Published 2009 336 pages
Summary (from the book jacket)
“How I felt the mental stirrings of a bloodthirsty heritage when I passed through the gray light wasn’t my favourite topic.... The Auphe nature wasn’t mine. I wouldn’t let it be. And if I said that to myself over and over and sprinkled around enough frigging fairy dust, maybe it would be true.”
Half-human Cal Leandros and his brother, Niko, are barely getting by with their preternatural detective agency when the vampire Seamus hires them. He’s being followed, and he wants to know by whom. But the Leandros brothers have to do more than they had planned when Seamus turns up dead (or un-undead).
Worse still is the return of Cal’s nightmarish family, the Auphe. The last time Cal and Niko faced them, the Auphe were almost wiped out. Now they want revenge. Cal knows that before the Auphe get to him, they will try to destroy everything and everyone he holds dear. Because for the Auphe, Cal’s pain is a pleasure.
And they’re feeling good.
Deathwish is the fourth book in Rob Thurman’s remarkably good Cal Leandros urban fantasy series. If you aren’t already familiar with the series, don’t start reading here. Deathwish continues Cal and Niko’s adventures from exactly where Madhouse’s cliff hanger ending left off – this, and the strong story arc that runs throughout the series, make it necessary to read these books in series order. Which is no hardship because they are all rather good.
Previously, all the books in this series have been narrated in first person from Cal’s point of view. Lazy, sarcastic, and occasionally homicidal, Cal’s snarky commentary has always struck the right balance between sarcastic humour and storytelling. While Deathwish is still narrated in first person the author takes the fairly radical step of adding Niko’s voice into the mix and swapping the point of view between the two brothers every chapter. For the most part this change of perspective works well. It allows the story to have a couple of surprises that wouldn’t have worked without the POV switch but Cal and Niko’s voices are fairly similar, so on occasion it’s possible to forget who is talking - leading to the odd “Huh?” moment until memory returns.
The book’s cover description is a little misleading – preternatural detection plays a very small part in this story. In fact, if I was Seamus I’d ask for my money back. Cal and Niko spend precious little time investigating his mystery stalker and even less time trying to find his murderer. Family problems overtake, not just the brothers, but Promise (Niko’s vampire girlfriend) as well – leaving little time for the complications of paying clients.
Cal and Niko’s problems are nothing new. Cal’s monster relations, the Auphe, are out of hiding and are more determined than ever to drag Cal back to his own personal hell. Cal finally seems to be coming into his Auphe inheritance since he is now able to make gates (rips in space that he can travel through) at will. But this ability comes with a price – homicidal inclinations and the awareness that his Auphe genes are stronger than he thought. The final showdown between Cal and the Auphe has been building for a couple of books and this exciting plotline drives Deathwish forward at a good pace.
Promise’s family problems are more surprising. In classic soap opera style, her previously unmentioned adult daughter suddenly appears at her door (or more accurately, bursts through her window.) In the mythology of this series vampires are a separate species to humans, so Cherish (Promise’s daughter) is also a vampire but traditional vampire elements in this story are pretty low key. More time is spent spilling blood than drinking it. And there is no shortage of blood to spill with a whole menagerie of South American mythical monsters out to get Cherish…
While Deathwish has little new character development between Cal and Niko, Promise’s character is expanded further and her relationship with Niko certainly develops in unexpected ways. All-in-all Deathwish makes a good addition to the Cal Leandros books and is guaranteed to leave readers eagerly awaiting the next instalment in this series.
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