FBI agent James Benedict has gone on a vacation aboard a cruise ship.  But his vacation is quickly becoming a life and death chase to find who is killing off passengers.  Doctor Julie Holding has taken on the job of keeping James on track spiritually and emotionally.  Nam is bent on getting even for past crimes.  And six year old Cassandra Carpenter will show them all what the scripture verse means "and a little child shall lead them."
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When FBI agent James Benedict goes on a two week cruise, he thought he was going to relax and rest. But when a passenger dies covered in bois that eat the flesh and bone, he is called in to assist. When another person dies of similar but strange conditions, they fear a virus has been unleashed.

It is soon discovered it isn't a virus but someone is murdering these people. James begins investigating whether there is any connection between the select few who have died.

Dr. Julie Holding is James' girlfriend back at work. She has trouble focusing on work knowing he is on a ship that appears to be a time bomb. She soon joins in by working on the mystery.

Can James find the connection before another person is killed?

This book is well-written and fast-paced. I found myself picking it up continuously to read further and try to unravel the well-constructed mystery. James was a great character and his long-distance relationship with Julie was very endearing.

I found myself engrossed in the story and wondering who was doing it right up until things were revealed. I highly recommend this book.

Dawn Dowdle

When FBI agent James Benedict books a two-week holiday on a cruise ship to Hawaii, he doesn't expect to be working through much of it. But one after another, passengers who are perfectly healthy die painful and grotesque deaths, and he quickly finds himself in the thick of a mystery. Are these deaths caused by a virus that will inevitably infect the whole ship, or a poison targeting a select few? If the latter, is a passenger or crew member the murderer? In Vengeance Donna Dawson weaves a cat-and-mouse tale of death and investigation on the high seas.

Back in San Diego, Benedict's girlfriend, Dr. Julie Holding, fellow member of the FBI and a psychologist, has her own challenges. How will she get traumatized abuse victim, six-year-old Cassandra, to talk again, let alone trust a man? Her nightly conversations with James are sweet therapy for both of them, until the deadly plot begins to engulf him too. Will she be next?

The plot smells sinister right from its chilling Nunavut "Prelude." The cruise ship setting of most of the story, with its atmosphere of vacationing passengers immersed in relaxation and amenities, is a perfect foil for the gruesome death that stalks the ship. The plot plays out like a movie as we segue from one action scene to another, following James, then the killer, looking in on James's boss Steve in San Diego's FBI headquarters, even flashing occasionally to the dark mastermind in his bunker on shore.

Though the sleuthing makes steady progress, it continues to lag one step behind the criminals till the end, when even our seasoned investigator is shocked by who the perpetrator turns out to be. The romantic sub-plot adds a human touch and gives us a break from the tense on-board scenes.

Main character James Benedict is drawn realistically, though to be honest I was far more involved in following the plot than getting to know him - competent investigator and lovelorn swain that he is. Ditto for his sweety, Julie Holding. The most interesting of the characters was Nam, the shadowy figure who haunts the tale from its beginning and who shows himself to be a genius in loyalty, obsession and evil.

Dawson's crisp writing style and cryptic dialogue fit this action-packed tale. Her story-telling instincts are evident throughout as we get just the right amount of information and at the right time to keep the story a tantalizing bob and weave till the end.

The desire for vengeance is an idea that not only generates the plot, but is the theme that flows through plot and subplot too. Nam answers his need for revenge one way. Little Cassandra, with Julie's guidance, arrives at an entirely different answer on how to handle hideous evil, fleshing out the Bible saying, "A little child shall lead them."

Vengeance is a suspense thriller that will find you oblivious to time. Block off an afternoon to read the whole thing - because you won't be able to put it down anyway.

Violet Nesdoly