WHAT DOESN'T KILL YOU – Iris Johansen
St, Martin's Press
ISBN: 978-0-312-65123-7 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 978-1-4299-5293-4 (eBook)
Present Day Louisville, Kentucky and Hong Kong, China,15 Years Ago and Now
CIA Agent Catherine Ling has worked well with forensic sculptor Eve Duncan on many cases, including the one that found Catherine's eleven year-old son after he went missing nine years ago. (See CHASING THE NIGHT.) All that time, Luke was in the hands of a sadistic Russian who brutalized him but could not break him. The intelligent young man is a survivor but is still far from a normal happy child. Mother and son are gradually establishing a trusting relationship with Luke still needing to learn about love. Catherine, herself, is still learning about trust. Born in Hong Kong of a Eurasian mother and an unknown American GI, Catherine spent her first four years with her mother until she was orphaned. Her life from then on was one of fighting for survival. She refused to sell her body as her mother did. As she grew older, Catherine discovered that many people would pay for information and she was good at finding out what they wanted to know. During her adolescence, she made one friend, who was also a mentor. Catherine was fourteen when she saved the apothecary Hu Chang from a Triad gang. Their lives have been intertwined ever since. And now Hu Chang is in deep trouble.
Hu Chang is an extraordinary herbalist/scientist/philosopher rumored to have concocted a potion capable of killing without leaving a trace detectable by the most sophisticated means . . . and that both a sample of the potion and Hu Chang are in the possession of a most evil man named Hugh Nardik, who plans to use it soon. The CIA is sending a team to China to rescue Hu Chang and to get the potion and formula. They send Catherine as well to deal with her brilliant friend. The rescue of Hu Chang succeeds, but a sample of the potion is still in the hands of the ruthless Nardik. Nardik needs more information on the use of the poison, however, and he also wants more of it and the formula. He needs to retake Hu Chang, who has a great talent for disappearing. Nardik enjoys watching and making others suffer, and now his eyes turn toward Catherine as both a lure to use against Hu Chang and as a toy to use for his own enjoyment.
WHAT DOESN'T KILL YOU has a large cast, some familiar from earlier connected books. Readers of the Eve Duncan series will recognize John Gallo, the father of Eve's daughter and one time suspect in her kidnapping. Catherine and John met during that episode, and they may still have a tenuous connection. Other characters of note on the good side are CIA Deputy Director Venable; Sam O'Neill, understanding tutor of Catherine's son Luke; and Madame Chen Lu Moriarty, a likable Irish expatriate with a fabulous palace in Hong Kong—just to name a few of the many and varied people involved in the story.
WHAT DOESN'T KILL YOU has an involved plot filled with intrigue, danger, thrills and suspense. The character development is excellent, especially the way Catherine comes alive in a colorful setting. Ms. Johansen has written another riveting novel deserving of your attention.