Forensic sculptor Eve Duncan is neither the cleverest fictional female detective nor the most original, but the meticulous care she devotes to her profession despite the emotional turmoil in her life makes her highly sympathetic. Here, she is tricked into leaving her adopted daughter, Jane, and cop boyfriend, Joe Quinn, to go to Baton Rouge. An influential senator and a fratricidal psychopath want her to work in a remote bayou to identify a battered skull, which may be all that remains of former senatorial candidate Harold Bentley. Duncan tries to reconstruct the skull's features, but it's hard to focus when someone has just tried to poison you and may be on his way to blow up your family. Duncan and wisecracking Sean Galen, hired by her Atlanta friends to protect her, are soon joined by potbellied reporter Bill Nathan, while in the shadows lurks Jules Hebert, a dangerous man of many disguises. First, Duncan's cook dies, then the cook's son, and then lies and dead bodies begin to pile up as Duncan struggles to finish the reconstruction and forgive Quinn for concealing the truth about her dead daughter, Bonnie.
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Bantam hardcover edition published April 2002
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Bantam domestic mass market edition / March 2003
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Sarah Bayou, Louisiana
The flatboat glided slowly through the bayou.
Too slowly, Jules Hebert thought tensely. He had deliberately chosen a flatboat rather than a motorboat because it would be less obtrusive at this time of night, but he had not counted on this case of nerves.
Keep calm. The church was just up ahead.
“It will be fine, Jules,” Etienne called softly as he wielded the oars. “You worry too much.”
And his brother, Etienne, didn’t worry enough, Jules thought in despair. Ever since childhood it had been Jules who was the serious one, the one who had to accept the responsibility while Etienne ambled along through life with endearing blitheness. “You arranged for the men to be waiting at the church?”
“And you told them nothing?”
“Only that they would be paid well for the work. And I parked the motorboat to bring them where you told me to.”
“It will all go very easily.” Etienne smiled. “I promise you, Jules. Would I let you down?”
Not intentionally. The affection between them was too strong. They had been through too much together. “No offense. Just asking, little brother.” Jules stiffened as he saw the dark looming silhouette of the ancient stone church in the faint moonlight as they rounded the corner. It had been deserted for over ten years and exuded dampness and decay. His gaze flew to the sparsely scattered plantation houses on either side of the bayou.
No one. No sign of anyone stirring.
“I told you,” Etienne said. “Luck is with us. How could it be otherwise? Fortune is always on the side of the right.”...
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