Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Mystery Book Review: Immortal Laws by Jim Michael Hansen

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of Immortal Laws by Jim Michael Hansen. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

Immortal Laws by Jim Michael Hansen

Immortal Laws by
A Bryson Coventry Mystery

Dark Sky (Trade Paperback)
ISBN-10: 0-9769243-5-8 (0976924358)
ISBN-13: 978-0-9769243-5-7 (9780976924357)
Publication Date: September 2008
List Price: $13.95

Review: Denver homicide detective Bryson Coventry investigates two separate cases, the disappearance of a local television reporter and the vampire-style murder of woman, a wooden stake driven through her heart, in Immortal Laws, the sixth thriller in this series by Jim Michael Hansen.

After spending an evening out on the town with Bryson, Jena Vernon disappears from her home without a trace. Though Bryson is not a suspect in her disappearance, he is a person of interest and therefore prohibited from officially investigating her high-profile case. That doesn't stop him from unofficially pursuing clues that lead him to similar unsolved cases in other parts of the country where the missing woman was later found murdered. He believes he's in a race against time to prevent the same for Jena. The case to which he has been officially assigned is most bizarre: a woman has been found murdered with a wooden stake embedded in her chest. He doesn't necessarily believe in the existence of vampires himself, but knows all too well that others may and sets out to find this self-styled vampire slayer before anyone else loses their life.

The large cast of characters in Immortal Laws is effectively managed by having them appear, for the most part independently, in accounts from three points of view: that of Bryson, a purported vampire Heather Vaughn, and the vampire slayer Trent Tibadeau. It should be noted that the vampires depicted in this novel are not the stereotypical characters from legend and film; they are fairly typical, everyday human beings who happen to be blood descendants from people considered to be immortal vampires in their day. In a rather oddly compelling way, that the author chooses to represent them as relatively "normal" makes them all the more unusual.

Of the three narratives, that of Bryson's unofficial investigation of the missing reporter is in many ways, and certainly somewhat ironically given he's the series character, the least interesting. A sense of danger or urgency is never established and even though it is presumed that the storylines will intersect at some point, Bryson's unofficial case remains essentially orthogonal to the others up to the final pages and even then never seems fully integrated into the story. His murder investigation is also weakly delivered and is clearly secondary to his search for Jena.

Of far more interest are the narratives of Heather and Trent. These are well-rounded, nuanced, captivating characters that inexorably draw the reader into their spheres. Each takes a cat-and-mouse approach to the other, with their suspense-filled pathways culminating in a climatic encounter, the outcome of which cannot be foreseen. A couple of seemingly minor and tangential subplots and a disappointing final "twist" are all that mar the courses these characters take.

There are many reasons to recommend this book, but in the end, the intriguing, most unusual plot of Immortal Laws is what makes it a worthy addition to this fine series.

Special thanks to Jim Michael Hansen for providing a copy of Immortal Laws for this review.

Review Copyright © 2008 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved.

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Synopsis (from the publisher): Denver homicide detective Bryson Coventry is thrust into his most bizarre, terrifying and twisted case yet as he hunts for the killer of a woman who was murdered with a wooden stake through her heart as if she was a vampire. Meanwhile, beautiful young blues singer Heather Vaughn learns that she has been targeted for a similar death. She frantically searches for answers, not only to save her life but also to find out whether dormant genes from an ancient past are buried inside her. As time runs out, both she and Coventry find themselves swept deeper and deeper into the throes of a modern-day thriller born of ancient and deadly obsessions.

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