This urban fantasy/crime whodunit is one of the plethora of vampire books that are currently flooding our bookshops. However, if you pick this one up expecting the chirpy humour pervading the likes of Undead and Unemployed, you are likely to be disappointed. Or not – depending on your taste. This book is gothic in feel and writing style, complete with plush prose and full-on emotional tone.
Dante is talented, beautiful and the star of the rock band, Inferno. He is rumoured to be the owner of the hot New Orleans nightspot, Club Hell. F.B.I. Special Agent Heather Wallace has been tracking a sadistic serial murderer known as the Cross Country Killer, and the trail has led her to New Orleans, Club Hell and Dante. But the attractive musician refuses to co-operate and claims to be “nightkind” – in other words, a vampire. Digging into his past for answers reveals little. A juvenile record a mile long; no social security number; no known birth date. In and out of foster homes for most of his life before being taken in by Lucien DeNoir, who guards mysteries of his own.
What Heather does know is that something links Dante to the killer – and she’s pretty sure that makes him the CCK’s next target. Heather must unravel the truth about this complicated, vulnerable young man – who, she begins to believe may indeed be a vampire – in order to finally bring a killer to justice. But Dante’s past holds a shocking secret and once it is revealed, not even Heather will be able to protect him from his destiny.
This debut novel from Adrian Phoenix is ambitious in its scope – and at times her inexperience shows. First, the good news. Phoenix successfully manages to establish the heightened atmosphere and emotional tone that she is aiming for, by a writing style rich in imagery and description – mostly without holding up the pace, which clips along at a reasonable rate. That, in itself, is an achievement in my opinion. The main protagonists are suitably complex and well-drawn and the various plot twists are mostly convincing. I also liked her original and somewhat startling take on God and where he fits into the world she has created. It will certainly raise a few eyebrows, but does work nicely within the development of DeNoir – who for my money, was a lot more riveting a character than Dante.
But there are problems with this book, particularly the first half. Written in multiple POV, there are a number of characters – alongside Dante – who also have hidden pasts and major secrets. Add to that the fact that three of them also have code names – and a third of the way into the story, I was seriously confused and debating whether to finish it. It does become clearer as the book continues, but I do think that initial muddle is seriously off-putting.
The other major issue I have is that the book starts with a bang and continues at full tilt. Phoenix writes with the brakes off – and while it is a treat in small doses, reading the book for any length of time is a bit like eating three ice-cream sundaes in a row. And if you have youngsters in the house, you might not want to leave it lying around. In common with many books in this sub-genre, the language, sex and violence are extremely graphic.
Having said that, I found the book a gripping and enjoyable read, once I got past the point of confusion. The final twist was pleasing in that I didn’t see it coming and I look forward to reading Phoenix’s next offering.