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Friday, December 18, 2015

Novel by Lilith Saintcrow: "Blood Call"

Author:  Lilith Saintcrow 
Title:  Blood Call 
Plot Type:  Urban Fantasy (UF)
Ratings:  Violence4; Sensuality3; Humor—1 
Publisher:  Orbit (8/2015)

                          PUBLISHER'S BLURB                          

     A brand new thriller with a supernatural twist from New York Times bestselling author Lilith Saintcrow. 

     Anna Caldwell has spent the last few days in a blur. She's seen her brother's dead body, witnessed the shooting of innocent civilians, and been shot at herself. Now she has nowhere to turn-and only one person she can possibly call. 

     Since Anna dumped him, it seems waiting is all Josiah Wolfe has done. Now, she's calling, and she needs his helpor rather, the "talents" she once ran away from. As a liquidation agent, Josiah knows everything about getting out of tough situations. He'll get whatever she's carrying to the proper authorities, then settle down to making sure she doesn't leave him again. 

     But the story Anna's stumbled into is far bigger than even Josiah suspects. Anna wants to survive, Josiah wants Anna back, and the powerful people chasing her want the only thing worth killing forimmortality. An ancient evil has been trapped, a woman is in danger, and the world is going to see just how far a liquidation agent will go. 

                          MY REVIEW                          
     Somehow, this novel slipped through the cracks, and I just got around to reading it this week. It's a very quick read with a fast-paced plot and an interesting premise set for the most part in a contemporary, mostly human culture. Into this urban setting, Saintcrow lets a bit of the supernatural bleed through the cracks into some dark corners. Saintcrow tells the story in the third person voice, alternating between Anna's and Josiah's perspective.

     Several years ago, Anna broke off her relationship with Josiah when she discovered that he had failed to tell her that he was a mercenary assassin. She never gave him a chance to explain his reasons for keeping his work a secret. Instead, she had a major tantrum, called him a lot of terrible names, and stormed out of his life. (For example, she called him a "filthy f---ing murderer," and screamed that "It makes me sick to think you ever touched me.") Although she claims to have missed him terribly all these years, she has never considered that her harsh words and her abrupt rejection hurt him and that he has probably missed her, too. After all, they were deeply in love and on the verge of eloping. But Anna is an egocentric young woman who rarely thinks about the feelings of others. By the third chapter, I was so sick of her whining that it was hard to read the scenes that were written from her perspective. Anna's deplorable behavior continues throughout the book. Just pages from the end, she finally realizes how badly she has wounded Josiah emotionally: "How long had he been hurting like that? Since she'd left him?…She'd never known. Never even guessed." 
Could she be any more self-absorbed?

     The story begins when Josiah gets a call from Anna on a burner cell phone that he has kept ever since she left him. (Later in the book, when Anna learns that Josiah kept that phone with him at all times just waiting for her call, she reacts in her usual clueless manner: "He'd kept it all this time, for some reason. It was only a few dollars and some hassle to change a number, right? Maybe he just didn't want to go through all that.") In any case, Anna begs for Josiah's help, explaining that her brother Eric has been murdered and that men with guns are stalking her. Then, she deeply insults Josiah by offering to buy his services to kill the men who murdered Eric, since he's such a hotshot murderer and all. Although Josiah has retired from the assassin business, he immediately steps up to help, along with Hassan and Wilhelmina (Willie)—his live-in staff and long-time partners and friends.

     The rest of the book follows the four "good guys" as they try to figure out the meaning of some mysterious notes and photographs that Eric gave Anna just before he died. Then, the situation gets very strange when the supernatural element makes a violent entrance into the plot. From that point on, the action is nonstop as Josiah, Hassan, and Willie fight off human enemies (i.e., local mobsters, covert government operatives) and supernatural attackers as they try to stay alive long enough to learn the truth about what is going on. Anna's role in the battles is to huddle hysterically against the wall, or in a corner, or in the bathtub with the expectation that Josiah and his friends will protect her. The most interesting person in the book is the primary supernatural character, who is delightfully charming and well spoken in between his bouts of gory ferocity.

     After the first attack, Josiah splits the group up, sending Anna with Willie and Hassan and going off on his own to do some further investigation. By this point, Josiah has rescued Anna from the side of the road; provided her with medical treatment, food, and safe shelter; fought off an attack by her pursuers; and is working on some strategies for future actions. For Anna, however, this isn't enough. When she throws yet another tantrum, Josiah explains that the situation has gotten exponentially worse and that his earlier plans have now changed. All Anna wants, though, is for him to kill Eric's murderers—right now. 
"My job is to make sure you don't join him. Revenge is pointless, Anna…." 
…"You won't help me?"…
"I am helping you. This is bigger than we thought. We're going to lie low for a little while, and I'm going to call in a few favors…" 
"You said you'd help me." 
"I am helping you," he repeated. 
"By getting you somewhere safe so I can work." 
"Oh, yes. Your…work." (Note: This sneering line oozes disdain for the man who loves her and is desperately trying to keep her alive.) 
     Later in the conversation, Josiah says, "Do me a favor and stop arguing with me. I have to think." Anna responds, "About what?" How stupid is this woman?"

     This novel would have been a hit if it weren't for the fact that the heroine is an immature, illogical, inane, insipid, irrational idiot who is definitely NOT interesting, impressive, or intelligent. (Sorry, there were so many appropriate "i" words that I couldn't resist.) Although Anna is 30 years old, she behaves like a naive, hysterical teenager. I will admit that Josiah makes a major wrong move on her early in their reunion, but he does apologize later. Anna refuses to accept his apology, though, and keeps throwing it back in his face. It never occurs to her to apologize to him for her own bad behavior. Anna is a real piece of work and entirely unworthy of Josiah's long-standing devotion. Josiah and his friends may be hired assassins, but they come across as caring individuals, not the blood-soaked mad killers Anna imagines them to be. Josiah obviously loves Anna (for reasons I cannot comprehend), but she is too self-absorbed to be aware of anything but her own distorted emotional world. It's really a shame that Saintcrow didn't give this story a stronger heroine. 

     Click HERE to go to Blood Call's page to read an excerpt by clicking on the cover art.

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