“Blood. Power. Death.”
From serial killer to vampire hunter. Perhaps Johansen has decided to feed on the current glut of vampire stories, as protagonist forensic pathologist Eve Duncan is immersed in a quest for a serial killer who fancies himself one of the dark creatures. Tortured by the death of her young daughter, Bonnie, years earlier, Eve learns of a burying ground, one where Bonnie and countless others are resting.
Unfortunately, Bonnie is not one of the bodies discovered. Now Eve is caught up once again in the horrors of her imagination, unable to put her little daughter to rest. Time and disappointment have taken a toll on Eve, her adopted daughter, Jane, and Eve’s longtime lover, former Atlanta FBI agent Joe Quinn. Bonnie’s loss is the glue that binds Joe and Eve, he determined to comfort Duncan in any way he can.
Now another potential fiend is on the loose, taking the lives of innocents as he works himself toward the greatest prize of all: Eve Duncan. Kevin Jelak is a stone killer and a follower of a 14th-century Italian cult, working his way to his resurrection via Eve. Crazy? You bet. But Jelak believes every word of his twisted doctrine, convinced that Duncan is the key to nirvana.
Whether Jelak knows anything about Bonnie’s death becomes less relevant as the story unfolds: a series of ritual murders, golden goblets etched with the dried blood of victims, and the inclusion of yet another unique figure - as if Jelak is not bizarre enough - vampire hunter and manipulator extraordinaire Seth Caleb. Caleb has made a study of Jelak and his cult, one of the few experts in predicting the potential moves in a deadly blood game.
I question Jelak’s premise, but Johansen offers interesting tidbits to stave off unbelievers: Why only women victims? Women’s blood is smooth and complex, while men’s blood is less valuable, too dominant and aggressive. And there I was thinking that it was all about image, the erotic attraction of the female drained of her life’s elixir. Still, there is no denying that Jelak as vampire is specious at best.
Even more difficult to comprehend is the presence of ghosts in this particular tale, the newly dead unable to find rest while Jelak threatens others and courts Eve and daughter Jane in his escalating if outrageous mission. Unfortunately, without the dark humor of Jeff Lindsay’s Dexter, this cat-and-mouse bloodbath is only occasionally intriguing - but I say, if you can stomach the vampire theory, what’s the harm in a few ghosts? In any case, I suspect there’s some serious glamoring going on in this bizarre novel.