REVIEW: When Blood Calls by J.K. Beck
Dear Ms. Beck:
I know my blogging partner, Jayne, is a big fan of your Carpe Demon series and I have enjoyed your Harlequin Blaze books but this paranormal detective story seemed like a mishmash of a 100 ideas poured into a tiny space. The people, the concepts, the story all was too much even though many of the details were familiar.
I lacked the ability to read even one chapter without being lost and confused. To add insult to injury, the story isn’t even told linearly so you have huge number of paranormal beings along with police procedure with magical means, legal prosecution, action/adventure, and flashbacks.
The premise is deceptively simple. Sara Constantine is an up and coming assistant prosecutor. She’s tapped to prosecute a vampire by the name of Lucius Dragos. Problem? Sara just enjoyed a one night stand with Luke.
I had problems from the very start. First, Sara has no idea that there is another host of beings that live on the earth with her. She only finds out when she is taken, Get Smart style, through a series of doors, hallways and elevators to a secret and heretofore unknown District 6 which is devoted to prosecuting the magical and paranormal beings. Sara seems to accept this notion of werewolves, demons and vampires with aplomb and is ready to begin her new position of making sure the bad magical beings are put to death. Had Sara chosen not to take this new position, her memory can be descrambled by some other beings ala Men in Black.
Sara is told that she is to begin to prosecute, under a new set of rules, laws that have been developed over a millenia. Laws about which Sara knows nothing. If you stop to examine this set up at any point, the plot holes are gigantic. The idea of an attorney being able to effectively prosecute based on a canon of law with which they are not familiar is incompetent at best, malpractice at worst yet Sara thinks nothing of this nor do her promoting supervisors. Further, she is pulled from the human world into this underworld where humans are rare for this “high profile” case.
Let’s turn our attention to the hero, Lucius whose nickname is Luke. Lucius is a vampire but he has a daemon inside of him as all vampires do (because it’s not enough to be one paranormal being). The daemon seeks blood or sex or both. For instance, on the night that Lucius was out hunting his ultimate vicim his daemon was fixated on killing someone but was satisfied with just bedding Sara. But Luke’s motivation for getting caught killing someone (when he had never been caught before) was weaker than used tissue. He could have accomplished the same thing by not drawing attention to himself.
Now the prosecution. Luke is “dead to rights” (I love that these paranormals use human idioms) because a witness saw the death through the victim’s eyes. So what, the paranormal being who serves as the witness can’t lie? Can’t fabricate anything? There was no explanation in the canon why this witness’ recitation of the facts would be considered absolute truth. In fact, in later parts of the story there is even some suggestion that there are magical creatures who are deceiving other people, including the all knowing, vigilante justice dispenser, Luke . Also, after Sara is told that due process doesn’t really exist like the upstairs world, everyone proceeds to act as if it does, including statements on the record, notification of rights, and so forth. At this point, I’m thinking that if the witness is so dead on, can’t we just stake Luke and get on with the story? The fact is that the underworld is only different from the human world when it’s convenient.
“We have interview rooms and secretaries, along with file sheets smeared with toner because budget cuts don’t allow for the replacement of the copy machines. We have judges and juries, as well as chairs at the counsel tables that desperately need to be reupholstered. We have laws, Constantine, just like you do upstairs. But our laws date back to ancient times, before even the common memory of humans. And when those laws are broken, judgment is swift and punishment is brutal. On the surface, it may look the same. But that is where the similarities end.”
Further because we know that Lucius is guilty and we know Sara is supposed to be made of truth and honor and justice and we know that this is a romance, the only way for this to end well is for Sara to toss aside her rigid stance on adhering to the laws (laws, of course, with which she has passing acquaintance).
What else I found disturbing about this book, and particularly the men in this book, is that none of them are particularly likeable. Lucius does some awful deed when he was turned and he continues to perpetuate a monstrosity that harms others; another guy lusts after a mentally disturbed and child-like vampire; still another runs around and drinks the blood of hookers until they are nearly dead. It was like a contest to see which male was going to be the doer of the worst deeds possible but still be redeemed.
I think this story is supposed to be about the wisdom and rightness of vigilante justice yet that thread is long lost by the half way point as is the prosecution of Lucius that so much of the first half was given over to developing. Instead it turns into more an action book as bad vampires and bad people are hunted down, loved ones are put in danger, and Lucius must come to the rescue. I guess vigilante justice wins by default?
This story is dark, violent, with huge plot holes and fairly unlikeable characters. It was easy to put down and hard to pick back up again. Despite the agnst, the time spent building up secondary characters, and the burgeoning magical world, I have no desire to read the rest of the books in this series. I shipped off the remaining two ARCs to another reviewer. Maybe she’ll have better luck than I.