In Arriaza’s supernatural debut novel, a doctor aids a wounded stranger who shows up on her property and then faces a wave of otherworldly creatures.
Dr. Melisa Castro plans to spend her vacation in bed with Chris Kosmatka, her fiance and the father of her son-to-be. But while she waits for Chris to return from work, someone else drops by—a man who rolls down a hill, right into her LA backyard. As she tends to him, she’s shocked by his large, open, but bloodless chest wound, and when she touches it, she has a vision of the man restrained and someone stabbing him. Elsewhere in the city, the enigmatic Ranald, who perpetually wears a leather jacket and sunglasses, is trying to track down a stolen dagger. The blade had the power to kill a powerful individual known as the Hunter, whose now-missing body was its last resting place. The Hunter could also be linked to vicious animal attacks that cops (including Melisa’s brother, Walter) are investigating. As her visions continue, Melisa also learns that she’s marrying into a family that hides a dark secret. Arriaza’s entertaining tale features a few traditional supernatural beings that readers will recognize, but he employs their familiarity to the story’s advantage, simplifying the plot by cutting down on unnecessary back story. This helps the book maintain a steady momentum, particularly in the brisk final act, which is filled with inevitable confrontations. The real highlights, however, are the characters’ constantly shifting alliances. Some of the descriptions are repetitive (the word “massive,” for instance, is used too often), but they detail the action in concise, clipped sentences: “She can see his eyes. Beautiful blue eyes. He is screaming something; she can’t understand it.” Much of the explanation of what’s really going on, including ties to religion, is reserved for the end, and it’s coherent while also leaving plenty to explore in future planned volumes.
An enticing tale and an effective introduction to an expansive fictional world.