“The most important person I had had in my life was never in my life.”
At least that is what journalist Richard Kilmer is asked to believe when his fiancé disappears without a trace after a freak accident. No matter whom he asks, the answer is always the same: Jennifer Ryan is a figment of his imagination, has never existed. Left with poignant memories and no proof, Kilmer flounders, in love with a ghost. When an editor of a national magazine suggests an article describing his strange experience, the responses yield the usual crackpots but one unusual reply: Allison Tynes, a girl looking for her missing twin.
Eerily similar to Richard’s Jennifer, Allie looks like a mirror image of Richard’s fiancé, even uses the same phrases in casual conversation. As the pair meet to discuss the similarities of the women they seek, they realize something more nefarious may be afoot when Richard notices they are being followed wherever they go. But Rosenfelt doesn’t keep the reader in suspense for too long, introducing the hired shadow, “Juice” (yes, after OJ Simpson), who thinks of his truculent boss as “the Stone.” The cast of miscreants expands as Richard and Allie tumble upon a complicated plot in which a great deal of money is at stake and Kilmer’s old nemesis, Sam Lassiter, appears to be exacting sweet revenge on the journalist.
Unfortunately, a sophisticated concept is rendered ludicrous as the “bad guys” become the usual caricatures, manipulating Kilmer like a puppet and “eliminating” superfluous characters as necessary. Rosenfelt’s prose is fast-paced, the action accelerating with each dangerous revelation, but the reader quickly tumbles to untrustworthy characters while Richard is still spilling his guts like a cub reporter to any sympathetic ear. Granted, Kilmer is off his game due to bizarre circumstances, but the holes in the plot beg for a more skillful presentation of the potential threat in modern technological advances. Instead we get a couple of amateurs whose every move is anticipated, the fact that Allie looks exactly like Jennifer apparently of little significance to anyone once the original shock wears off.
The author could have written a chilling tale of technology in the wrong hands instead of this Hardy Boys fumbler in love with the past and oblivious to the live girl working on his behalf, each obvious clue failing to alert him to the duplicity of his advisors. Back to the drawing board for less of a helpless victim to fate and more imagination in a world where nothing is what it seems and killers aren’t hampered by conscience. Too many diabolical feints require a suspension of logic and a protagonist with a more suspicious mind and less wide-eyed naiveté in an ocean filled with sharks.