This second installment deftly reinforces an intelligent, absorbing supernatural series.

SCRIBBLING THE ETERNAL

From the Black Wax Vampire Trilogy series , Vol. 2

In this sequel, a young vampire seeks revenge against the vicious and powerful empress responsible for her mother’s death.

It’s been six years since Orly Solodnikova lost her mother, who committed suicide by sunlight. Bloodline empress Mirela Cobălcescu persuaded her to do so by promising not to kill her daughter. Orly has spent those years in Japan with fellow vampire Berthold Leitz, who had been in love with her mother. But Orly still wants retribution upon returning to Los Angeles with Berthold and Mayuko Mochizuki, Orly’s mortal servant who’s become her closest friend. Surprisingly, Mirela invites Orly to Romania for the upcoming Communion of the Ancients, when the centuries-old Ancients offer their blood to the empress. Mirela wants to utilize Orly for her scribbles, a pre-vampirism skill in which she sees people’s deepest secrets. The empress suspects traitors among the Ancients, including the Eternal—the ones who have survived over 2,000 years. But Mirela also wants to be Orly’s lover. Indeed, Orly craves romantic love, and potential suitors are lacking, as the 22-year-old vampire is stuck in a 12-year-old body. Although Mirela vows to steal a woman’s body for Orly, trust between the two comes in small doses. Orly, meanwhile, discovers possible allies among the Eternal but must remain cautious, as Mirela, at 5,000-plus years, is the oldest of her bloodline. The key to defeating her may lie with enigmatic Ji’Indushul, whose name repeatedly appears in the Ancients’ scribbles and whom Orly will have to find.

Tomoguchi’s sequel is just as somber as the series opener. Orly, for one, is so desperate for affection that she gets in contact online with a pedophile. Even intimate moments between Mirela and Orly, which aren’t excessively graphic, still involve an “underdeveloped,” prepubescent body. Nevertheless, endlessly enthralling characters populate the story. The lengthy opening in Japan aptly establishes Orly’s rock-solid bond with Mayuko, who joins her in Romania. But Orly isn’t the most compassionate protagonist; as she must regularly feed, she kills mortals with callousness and no remorse. The author rarely strays from well-known vampire lore: The immortals drink blood, sleep in coffins, and have such powers as a mesmerizing gaze. But as Orly has been a vampire for a mere decade, her abilities are limited, and she gradually acquires new skills, including telepathy. At the same time, there’s the Oblivion, a memorable dreamlike place that only certain vampires can reach and which renders them vulnerable. Occasional humor, though minimal, somewhat alleviates the story’s bleak tone: After Orly refuses to drink from a willing mortal savored by other vampires, Mirela dubs her a “blood snob.” Still, the unnerving moments take precedence. In one scene, Mayuko screams when she spots a blatant attack against Orly. But no one in Mirela’s castle immediately responds since a “mortal scream” is an all-too-common occurrence. As the story progresses, Orly questions her own motivations (perhaps she has genuine feelings for her enemy), ultimately leading to some indelible plot turns and a blistering denouement.

This second installment deftly reinforces an intelligent, absorbing supernatural series. (acknowledgments)

Pub Date: Nov. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-578-55993-3

Page Count: 537

Publisher: Ink Bleed Books

Review Posted Online: May 8, 2020

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THE SANATORIUM

A hotel built on the grounds of a sanatorium has more dead bodies than paying guests.

A police detective on sabbatical after flubbing a case, Elin Warner travels with her boyfriend, Will, to Le Sommet, a remote, glass-walled, five-star hotel in the Swiss Alps, at the invitation of her estranged brother, Isaac. Isaac is throwing a party to celebrate his engagement to Laure, assistant manager at the hotel, which has been the focus of local controversy due to its shadowy history. Elin's creepy feelings about the trip are quickly confirmed as a storm cuts off access to the mountain, a receptionist is kidnapped, a dead body is found in the snow, and Laure disappears. As overloaded, grisly, and ultimately silly as Pearse's locked-room debut may be, the biggest mystery is how Elin ever made it out of the police academy. As she slowly reasons her way through the unfolding situation, her deductions of even the most obvious points appear in italics—"That means Laure has another phone." "This…it isn't an accident. She's been killed. This is murder"—as do what seem to be the protagonist’s questions to herself about how to move things along. "So where could they have gone?" "So what are my next steps going to be?" "She examines the glass balustrade in front of her. Can I get over it?" What Elin can't get over is a tragedy in her childhood for which she holds her brother responsible; it comes up every few pages until being resolved with a not-too-believable twist that may or may not be retwisted in a mystifying epilogue. Fortunately for Elin, she does have a few insider tricks up her sleeve. "She knows that there is an app called Find My iPhone...it would show the last location where it had a signal." Wait. Why are you laughing? This is a thriller!

Oh, dear.

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-59-329667-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: today

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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Not for the squeamish but a jolt for thriller junkies.

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The 10th installment in the Gray Man series begins with a dent in the hero’s armor and revs up with nonstop action.

Court Gentry, aka the Gray Man, is recovering from a stab wound, and he really needs to get some rest. He’s tired and badly weakened, not yet fit for operational duty, but the CIA’s off-the-books contract killer is “wholly unaccustomed to free time.” Soon he’s in Caracas, trying to spring his comrade in arms Zack Hightower from a Venezuelan prison. Then he’s off to Germany to deal with a possible coordinated attack on Americans in Berlin. Gentry, whose CIA code name is Violator, is that rare killer with a heart, so he takes only “righteous and worthy” assignments and does them right. His CIA boss congratulates him on one assassination, saying “You put a warhead on his forehead.” Gentry’s in love with Zoya Zakharova, a field operative also working for the CIA, but gunning down bad guys keeps both too busy for a meaningful relationship. Meanwhile, a sultan in the United Arab Emirates can hardly wait for his father to die of cancer, and an Iranian Quds sleeper agent plots mayhem in Berlin. Evildoers abound in this bloody thriller, including Americans. But the star of the scum is Maksim Akulov, who works for the Russian Mafia and whose target is Zakharova. Think of Akulov as the Gray Man without the moral compass. The title aptly fits the plot, as the hero scarcely takes a breather. There’s enough bloodshed to pour into two thrillers, and author Greaney doesn’t spare the good guys. Gentry’s body is “racked with pain and exhaustion” much of the time, but he is relentless. And Zack gets more than scratched while he thinks that “fighting a robot attack would be one badass way to go.”

Not for the squeamish but a jolt for thriller junkies.

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-09895-0

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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