by Susan Sizemore, fantasy (2001)
Ace, $5.99, ISBN 0-441-00875-5
Companions is third in the Laws Of The Blood series, following The Hunt and Partners. Like the previous two books, Companions is set in a world where vampires and human beings coexist uneasily, with mortal law enforcers working with - and sometimes against - vampire Enforcers to keep the peace. In Companions, someone is out there dismembering vampires with a chainsaw. Thrust into the middle of the mess is Chicago homicide detective Selena Crawford, who is also a witch. Things get messy when her reluctant vampire lover Istvan, whom she is a companion of, starts suspecting her and she he.
Once, Istvan saves Selena when she stumbles upon a coven of vampires by making her his companion. This involves some exchange of blood, but not to the point that Selena becomes a vampire. But she now belongs to Istvan, and whether she likes it or not, she is compelled to treat him like the boss around the house. That sucks, but dang, right now she has a murder mystery to solve.
It is a testament to Joss Whedon's influence on my vampire fan club membership that I can't help seeing Elisabeth Rohm, who plays Detective Kate on Angel and has since left for Law And Order (drats!), as Selena. I don't know why, but somehow Rohm's portrayal of Kate fits Selena as a woman who is uneasily aware that there is a dark side to life, but she just can't find a way to accept it somehow. The author is really good at portraying Selena as a woman who, despite herself, is torn between protecting her kind - the humans - and serving Istvan.
The weakest link here is Istvan. Or Steve, or whoever he chooses to be known as. For far too much of this story, their conflicts are swept under the carpet for sex. And the thing is, Selena knows it, the author knows it, and they both let me know it. So why this reliance on sex to cover up the need for communication? While I do like the fact that the author never romanticizes vampires the way Joss and the Mutant Enemy gang are increasingly doing (anyone remembers that Spike and Angel are vampires and not, as my TV boyfriend Wesley cheesily puts it, "human beings trapped in a vampire's body"?), but I'd like some closure on Selena's part. Such as acceptance of the vampire's brutal nature where she will always be nothing more than a toy or a rejection of her place in Istvan's life. Towards the end, there is a semblance of getting towards a closure, but not exactly one, and this leaves me vaguely dissatisfied.
The mystery and suspense is decent, and while there is a lack of gore, it doesn't skimp on the psychological fear factor. A little more closure would have gone a long way in Companions.
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