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The Face of the Assassin


The Face of the Assassin

I was aware that David Lindsey had written several novels; I was
somewhat surprised though to find that his latest, THE FACE OF THE
ASSASSIN, is his thirteenth. It wasn't until MERCY --- not
necessarily Lindsey's best book, but arguably the one for which he
is best known --- was published that Lindsey began to receive the
attention that more writers earn than actually receive. MERCY is
generally thought of as Lindsey's first novel, but it's actually
his sixth. He certainly hit his stride with it and has never looked

Which brings us to THE FACE OF THE ASSASSIN, a complex but riveting
thriller set primarily in Mexico City. It is full of twists and
turns, practically from its rather gory beginning (if you are in
the habit of eating while you read, you might want to forego the
deli food for the first few pages of this one, my friends), to the
last few paragraphs. The primary protagonist of THE FACE OF THE
ASSASSIN is Paul Bern, a forensic artist residing in Austin, Texas.
Bern is slowly but surely adjusting to life as a widower when his
life is turned upside down by a new client, a mysterious woman who
gives him a skull that she has smuggled out of Mexico. The woman
tells Bern that she believes the skull is that of her estranged and
missing husband. As Bern begins the artistic reconstruction of the
skull's face, he slowly comes to the realization that the face is
his own --- and that the skull is that of his twin brother, a
brother who he never knew he had.

A nightmarish enigma named Vincente Mondragon contacts Bern almost
immediately thereafter on behalf of the CIA. Mondragon informs Bern
that his twin brother had been a CIA agent working on a clandestine
operation against a terrorist group --- and Mondragon wants Bern to
take the place of his twin brother, the brother he never knew he
had. Bern resists the idea but is blackmailed into doing so. He is
almost immediately thrust into a world with which he is totally
unfamiliar and where his life is in constant danger. He also must
act with the knowledge that his success or failure will make the
ultimate difference to the thousands of people who are the target
of a multilevel terrorist attack and whose lives hang in the
balance as a result.

Lindsey is a magnificent storyteller. His ability to weave
unforgettable --- and in the case of Mondragon, REALLY
unforgettable --- characters into a fascinating plot has never been
so well displayed as they are in THE FACE OF THE ASSASSIN. I'm not
just talking about Mondragon here, either. There is a 17-year-old
girl named Alice who, as the result of a brain injury, experiences
a cognitive disconnection with respect to the ability to recognize
and understand the meaning of words. Alice's appearances bookend
THE FACE OF THE ASSASSIN. I initially was very disappointed that
her appearance was so limited. It wasn't until I had finished the
novel and was reflecting upon it that I fully realized that Lindsey
knew exactly what he was doing. Alice's condition manifests itself
in such a dramatic manner that it would have ultimately hijacked
the novel. Less, in this case, was enough.

THE FACE OF THE ASSASSIN may well supplant MERCY as the novel for
which David Lindsey is best known. There has got to be a film
version in this book's future to help it along as well. This is a
compelling work by a writer who continues to get better and

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 21, 2011

The Face of the Assassin
by David Lindsey

  • Publication Date: April 20, 2004
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense
  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Warner Books
  • ISBN-10: 044652929X
  • ISBN-13: 9780446529297