Dead Sleep by Greg Iles

G. P. Putnam Sons July 2001 352 pp. 19.95

Copyright © Steven E. Alford 

Airline passengers across America can rejoice: Greg Iles has published another thriller.  German-born American Iles achieved renown with his first novel, Spandau Phoenix, featuring Rudolph Hess.  Now, in his sixth novel, Iles introduces a female protagonist who, in seeking to learn the identity of her sister’s killer, becomes the object of the psychopath’s deadly intentions.

            Jordan Glass is forty, female, five-eight, and turns heads wherever she goes.  However, where she chooses to go to are some of the worst places in the world.  Following in her beloved father’s footsteps, Glass has become an award-winning news photographer, whose subjects are conflict, violence, and death.  Look in the dictionary under “tough cookie,” and you’ll find Glass’ battle-hardened face.

            Or is it her face?  At an art gallery in Hong Kong, consternation ensues among the staff and clientele as she enters the room.  Puzzled, she ignores the startled faces and proceeds into the gallery, only to stand before a painting of herself, nude, posed in a posture that is more likely death than sleep.

            What the patrons don’t realize, and what Glass, to her horror, slowly comes to understand, is that the painting is not of herself, but of her twin sister, a devoted wife and mother, abducted from the streets of New Orleans years before and presumed dead.  With this photo as evidence of her sister’s possible fate, the hard-charging Glass immediately enlists the aid of the FBI.  She then streaks back to the United States for a rendezvous with the gallery owner responsible for selling the painting to a Hong Kong businessman.

            Enter the clear-eyed, hard-muscled, highly principled men and women of the FBI, immediately ready to move heaven and earth to solve the murder.  Their urgency is understandable, for eleven, or as many as nineteen, victims have fallen prey to the killer who paints his victims’ portraits.  Following the recent scandals among New Orleans’ law enforcement, both local police and the regional FBI office have their very reputations at stake in solving the serial killer’s crimes.

            Glass insinuates herself into the process, and, as in many a thriller before, the authorities find it only reasonable that a civilian be an integral part of a dangerous criminal investigation.  As you might also imagine, John Kaiser, single, Vietnam vet and the FBI office’s “hunk,” is not immune to the charms of the tough-but-vulnerable Glass.  Romantic steamy showers ensue, interrupted, however,  by frantic cell phone calls, FBI jets criss-crossing the Caribbean, and neato software developed by spies that enhances photographic images.  Will Glass encounter the psychopath, have lengthy conversations, uncover the deep secrets in his/her past that explain the loony behavior, only to be reunited with Kaiser at the end?  Do bears discover a forested area in which to relieve themselves?

            Iles’ prose is clean, his characters motivated by deep-seated emotion buried in their troubled pasts, and everyone, including the solitary, emotionally isolated protagonist, agree that Family is Important.  In between passing through the metal detector, and handing the annoyingly cheery Flight Attendant your boarding pass, stop by the racks of colorful, embossed covers and locate  Dead Sleep. Greg Iles, as well as muscular law enforcement agents, rugged-but–sensitive photographers, and psychotic killers everywhere will thank you.