The July award for mystery of the month goes to Greg Iles, an author who had flown under my radar until his latest novel, Dead Sleep, despite five previous critically acclaimed suspense novels (I read about a million detective novels a year and still just scratch the surface). The plot is simple but ingenious: disturbing paintings by an anonymous artist have commanded record-breaking prices at art auctions worldwide; the paintings depict sleeping women, but the rumor among the cognoscenti is that the women are portrayed in death. When award-winning war photographer Jordan Glass visits an exhibit of the paintings in Hong Kong, her world is rocked by one of the paintings: "This was not a painting, but a mirror. The face looking back at me from the wall was my own." The woman in the painting was most assuredly not Jordan, but her twin sister Jane, who had disappeared without a trace from her New Orleans home 13 months before. Joining forces with the FBI, Jordan becomes both hunter and prey as she attempts to determine what fate has befallen her beloved twin. The plot development is superb; Dead Sleep is a page-turner of the first order.
Comparisons to John Grisham's books will be inevitable, but perhaps too easy; a more apt comparison would be to the stylish thrillers of Gerald Browne (11 Harrowhouse) or Thomas Harris (Silence of the Lambs). The central characters are well drawn and believable, the villains sophisticated yet chilling, the story mesmerizing. I have every intention of purchasing Greg Iles' back catalog to see just what I've been missing.