Thursday, March 19, 2015

One Grave at a Time by Jeaniene Frost

The grave is one wrong step away.

Having narrowly averted an (under)world war, Cat Crawfield wants nothing more than a little downtime with her vampire husband, Bones. Unfortunately, her gift from New Orleans' voodoo queen just keeps on giving - leading to a personal favor that sends them into battle once again, this time against a villainous spirit.

Centuries ago, Heinrich Kramer was a witch hunter. Now, every All Hallows Eve, he takes physical form to torture innocent women before burning them alive. This year, however, a determined Cat and Bones must risk all to send him back to the other side of eternity - forever. But how do you kill a killer who's already long dead?

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** Warning: This review contains some possible mild spoilers, primarily regarding the ending. **

After hitting a lull in This Side of the Grave (in my opinion at least), this series found the energy it had in the first books again in this one. Once again Cat and Bones and their friends are facing a truly evil adversary, and this time their vampire powers won't necessarily help them all that much. True, they do still have a few handy tricks up their sleeves they can use, but how do you catch the wind much less fight and destroy it? It's a question that they don't really have a real answer for up until the very end almost, and the struggle is real as they do their best with trying to beat the clock and outwit Kramer. Add in another serious growing problem with regards to changes with Cat's former team since the game changing event there in the last book, and life is very "interesting" indeed for them now.

Cat and Bones seem to be facing something of a transition time in their lives now. Up until now, their lives together have pretty much been one fight after another as they've had to fight off enemies of various sorts. While there are still plenty of loose ends needing tied up, challenges in and from the undead world seem to have mostly ceased for them now. At least for the time being. Then their ghost friend Fabian asks for a favor for a ghost friend of his and they're right back in the thick of it, just when they thought they'd finally get to catch a bit of R&R. Even though they really do deserve that R&R break at this point after all they've been through, with two books left in the main series including this one, I suppose they can't be allowed to settle down into marital bliss just yet.

As I stated above, I loved how this book brought back the energy of the early books and the frequent sense of real peril for our intrepid couple. Trying to figure out just how exactly they were going to manage to bring down an enemy that was no more substantial than air 99.7% of the time was a head scratcher not just for them but for the reader as well. Initially it seems like they might be able to solve the problem relatively easily, but as always, stuff happens to throw a big wrench into things, and they're left with the "not-so-easily" way of doing things that they're really most familiar with. Some of what happens from that point is a bit predictable (such as it not being all that hard to figure out who the 3rd woman is if you pay attention), but nowhere near as predictable as a lot of the previous book was, so that's a big plus here.

My one big gripe with it is the ending. Everything builds to this great crescendo in an extended action scene with Cat in full-on Red Reaper mode. Then just when things are about to go south for her, Bones and crew show up at just the right moment to save the day. But then, instead of getting to watch it all play out to the bitter, bloody (well not really so bloody in this case I suppose) end, we instead get a rather unsatisfying "fade to black" kind of ending with the action that cements their victory taking place off-stage as it were. We're shown enough before that to know that yes, they have indeed won, but we don't get to see the final coup de grĂ¢ce. It's the main reason I'm knocking a half-star off my rating here.

Overall I was quite pleased with this book. After the last one I'd been worried that the series was starting to run out of gas and that the main series would end up limping to an ending in the last two books instead of blowing us away until the end. While it remains to be seen what I'll think of the final book in the series, this book at least restored my faith that it's not dead yet. 4½ stars (rounded up where needed) to an exciting addition to the ongoing story.

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