.

I don't know whether to worry more about Cody McFadyen for creating such a horrific novel, or me for reading it. I'm not sure what it says about someone who can pen such vividly disturbing images or someone who can read the entire book (during the Christmas season, no less), only to quietly whisper (to the dog, because she listens to everything I have to say), "Goooood book!"

I admit, there were several moments when I thought I couldn't go on and was tempted to ditch The Face of Death, but I was compelled to see how it would turn out, not only for Sarah, but for Smoky and Bonnie, as well. This book is not for the faint-of-heart. It is violent and disturbing and full of depictions of the most vile sorts of evil. But if you were entertained by Thomas Harris' Silence of the Lambs, you won't be disappointed by this sequel to McFayden's debut novel. As with Shadow Man*, McFadyen crafts a gripping story that is unputdownable in spite of the graphic details depicted in Sarah's diary. And yet, the author includes a few tender passages that tugged at my heartstrings, bringing tears to my eyes.

Cody McFadyen is high on my list to watch for in the future. I'm excited about handselling both books at work and anxiously await the publication of his third novel in the series, Secret Sins. I certainly hope it's not the last!

*Click on title to read my review of Shadow Man


  1. Those were my feelings exactly!!! It's my understanding that Secret Sins is toned down. Phew! We need to breathe a little. :)

  2. Anonymous5:16 PM

    You should try Karin Slaughter. The crimes in her books can be pretty graphic and are usually very disturbing.


  3. Joy - I remember you telling me that you thought Secret Sins was going to be toned down a bit. I suspect it's a fine line, though, to keep the intensity of a thriller, all the while not overdoing the violence and gore. In any event, I can't wait for the release of SS!

    Jen - Once I get caught up on some of my other thriller/mystery authors, I'll give her a try. Thanks for the rec.

  4. I've avoided Silence of the Lambs and the word "disturbing" usually puts me off, so I'll call this one a skipster. But, I'm glad you enjoyed it! And, the bit about talking to the dog is not so worrying, if you ask me. I talk to the cat all the time and she talks right back. LOL

  5. I haven't read Silence of the Lambs, but I'm intrigued by your reviews of McFadyen's books.

  6. Anonymous5:43 PM

    This books sounds gritty and page turning. I may just have to try "The Face of Death."

    Great review, Les.


  7. I'm such a ninny when it comes to disturbing. I even turn off CSI...My poor husband has never seen the end of many movies LOL!

  8. Nancy - I understand why you wouldn't want to read something as disturbing as this. Sometimes I wonder why I'm able to read these books. Actually, just the other day, I had a good friend ask me how I could read these after going through all the heartache of losing Rach. I suppose it's because I know that for the most part, the good guys will win. And it's more about the character development between the regulars that I so enjoy. I certainly don't get any enjoyment out of the actual acts of violence. And I suppose it's easier to read than, say, a true crime book. These are works of fiction. The violence didn't really happen to someone. Especially not someone I know.

    I love having a dog around to talk to. I only wish she would talk back or at least tell me if she needs to go outside or if she's just excited to see me. We're still trying to figure out her signals. So far, though, not one single potty accident since we got her almost 2 months ago! Whoohoo!

    Booklogged - If you plan to read either of these, I strongly recommend you begin with the first (Shadow of Death). Too much back story is revealed in The Face of Death. Just my two cents.

    Gayla - See my note above to Booklogged. I really think these should be read in order. Gritty. That's a good way to describe the books.

    Pat - Then these are definitely not your cuppa tea! :)


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