Source: supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: paranormal, romantic suspense, thriller
Series: Blackbird Trilogy #1
Published by Mira on June 27, 2023
Purchasing Info: Author's Website, Publisher's Website, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Bookshop.org
When darkness falls, there’s nowhere to hide.
Four bodies have been discovered along Europe’s riverbanks, placed with care—and completely drained of blood. Pinpricks on their throats indicate a slender murder weapon, but DNA found in the wounds suggests something far more sinister. Tasked with investigating, the FBI recruits Agents Della Hamilton and Mason Carter to Blackbird, an international offshoot of the Krewe of Hunters. If you want to catch a vampire killer, you need agents who can speak with the dead.
The pair travel to Norway, where the shadowy forests of Lillehammer reveal a gruesome scene. The killer is thirsty for more victims, and the bloodless trail soon leads Della and Mason to a group that believes drinking blood is the key to immortality. To catch the culprit of such an intimate crime, the agents will have to get close. Mason’s already lost one partner; he’s not ready to risk Della as bait. But sometimes justice requires a sacrifice…
Bram Stoker used every myth and legend of blood-drinking ghouls – and there were plenty of them – and added just a pinch of history (and a tiny pinch at that) to create his legendary blood-sucking monster, Count Dracula.
The vampire killer that the latest members of the Krewe of Hunters are chasing, on the other hand, just cribbed off of Hollywood to create his own version of that legendary villain. Which does not make him any less frightening or any less of a monster.
Perhaps even a bit more so, as he seems to have all the mesmerizing charm of those movie villains, as well as an uncanny ability to choose “apprentices” who can be persuaded to carry on his work with just the right promises of infamy and immortality couched in cult-like justification.
But this serial killer is absolutely not a “real” vampire – even if he is a blood-sucking fiend. He’s still only human – and crazy like a fox.
The Krewe of Hunters is a very special unit of the FBI, as established in the first book in the long-running series, Phantom Evil. As part of the FBI, the Krewe operates in the United States, based out of New Orleans. But this wannabe vampire killer is operating in Europe. Mostly. So far. But not for long.
With murders attributed to this madman scattered from London to Paris to Lillehammer in Norway – when this story begins – Interpol and the various local police agencies are in the hunt up to their necks – so to speak – when the FBI assigns two new members of the Krewe to the international team hunting the killer.
Although the Krewe often deals with supernatural crimes, there isn’t anything woo-woo about the vampire killer – no matter his method of draining the blood of his victims. But that doesn’t mean that the special abilities that the Krewe’s members have won’t come to excellent use in this hunt.
Agents Della Hamilton and Mason Carter, both new to the Krewe, are able to see – and speak to – ghosts. A talent that is going to help them catch this killer before any more of his victims join the dead.
Escape Rating B+: I picked this up because I was looking for something with more of a romantic suspense vibe, I had vague memories of having read at least a few of the early books in the Krewe of Hunters series, and this looked like a good place to jump back in.
And so it proved.
The Krewe of Hunters series is 38 books and counting, and I’ll admit I didn’t feel like starting back near the beginning. At least not right now, although I certainly liked this more than enough for the series to go into my comfort reads rotation. But I don’t remember any more of the setup than is provided in this first book in the new Blackbird subseries, so you don’t need to be familiar with the Krewe to start here.
Whispers at Dusk struck me as a combination of Jayne Ann Krentz’ contemporary entries in her Arcane Society/Harmony series, as the team has a mix of psychic or other special talents which are useful to solving the case without necessarily being integral to it. The quick flash and hot burn of the romance between Della and Mason also has a similar vibe to the romances in that series. At the same time it blends the putting the band together and police procedural aspects of Andrea Kane’s Forensic Instincts series (another series I need to get a round tuit to get back to!)
The case in this one is taut and chilling. While no one – at least on the police side – is fool enough to believe there’s a real vampire, the idea that a serial killer has chosen to strike fear by mimicking one is bad enough. That the killer is training others in his methods and leaving a cult of killers in his wake is enough to give anyone the heebie-jeebies, vampire or no.
What keeps the reader on the edge of their seat is the relentless pace of the story, as the killer leads the newly-formed team on a not-merry-at-all chase from one remote and historically significant location to another, from Lillehammer to the Orkneys to the swamps around Lake Pontchartrain, leaving clues and victims in their wake while dropping hints of their next kill and their intent to make Della their crowning achievement – either by turning her to their ‘dark side’ or leaving her drained corpse as a final monument to their twisted genius.
This one is a creeping, blood-sucking thrill ride from beginning to end. I will absolutely be back for the second installment in this suspenseful chase for next in this series of serial killers with in twist in Secrets in the Dark, coming next month!