Laurell K. Hamilton
Berkley, June 2007, $25.95, 432 pp.
Vampire executioner Anita Blake never thought she would see the day that Malcolm, head of the vampire Church of Eternal Life, would come to see her for help. When he does, she thinks he wants to get her lover Jean-Claude, Master of St. Louis, to withdraw his order to have his congregation perform the blood oath. Instead he tells her that something powerful that he fears is watching him but that he can only dimly sense it though he won’t reveal any details to her.
When she tells Jean-Claude he mentally raises his shields so she can’t read his mind and tells her if she is lucky she will never have to know what Malcolm is talking about. That hope is shattered when someone gives Anita a white mask. When she tells Jean-Claude about the gift he is scared and tells her to meet him in his office at the club. While there someone mentally manipulates Anita, and some vampires and shifters that are in Jean-Claude’s office using amplified anger to start fights. Jean-Claude who has also received a white mask tells Anita that The Harlequin, the policing agent of the Vampire Council, are in town. They and their human servants and their animals to call are endowed with special powers from their creator. Jean-Claude thinks they are in town to observe Malcolm’s vampires but then they are attacked by these creatures that are breaking their own rules of only observe. An unforeseen betrayal leaves Anita, Jean-Claude and the werewolves vulnerable to attack but an unexpected ally joins the fray giving them the strength to battle their unbeatable foe.
Laurell K. Hamilton has written an exciting and action driven urban fantasy that has much less sex then her previous Blake novels. This means that the talented Ms. Hamilton has many more plotlines she fully develops that crisscross the main plot of the HARLEQUIN and add depth to the storyline. Anita is portrayed as a person more at peace with herself. She realizes there is nothing wrong with having several lovers and is overjoyed that she is gaining control of her powers. Though the Harlequin is a caricature of the evil vampire, readers will thoroughly enjoy this creative, spellbinding and provocative work.