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Saturday, July 2, 2011


Author: Jeannie Holmes
Series: ALEXANDRA SABIAN (Romantic Horror)
Ratings: V5; S3-4; H1
Publisher and Titles: Blood Law (2010); Blood Secrets (7/2011) 

     This blog entry was updated on 9/1/11 to include a review of Blood Secrets, which follows this summary of the series so far:

    Let me say right off the bat that, contrary to the cover art and the author's web site, this is not an urban fantasy (UF) series. We are missing all of the requisite UF characteristics: no kick-ass heroine, no dark and gritty urban setting, and no well-developed supernatural mythology. Blood Law and Blood Secrets both read like hackneyed serial killer horror stories with some vampires thrown in without much thought. We do have lots of scenes in which the killer gloats over his bloody trophies (the reason for the high violence rating and the "horror" caption).

     The world portrayed in this series has vampires, but no vampire mythology. The small town of Jefferson, Mississippi, looks pretty much like any small town, even with half the population being vampires. These vamps have made themselves known to the public, but the only vampire traits they have are their fangs and their need for human blood or its synthetic equivalent—and  they don't seem to need much of that. At one point, the heroine goes for three days on just a small vial of synthetic blood (aka Vlad's Tears). Otherwise, the vampires are much the same as humans: able to walk in the sun, bear children (who are also vampires), and eat regular food. In other words, these vamps are more June Cleaver than Bill Compton. In one scene in book 1, a vampire shows extra strength when he carries two beer kegs, but that trait is not really played up anywhere else. The heroine tells us that vampires have superior night vision, but we never see any of them using it. The heroine does have psychometric powers, but she really doesn't do much with that talent except to allow it to mess with her mind.

     Blood Law opens with a description of bloody decapitated vampire heads, the result of murders by a mysterious serial killer who is getting revenge for the unsolved murder of his wife by a vampire. We aren't told the identity of the killer until late in the book, but we figure it out long before that, even with the multitude of red herrings that are strewn throughout the chapters. The story is told in the third person, jumping back and forth among about a half dozen of the main and supporting characters. No typographical clues are provided between the shifts in point of view, and that can get to be confusing. Usually, a publisher will use some type of symbol as a separation device when the story shifts to another person.

     The lead couple is made up of two Enforcers for the Federal Bureau of Preternatural Investigation (FBPI). Alexandra Sabian handles supernatural crime in Jefferson. In her past cases, she has had to contend with drug busting (Midnight, a drug used by vampires to get high) and with the continual disparagement of the local cops, many of whom hate vampires with a passion. Alexandra's ex-fiancé is Varik Baudelaire, a retired Enforcer who was also Alexandra's mentor. They split up several years ago after he attacked her in a fit of blood lust after being injured on the job, almost draining her. When decapitated vampires begin showing up around Jefferson, Alexandra is on the case, but the FBPI decides to reactivate Varik and send him in to help her. Needless to say, Alexandra is not thrilled when Varik shows up.

     In Blood Law, the two Enforcers spend more time mooning over their lost love and trying not to fall into bed with each other than they do on catching the killer. As the plot progresses, the mysterious killer is doing more killing and the Human Separatist Movement members are holding hate meetings, but the police aren't doing much in the way of investigation. Instead of studying the clues and trying to solve the crimes, the Enforcers and the local cops spend most of their time standing around sniping insults at one another or racing off to new murder scenes. To add confusion to the action, Alexandra has a series of dreams about her dead father (also a vampire), who was murdered in the same manner as the current dead vamps. Apparently Dad is caught on a metaphysical plane (aka the Shadowland) that exists between the physical world and the spiritual world. Once again, there is a complete lack of mythology to explain the Shadowland's existence. Every time Alexandra faints (which she does a LOT) or is knocked unconscious (ditto), her mind wanders off to visit Daddy. This whole "crossing the Veil" thing seems weird and adds nothing to the main plot. Neither do the ghosts that appear in a few scenes. Only Alexandra can see them, but it's hard to know why they're included in the story because they certainly don't seem to have a purpose. 

     The villains have absolutely no redeeming qualities. They are all stereotypical bigoted southern redneck SOBs—straight out of a B (or D) movie. In the worst of the clichéd scenes, one of the villains leans back in his chair with cigarette smoke curling around his face as he thinks about his crimes and laughs and laughs, like the Joker in a Batman movie. We can almost see him twirling his moustache and cackling, "Bwahahahaha!"

FBPI. Alexandra and Varik have one bedroom (really, hotel room) scene near the end, but with not too many details. The sensuality rating is barely a 3.

     Just as in the previous book, Blood Secrets begins with a grisly scene starring the book's serial killer, who is ritually murdering every red-haired young girl he can find in Jefferson. (What's up with these tiny towns and their hordes of serial killers?) And just as in the previous book we have multiple villains, some more despicable than others. Once again, the ups and downs of the romance between Alexandra and Varik are front and center. The plot moves from one cliché to the next (more than one character has his "stomach knot with dread"), with the demented killer trying to wipe Varik out of Alexandra's mind and make her his soul matefor no apparent reason other than that he saw her in the Shadowland years ago and liked her looks. We never really learn much more about him. As the plot plays out, Alexandra and the killer sporadically visit the Hall of Records, which exists in the Shadowland beyond the Veil, but, once again, there is no mythology and no real explanation of how and why any of this exists. Clues are dropped about the earlier years of Alexandra's family, including a big reveal about her parentage, but for no apparent purpose, except to lead the way to yet another horror-filled book. We also learn more about Varik's pastnone of it good. This is derivative horror fiction masquerading as urban fantasy, and I won't be reviewing any more books in this series.

Creepiest line in Blood Law When Alexandra gets accusatory with Varik about his days as a hunter and killer of rogue vampires, he explains that she is "too young to understand" and "it was different back in those days." He tells Alexandra that her mother would understand: "Your mother and I are from a different age..." Ewwww! That is NOT that what you want to hear from your boyfriend!  

A few overwrought lines from Blood Secrets demonstrate the level of triteness as the killer snuffs out yet another victim: 
     "The scalpel flashed in the light and her breathing increased, as did her futile pitiful sniveling....Peter pressed close to her naked body. The need to find solace from the inner fire that burned his flesh and tortured his mind consumed him." (p. 132) (At least his stomach isn't knotting with dread.) 

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