Flashback (Kendra Michaels, 11)

Image of Flashback (Kendra Michaels, 11)
Release Date: 
June 25, 2024
Grand Central Publishing
Reviewed by: 

The mother and son team of Iris and Roy Johansen have united again for the 11th Kendra Michaels thriller. Because Kendra was blind for the first 20 years of her life, when she regained her sight, her senses are so highly developed that she notices and hears things most people don’t. A great gift for someone called upon to find two missing young women, Chloe and Sloane Morgan, whose mother and several other women had been murdered by the Bayside Strangler 15 years ago. When Chloe and Sloane became teenagers, the two undertook a full-press investigation into the Strangler’s identity. Now, all signs indicate that they may have cracked the mystery. However, the two sisters have suddenly vanished, leaving behind their cell phones, credit cards, and car keys. After an inexplicable hiatus, the Bayside Strangler has returned.

Kendra’s romantic partner, Adam Lynch, is a former FBI uber-agent who currently works as a governmental agent-for-hire. His contacts and sources are extensive as is his physical prowess—the perfect guy to aide Kendra in her dangerous search for the two daughters. When the retired detective who invited Kendra’s assistance is found dead, the case heats up quickly. The San Diego Police Department and the FBI become involved, so Adam’s ability to navigate the scene is useful to all, though Kendra has responsibility for the case and will use her sensitive powers to notice clues.

In addition to Adam, Kendra’s blind downstairs neighbor, Olivia, is a support for Kendra as is her “huge sandy-colored dog,” Harley, who is so big that he can place his paws on Adam’s shoulders. Olivia insists that Harley accompany Kendra to protect her (even when she has Adam?). However, adding a dog to the plot becomes a problem because Harley often disappears conveniently as if forgotten by the Johansens. Harley is also inserted in Adam’s red Lamborghini, which may have the reader wondering how he would fit and cringing about the damage done by the dog’s claws to the car’s leather seats. Harley never seems to have a real purpose in the plot and only serves as a distraction that might have been omitted. And one also ponders why an agent performing dangerous secret ops is driving a red Lamborghini.

The Johansens are adroit at moving the action at a fast pace, especially when Adam joins Kendra on scene. The narration by the killer, Rod Wallace, is lightly sprinkled throughout, which adds a creepy feeling as it becomes apparent he has his sights set on Kendra as his next victim.

What works less effectively is the banter between Kendra and Adam. He is described as “a dominant personality” (and he is), but it’s Kendra’s case, so she’s constantly jousting with him to wrest control. This power struggle seems to be a much-used trope with Iris Johansen (see Captive, an Eve Duncan novel) in which the heroine tussles with a superhero-style male.

The dialogue between the two is inappropriately flirty and frisky in the middle of danger, which also happens between Lynch and other women. For example, when armed men are about to attack them, Lynch says to Sloane, “You’re good at this . . . I know some people who might want to see your résumé.” She smiles and replies, “I already have a job.” A jaunty conversation when a gun battle is about to occur? This is one of many such exchanges.

The distinguishing premise of Flashback is the creation of a female protagonist, Kendra Michaels, who approaches her cases with unusual sensory awareness. This rare asset is a fascinating device and a fresh one in the thriller canon.