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J.F. Margos
Steeple Hill
ISBN: 0373785208

J.F. Margos has launched an engrossing series with her debut novel, SHATTERED IMAGE. In this initial outing we are introduced to forensic sculptor Toni Sullivan and her co-workers who protect and serve in the Austin, Texas area. Not only does the author weave a complex tale that spans several decades, she also educates the reader in the art of forensic sculpting. This fascinating science enables victims to be identified long after there is nothing left of them but their bones. Once the sculptor completes her work, a face emerges and photographs of that face are broadcast in the hopes that someone will recognize it. After identification is made, cold case specialists can begin searching for the cause of death, and those who caused the death.

Toni Sullivan is a former nurse who served in Vietnam and still suffers from memories seared into her spirit by that horrific war. In addition, she has lost her beloved husband and finds herself too often drifting toward the company of the dead rather than of the living, immersing herself in her work and exhausting herself to ease her pain. Fortunately, Toni is surrounded by friends and relatives who genuinely like her and respect her work. There is her son Mike, a homicide detective, her spry 83-year-old dad who still fixes cars for friends, Lt. Drew Smith of the Texas Rangers, and a host of others who cooperate with her to solve the crimes at hand.

While working to identify two separate sets of bones that were long dead but recently buried, Toni receives a call from her old friend, Irini Nikolaides, whose husband Ted served with Toni in Vietnam and who has been MIA all these years. Some bones have been found, including the skull, which Irini wants Toni to "bring back" in the hope that it will provide closure for her thirty years of uncertainty and grief. Unable to refuse her friend, Toni relies on God, through the power of prayer, to prepare her for the task. These spiritual and psychological dilemmas may stimulate the reader to affirm his own thoughts and beliefs about the process of healing.

SHATTERED IMAGE is the first in a series that promises to provide exciting and elucidating stories without the profanity and corrosiveness found in so many of today's popular works. J.F. Margos has gathered a competent and likeable ensemble, and we look forward to getting to know them better.

   --- Reviewed by Maggie Harding, a substance abuse counselor in Phoenix, AZ who wanted to be Brenda Starr before life intervened. She also reviews and To contact Maggie, e-mail

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