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  • Writer's pictureHannah Zunic

Ancient History Fangirl: A Review of A Face to Die For by Iris Johansen

Hello, Book Nerds! Welcome back to Reading Has Ruined My Life or welcome if you are new. As always, my name is Hannah and I am your captain on this journey into my bookcases.

Bears waving.
Hi, how's it going today?

So as some of you probably know, I love a good mystery. Nearly everything I’ve read this year has been some form of mystery novel. And you may also know that I love ancient history and historical fiction. I’ve been on a big history kick as of late. So a few months back, when I received an ARC request form from Novel Suspects Insider’s Club, there was one book that caught my eye right away: A Face to Die For by Iris Johansen.

Book cover of A Face to Die For by Iris Johansen.

Yes, that’s right. Today’s review is brought to you by Novel Suspects Insider’s Club and Grand Central Publishing; they aren’t paying me for my review they just sent me the book for free. A huge thank you goes out to them! I’ve been anxiously waiting to sink my claws into this book because it’s a mystery revolving around some ancient history. So let’s crack into it!

A Face to Die For is the latest entry into Iris Johansen’s Eve Duncan series and was released on June 14, 2022. A quick disclaimer, I’ve never read any book by Iris Johansen. This is my first time entering into the world of Eve Duncan. Put a pin in that cause I’m gonna talk about that right after the synopsis.

Put a pin in that.
Do as Phoebe says, y'all!

As always, a spoiler alert is in order. You’ve been warned! Also a quick content warning. A Face to Die For includes mentions of child death, please be aware of that before entering into this book. This occurs only in the beginning of the book, and I will not be discussing that in my review, just be aware of it though. Now let’s get to that synopsis.

Our story opens with Riley Smith. She is an archeologist and daughter of renowned archeologist and historian Dr. Edmund Smith. The pair have been searching for an ancient princess whose face is said to have launched a thousand ships. Sadly, Dr. Edmund Smith will not be able to achieve his dream of finding this legendary princess, he unfortunately dies right at the start of the book. This leaves his daughter to find the tomb all by herself.

So where does Eve Duncan fit in to all this? She is the title character of the series after all. Well Eve doesn’t know it yet, but Riley is going to enlist her into the search for Helen of Troy. Riley wants Eve to reconstruct Helen’s face once the tomb is found. That is if they can both survive till then.


A man by the name of Dakar has found out that Riley is on the verge of finding the lost tomb. He may or may not have killed Riley’s father, and may or may not be trying to kill Riley and Eve and the rest of their team as well. Quite problematic if you ask me. Will these two women survive? Will they discover one of the greatest lost tombs of all time. All will be revealed in A Face to Die For.

I am here solely for the ancient history portion of this book. I am not ashamed to say that. I am slightly shamed to say that the thriller portion does not hold up. This book is oddly slow. It takes forever to get to the tomb discovering and Helen aspects of this novel. For nearly 150 pages, readers are stuck reading about the occurrences of one night. And these occurrences have nothing to do with the main storyline. Excuse me, I’d like to discover Helen. Can we do that? Please and thank you! Seriously, half the book occurs before readers even get to any form of tomb hunting, and that’s A Face To Die For’s hook!

Viola Davis grabbing purse and leaving.
I'm not a happy camper.

Let’s circle back to that pin now. Because I’ve never read anything in the Eve Duncan series, I do not know who these characters are, and that is a hinderance that plays into how slow the start is. I don’t know these characters or their histories and pasts with one another. Honestly, I don't really even know who knows who at the start of the novel. So when there is shit going down between all the major players in the beginning, I don’t care. And I'm confused. I’m not here for that. I wanted to flip through nearly the entire beginning and get to the bigger story.

Now, do you want to guess how long the tomb hunting and archeology portion goes on for? Remember, it took 150 pages to get to that point. Just take a moment and drop your guesses.

Jeopardy Logo.
Do you have your guesses in?

Ten pages. Well, roughly ten pages. The sentiment remains the same. And that is, the inconsistency of the pacing is absolutely maddening. But wait! It gets worse!

Within these ten pages, I felt a part of me die. Within these ten pages a tomb is found and everything is taken out of it in a matter of hours. It might as well have been a smash and grab at a jewelry store. Now I know this is not the book to detail proper archeological practices, but it was so bad. You don’t just take a millenniums old sarcophagus out of a tomb and throw it into the bed of a truck all willy nilly. It doesn’t work like that! There are protocols to follow in order to keep the artifacts in the condition in which they were found. I don’t think anyone even wore gloves! That’s how bad it was!

I know this doesn’t matter because this is a work of fiction and these items don’t exist, but if this was real life, these people would have destroyed a great piece of history. I’m sorry, I just need a moment.

Woman pouring drink.
It's gonna be a long moment.

At this point, I should discuss characters. I can say that A Face to Die For has some of the better characterization I’ve seen in a while. There is dimension to all our main characters. They have developed backstories and personalities that expand further than a single character trait. Despite my lack of ability to keep them all straight in my head due to similar jobs and names, they are all different people.

While there are distinct personalities, I do have to fault the romance in this thriller. The couple getting together in A Face to Die For is essentially two characters who were written with the sole purpose of being made for each other, and I don’t mean that in a good way. The moment I met the characters in question, I knew that they would end up together by the final chapter. They have idiosyncrasies that make them different, but their character blueprints are extremely similar. Far too similar if you ask me. This relationship was not interesting to read. Everything you expect out of the relationship happens in some way shape or form. It was just boring. The book didn’t need it and it added nothing to the story at large.

Overall, this book was underwhelming and disappointing. I wanted ancient history and I got destructive tomb raiding. Honestly, this book felt like a chore to read. It did not make me want to read more of the Eve Duncan series. In fact, I can see myself never returning to the Even Duncan series because of this entry.

With that, I shall bid you all adieu. Thank you once again to Novel Suspects Insider’s Club and Grand Central Publishing for sending me a copy of A Face to Die For. I’ll see ya next week with another great review.

Until then, stay safe, wash your hands, and read some good books for me.

Bears waving.
See y'all next week, bye!

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