Fresh Meat: The Naked Eye by Iris Johansen and Roy Johansen

The Naked Eye by Iris Johansen and Roy Johansen is the third thriller featuring Kendra Michaels, a law-enforcement consultant with heightened observational skills (available July 14, 2015).

I’m really not sure how I’ve managed to be an avid reader of mystery novels for this long without encountering any Iris Johansen novels before The Naked Eye. But what a great way to start – and what a promising back-catalog for me to devour! – with this exciting third installment in the Kendra Michaels books. Having no familiarity with any of Iris Johansen’s previous world-building exercises, I was pleased with how easy it was for me to make the acquaintance of Kendra and, later in the novel, Eve Duncan, the heroine of another of her best-selling series.

But Kendra is, rightly, the focus here. A modern day Sherlock Holmes due to an experimental operation that restored her sight to her after she’d spent years honing her other senses to compensate, her exceptional powers of observation are in high demand with local and federal law enforcement. Unfortunately, she’s currently at odds with them, as no one will believe that Eric Colby, the serial killer she helped put away in a previous book, is still at-large instead of dead after his state-mandated execution. Kendra still shows up at the site of certain murders upon the request of law enforcement, but mostly, she’s trying to see if Colby is back at it again. She knows he’s obsessed with her and merely waiting for the right time to strike once more.

Unfortunately, that comes soon after her public altercation with a reporter who’s written an extremely unflattering account of Kendra’s “obsession” with Colby. Framed for murder herself, Kendra is soon calling in all sorts of professional favors, including from Special Agent Griffin of the FBI, as she races to foil Colby’s plans. The good news is that she has the help of several awesome friends, including Adam Lynch, freelance special operative; Sam Zackoff, computer whiz; and Beth Avery, Kendra’s self-appointed bodyguard, who stands up for Kendra both physically and emotionally. In this passage, she confronts Griffin over behavior she sees as bullying Kendra:

“And you’re not being either helpful or kind. I know you’re frustrated and upset, but do you think she isn’t? Stay away from her until you can behave like a decent human being or serve Colby up to her the way he did [the victim] in there.”

Griffin’s eyes widened. “I beg your pardon.”

“Beg Kendra’s pardon. It’s what you should do. She’s here in this alone and having to beg and plead for help from you.” She opened the passenger door and pushed Kendra into the car. “I thought maybe you might be something besides a swellheaded bureaucrat, but now I’m thinking I’m dead wrong. Get in the car, Sam. Let’s go.”

Griffin was staring at her, frowning. Then as Beth jumped into the driver’s seat and started the car, he slowly shook his head. “And I thought you were such a quiet, gentle little thing.”

“I’m not a thing. I’m a woman who can be what she wants to be.”

It’s really refreshing to read about characters who will stand up for each other out of friendship, and for themselves as well. Apart from the sympathetic characters, sparkling dialog, and excellent pacing, The Naked Eye is also unafraid to plunge into controversies that too much popular crime fiction (especially on TV!) just elides. When Sam needs to break the law in order to better track Colby’s movements, he and Kendra have several discussions, not only on the legality, but also the ethical implications. They debate what he’s doing versus what the government and Homeland Security are doing in collecting the information in the first place. Here, they and Adam consider both the ethics and mechanics of the latter endeavor:

“To track terror suspects?” Kendra asked.

“That’s the idea, but anybody who’s been on an interstate highway in the past few years has had their license plate automatically photographed, logged, and filed away in a database somewhere.”

“Several databases,” Sam said. “It’s kind of a mess right now. Homeland Security is working on combining the license-plate traffic data gathered from thousands of jurisdictions all over the country. One day, they’d like to be able to track any car from one side of the country to the other in real time.”

“That’s a little scary.” Kendra said.

Sam nodded. “The ACLU and other privacy advocates aren’t crazy about it. I’m not either. But […] I sure wish they could do that right now.”

The Naked Eye is a terrific thriller that will satisfy both loyal fans and new readers of the Johansen mother-son duo. Iris and Roy write seamlessly well together, making for the best of popular entertainment. I expect The Naked Eye to race up the bestseller charts, and deservedly!

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Doreen Sheridan is a freelance writer living in Washington, D.C. She
microblogs on Twitter @dvaleris.

Read all posts by Doreen Sheridan for Criminal Element.

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