by Kat Richardson
Recommended Ages: 14+
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One of the few drawbacks of listening to this series in audio-book form, with Mia Barron reading for SciFi Audio, is that I don’t know how to spell the name of one of the creatures introduced in it. Not knowing how to spell it also hampers my attempts to learn more about it on the internet. In the fourth “Greywalker” novel, featuring a tough female private detective with paranormal powers, Harper Blaine plunges deeper into the undead subculture and encounters varieties of vampire that I don’t know how to spell. So it’s going to be tough telling you about them. But I shouldn’t complain, because if anybody has a tough time on this case, it’s Harper.
It begins with a visit from the ghost of a former lover, challenging Harper to look into her own past if she wants to learn more about why she is what she is. Till now, she has always assumed that her brief taste of death at the beginning of Book 1 was the start of her Greywalking career. But a visit to her old stomping grounds in Los Angeles forces Harper to reconsider. Her demanding, man-hungry mother reveals that Harper’s father didn’t die of a heart attack, as she had always been told. A browse through his journal reveals that he was, in fact, a seriously disturbed man who killed himself because he couldn’t handle seeing Grey things. It seems someone (or something) was grooming Robert Blaine for a horrible purpose. And when he died, the focus of those plans, like the Greywalking powers, shifted to his daughter. To Harper.
While she is still reeling from the discovery that death and the Grey have been woven into her life since childhood, Harper gets summoned into the presence of Edward Kammerling, the totally non-sparkly vampire king of the Pacific Northwest. Edward is concerned about his financial holdings in London, where his man-of-business has stopped answering calls. He suspects that something sinister (even for vampires) is going on in the London underworld, and he persuades Harper to suss it out. What she finds is a city divided between three clans of vampires, one of which I can’t spell; let’s just say it dates back to ancient Egypt and sucks more than blood out of its victims.
Joined by an enemy of Harper’s and Edward’s they both thought was dead, and by a river-spawn creature that hungers for human flesh, and by a Jewish sorcerer who has kept himself alive for centuries by the power of grisly rites, these what’s-their-names have taken over the other vampire gangs and consolidated their hold on the horrible side of London. They also have working for them, at various times, a golem, a serial-killer ghost called Norren the Butcher, and a type of super-vampire, which I also can’t spell. This guy’s lust for blood and violence burns briefly but ever so intensely. And, oh yes, they have a hostage who makes it all very personal for Harper: her ex-boyfriend Will Novak.
But then, Harper has some help too. She finds support from a clockwork lady, a chorus of talking statues, a lion-headed Egyptian goddess, and a British Greywalker who can still see the Grey even after losing both his eyes. Will’s kid brother Michael, who has hardly begun to believe in ghosts and vampires, is not so much a help as a dead weight. Mostly, however, Harper must rely on her own wit and grit, with a bit of luck sprinkled on top. Saving Will, to say nothing of Edward’s financial empire, will mean plunging into the darkest crypt in Greater London, fleeing through its narrow and winding streets, and finally fighting hand-to-hand with creatures of the night in a graveyard loaded with magical energy. And for the first time in her career, she will have to kill to survive.
Harper Blaine’s growth as a Greywalker takes another big step in this installment, but it is not finished. By the end of the book, she has only just learned the disturbing truth about who was behind her beating death two years ago, and she still does not know what use they are preparing to make of her. Count on it, more discoveries are in store for her, and for us, in the fifth book: Labyrinth.