Saturday, January 26, 2008

"The Watcher" by Jeanne C. Stein

I just cannot say it often enough; the Anna Strong series by Stein totally kicks butt! This is the sort of writing that I enjoyed back in the early Anita Blake days, back before that character went off the rails (and the author, too, it appears). Anna is a strong yet flawed heroine, one that I have enjoyed each time I've caught up with her.
Anna has been working with police captain Williams in a sort of secret supernatural police force called The Watchers. They basically do just that, watch, unless they find a supernatural sort that's breaking the rules, which of course, draws attention of the human world. For example, early on in the book, Anna is sent after Fisher, a vampire who also happens to be a serial killer; the bodies he's been leaving behind are drawing that undue attention to something that might not quite be "normal". It's a rough thing for Anna to handle, one she doesn't really enjoy all that much.

Suddenly she's contacted by the FBI in the form of Agent Foley; he informs her that her DEA-agent-boyfriend Max has gone incommunicado and is suspected of killing the family of a Mexican drug lord, an evil man who's operation he's been trying to infiltrate since the first book. Anna suspects that Foley isn't telling the truth and heads south of the border to try to find him. In doing so, she runs afoul of a power witch, Belinda Burke, and her coven; they're attempting to raise and bring over a demon on Halloween night (at exactly midnight - duh!). Anna learns that Martinez, the drug lord, has kidnapped Max and is holding him hostage in the hopes that she will attempt a rescue - that way, he can kill her in front of Max, thus causing him the same kind of grief that he, Martinez, experienced at the loss of his family.

Follow all that?

I know, it's a lot of plot for a book running just under 300 pages! Strangely, it works. I always find myself able to keep up; Stein's writing is that tight. The characters are well-written and the whole feel of the book is just really good. As I said before, Anna is a strong heroine but not without her flaws; she knows she has to keep the vampire world separate from the human world, but is still unable to do that. And it's becoming harder for her to hold on to her humanity as well, something that truly frightens her. This installment was pretty dark, I'll admit, but after finishing it, I'm hoping that there are brighter days ahead for Anna. Can't wait until the next book!

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