When Blood Calls
J.K. Beck gets her new paranormal series off to a strong, intriguing start. Though I am most familar with her writing through her Tales of a Demon Hunting Soccer Mom written as Julie Kenner, she proves in this book that she can write a much darker, grittier world very well. Though her world has a fairly complex structure (complex enough that it lost me at times), I felt myself beginning to believe in it and by the end I couldn’t wait to see where her characters’ journeys would take them.
The book opens ominously as a supernatural agent investigates the scene of a judge’s murder. This agent has the power to see a victim’s last few moments through their eyes and in doing so, he appears to have found the judge’s killer. The action then shifts to that killer, Lucius “Luke” Dragos. We quickly learn that Dragos has his eye on the investigators closing in on him, and we learn that he has a ward for whom he will do most anything in order to keep her safe – and that Dragos is a vampire.
In another scene jump, we finally get to our heroine, the human prosecutor Sara Constantine. Fresh off securing the conviction of a serial killer, Sara’s stock is high indeed. Her skills are sharp enough that she has come to the notice of her superiors and she is offered a promotion to the very secretive Division 6 prosecuting crimes committed by Shadow creatures (vampires, werewolves, etc…). Upon entering Division 6, Sara is asked to sit in on the interview of a murder suspect. The suspect, Luke, is none other than the man with whom Sara spent one unforgettable night.
You would expect the story following to feature all manner of mutual lust as well as an investigation by the heroine to clear Luke’s name. Once cleared and renderly purely heroic, the two can then fall into each other’s arms free of guilt, right? Not quite. To Beck’s credit, her book takes the reader to much more complex territory. Her leads come in shades of grey and the moral choices they make are neither simple nor simplistic. Sara believes deeply in the justice system, and in the power of the rule of law. She wants to follow the rules and someone like Luke who makes choices that don’t necessarily follow the same rules Sara uses definitely challenges her. Likewise, her questioning of Luke’s way of life also forces Luke to reexamine himself.
As a result, the sexual chemistry between Luke and Sara is hot, but their intellectual chemistry works, too. Their relationship ends up being more complex than the average mutual lustfest. The worldbuilding in this book is rather complex, too. Though I enjoyed it, I did sometimes find myself wanting to cut through the layers of rules and explanations so that I could just live in the story a bit more. I enjoyed the paranormal world of the story, but the various rivalries between types of creatures as well as individual personality conflicts made the story too convoluted on occasion.
With so much going for it, I only had one major beef with this story – Luke’s ward. Given Luke’s past, I can understand why he would feel drawn to a helpless and childlike person like Tasha. However, she is a truly annoying character and, even though she is important to the plot, I got rather sick of hearing about her. Even so, I appreciated the world of When Blood Calls in all of its moral complexity. It’s a cut above the usual, and I definitely plan to follow the series.