Catherine Ling is an agent with the CIA.
At a very early age, Ling was taken by her mother to live in Hong Kong but disease took the mother and a four-year-old girl was suddenly and frighteningly on her own. The American soldier father she never knew was long since out of the picture and there was no one else to care for the girl. She was one of the thousands of homeless in a city of many millions.
Besides learning how to forage anywhere and eat virtually anything, Ling also learned within a few years she had another skill that could not only keep her alive but also earn her money and that was information. As a little girl who could move virtually unseen, she picked up all manner of tidbits that she discovered others would pay to know.
She also learned how to flee from trouble when she could and how to smile and sweet-talk her way out of trouble when fleeing was not possible. And she learned how to maim or kill, quickly and very efficiently, when neither of the other options was working. As a young teenager, she met an older man named Hu Chang that helped her education in such matters considerably as the extremely dangerous Chang was an accomplished assassin who knew all there was to know about poisons.
When she was seventeen, she was recruited by a man known only as Venable to work for the CIA. She was placed under the tutelage of a very much older man who gave her all his knowledge on clandestine work, and he knew a lot. Besides learning her craft from him, she also grew to love him and despite their age difference, they married and bore a son named Luke.
One of the most dangerous assignments the two had performed was to take down a particularly nasty Russian power named Radovac and they did. Expecting that the Russian government would eliminate him, they moved on with their lives. So did a very vengeful Radovac and when Luke was two years old, the enemy struck back. Her husband was killed, she was beaten, and Luke was stolen.
For the next nine years, Ling tried to get information about Radovac, and Luke, to get him back but Radovac had made himself valuable to the Agency and to others so tracking down either was almost impossible. But all things change over time and eventually the chance to end the nightmare came.
In 1998, best-selling author Iris Johansen created what instantly became a very popular mystery-suspense series about a forensic sculptor named Eve Duncan.
Duncan's daughter, Bonnie, had gone missing at age seven and the anguish over the loss nearly killed the mother. To help cope, she decided to use her intellect and her artistic skills to master forensic sculpting to help others get the answers she could not get about her own child.
Over the next decade, Ms. Johansen continued the series and a huge number of people followed the adventures but the question of what happened to Bonnie went unresolved. Finally the author decided time had come to get the matter resolved. As part of doing so, or perhaps as the catalyst for making the decision, she introduced to Duncan, and the throng of fans, a new character with her own need to learn what happened to her own child.
The first book listed in the Catherine Ling series is book #10 in the Eve Duncan series. Ling's crusade to find her son is resolved in that book but the promise to help that Ling makes to Duncan at the end keeps her very busy in the trilogy that Ms. Johansen wrote about the search for the truth about Bonnie. Ling is an integral part of that search so Duncan books #11-13 are considered here Ling books #2-4.
Book #5 is Ling on her own and as dangerous and thrilling as ever.