Fifty-Eight Faces
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Pages: 87
Goes Well With: A bowl of hot soup and a cup of coffee

For years, Dr. Caroline Simmons and her father have been caught up in a legal battle with their sworn enemies, the Quinns, to regain what’s rightfully theirs: The Blue Diamond. So when the Quinns win the latest court case, Caroline is crushed—because, without the diamond, she and her father have lost all hope of saving the small children’s hospital that has become the center of their lives.

To add insult to injury, Evan Quinn purchases the hospital, determined to close it and turn the land into a luxury condo development. But just as Evan is announcing his acquisition, tragedy strikes. Both of their fathers are murdered, and the diamond is stolen.

It soon becomes clear that Evan and Caroline have a very deadly enemy in common. Rolf Bauer, the hospital’s CFO, is determined to kill them both and use the diamond for nefarious purposes. And the only way to stop him is to set aside their family feud and work together.

As we reviewers often mention in this column, short reads like this one require the author to condense the story—and, as a result, the characters and the plot don’t often get fully developed. That’s certainly the case with Fifty-Eight Faces. Since there isn’t a lot of room for character development, Caroline and Evan are kept to quick clichés. He’s gorgeous but greedy. She’s sweet but stubborn. And (of course) they absolutely hate each other—because that’s what they were raised to do. From the beginning, readers will know where the characters are destined to end up.

Still, the novel’s action makes up for its lack of character development and its predictable storylines. It’s filled with intrigue and danger, making it a thrilling short read. Or at least it is for a while.

As author Kat Duncan continues to develop her villain, Rolf, he becomes more and more over-the-top: a Neo-Nazi who has a band of robot-like skinheads as minions. His dialogue is unnatural, and his actions are often ridiculously sinister—to the point that he often sounds more like Snidely Whiplash than a real human being. And the more melodramatic he becomes, the sillier the story feels.

Had Duncan made her villain feel more natural and less cartoonish, Fifty-Eight Faces would have been a thrilling short read. Granted, it will still add a little bit of action and adventure (and just a hint of romance) to your lunch break—but, in order to enjoy it, you’ll have to be able to overlook the villain’s over-the-top antics.

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