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From the Black Wax Vampire Trilogy series , Vol. 2

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

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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


More style than substance.

Michaelides takes a literary turn in his latest novel, employing an unreliable narrator, the structure of classical drama, and a self-conscious eye to dismantling the locked-room mystery.

The novel starts off with a murder, and with seven people trapped on an isolated Greek island lashed by a "wild, unpredictable Greek wind." The narrator, soon established as Elliot Chase, then zooms out to address the reader directly, introducing the players—most importantly movie star Lana Farrar. We meet her husband, Jason Miller, her son, Leo, and her friend Kate Crosby, a theater actress. We learn about her rise to fame and her older first husband, Otto Krantz, a Hollywood producer. We learn about Kate’s possibly stalling career and Leo’s plan to apply to acting schools against his mother’s wishes. We learn about Jason’s obsession with guns. And in fragments and shards, we learn about Elliot: his painful childhood; his May–September relationship with an older female writer, now dead; his passion for the theater, where he learned “to change everything about [himself]” to fit in. Though he isn't present in every scene, he conveys each piece of the story leading up to the murder as if he were an omniscient narrator, capable of accessing every character's interior perspective. When he gets to the climax, there is, indeed, a shooting. There is, indeed, a motive. And there is, of course, a twist. The atmosphere of the novel, set mostly on this wild Greek island, echoes strongly the classical tragedies of Greece. The characters are types. The emotions are operatic. And the tragedy, of course, leads us to question the idea of fate. Michaelides seems also to be dipping into the world of Edgar Allan Poe, offering an unreliable narrator who feels more like a literary exercise. As an exploration of genre, it’s really quite fascinating. As a thriller, it’s not particularly surprising.

More style than substance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2024

ISBN: 9781250758989

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2023


Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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