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by Jenny Siler
Henry Holt, February 2004
272 pages
ISBN: 080507211X

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Sometimes it's not a good idea to look at a summary of a book before you begin reading it. That is definitely the case for FLASHBACK by Jenny Siler. A convent of nuns in the French countryside take in an American amnesiac and are subsequently massacred by a gang of murderous intruders. If that description gets your eyes to rolling, rest assured that despite its over-the-top premise, Siler actually manages to pull it off.

'Eve' is found in a ditch on a muddy roadside in Burgundy with a gunshot wound to the head. She is taken in by a group of nuns and has a peaceful life, working in the kitchen and baking bread for the nuns. She has no recollection of her past, other than a few vague memory snippets that don't make any sense to her. After an uneventful year, the residents of the convent are brutally attacked, with only one nun managing to survive. It's quite obvious that Eve, who was out at the time, was the real target of the attack.

Eve knows that she has to leave and in some way avenge the murders of her caretakers. The only thing that she has from her past is a ferry ticket to Morocco, and that is her starting point for trying to uncover her identity and understand why she was targeted for murder. As she pursues her quest, she finds out that she is a dangerous woman, one who has the skills of an assassin. She uncovers many of her aliases and only gradually discovers who she really is. Her path to the truth takes her through many dangerous situations, but she has the wits to deal with whatever comes her way.

One of the trademarks of all Siler's books is that she excels at creating strong female protagonists, and FLASHBACK is no exception. We have a hardened female lead whose strengths are balanced with the confusion of being an amnesiac who doesn't know of what she is capable.

The only problem that I had with the book occurred as the events of Eve's past were unmasked. Due to her peripatetic past, I found it difficult to connect all the dots of her history. I was quite confused about the various relationships and events that led her to the ditch in the French countryside, particularly all of the political aspects of her prior career. The resolution of the book was a disappointment to me as well, and there was a bit too much action hero type behavior for me to fully go along with the plot.

That being said, Siler does a great job of presenting exotic settings realistically, never forsaking the tension of Eve's hunt. About Tangiers: "The city assaults you with the stench of desperation..Everywhere, the pervasive stink of colonialism gone to rot."

FLASHBACK is the first in a proposed three-book series. Readers who like their books suspenseful and appreciate a strong female protagonist should find FLASHBACK a very satisfying beginning.

Reviewed by Maddy Van Hertbruggen, July 2004

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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