The Bottom Line: A hard-hitting psychological thriller wrapped in romance and eroticism, suspense and keen observations about our public personas.
When Anika Kristiansen married her TV evangelist husband, Soren, she imagined she was entering a lifetime commitment to a faith-based marriage. That dream is shattered when Anika learns that Soren, who has grown both more successful and more abusive over the years, has abducted their 5-year-old son. The charismatic leader offers his frightened son this chilling explanation: “We have to hope that Mommy doesn’t become one of the devil’s servants. That’s why we can’t try to contact her. Understand?”
For help on the case, Anika contacts an old friend, psychologist Dan Whitney. Fans of Jones’ razor-sharp first novel, Walls, will recall that Whitney embarked on an erotic sexual adventure with his wife to Palm Springs that ended in her death. Three months after those tragic events, the widower seems to be in an emotional tailspin. Dan isn’t just romantically involved with a woman standing trial for murder – he’s also attracted to his old friend, Anika. Does he have the emotional strength to help Anika find her son, while keeping his new romance on track at the same time?
As you might guess from the book title, this second installment in Jones’ Identity Trilogy is populated with characters that aren’t really what they seem: a popular TV preacher secretly abuses his wife while also operating an online porn empire; a devoted church wife who never really had much faith to begin with; a masked dominatrix toying with a middle-aged man. Jones uses symbolism cleverly (see the Cirque de Soleil performance) to further this theme, while teasing us with doses of sex that never seem gratuitous (“Punish me, Dan. Spank me or use the crop. I deserve to be punished for all I’ve put you through”).
Reading Walls before Faces is highly recommend. Like its predecessor, Faces uses alternating points of view to provide perspective on the plot and its characters. The pacing is superb, and the cast sprawls ever larger. But this time out, Jones wisely channels much of the book’s emotional weight through Dan. Delving ever deeper into Dan’s psyche is a task that Jones – who is himself a clinical psychologist – does extremely well, finding seemingly endless fodder for analysis within the construct of a compelling thriller. Faces is a terrific setup for what is sure to be an explosive end to the series.