Sleight of Hand ~ Mark Henwick

  • Title:  Sleight of Hand
  • Author:  Mark Henwick
  • Series:  Bite Back, #1
  • Genre:  Urban Fantasy
  • Format:  eBook
  • Source:  Own Copy
  • Reviewed by: Sonja
  • Rating:  3.5 out of 5

Description:  “Vampires are the flickering illusions of Hollywood. They don’t exist. We do. We are the Athanate.”

For Amber Farrell, post-military life as a PI has its ups and downs: She’s been hit by a truck. She’s being sued by a client. Denver’s newest drug lord just put out a contract on her. The sinister Athanate want her to come in for a friendly chat. And it’s only Tuesday.

Enter Jennifer Kingslund: rich, gorgeous—a tough businesswoman who’s known for getting what she wants in the boardroom and the bedroom. Someone’s trying to sabotage her new resort and destroy her company—and she wants Amber to find out who.

The answers lead Amber past Were and Adepts, right back to the Athanate—and a centuries-old war that could threaten not just Denver, but the nation that Amber swore to protect and serve.

And all sides want to claim her for their own…

Review:  Ok, this book helped me come to a realization: I still don’t like vampires, but I really kinda like shifters. There is just something about those werewolves . . . (or werecats . . .)

Also, another book (I think that is 2 in a row – I’ve lost the order in which I’ve read) that use another name for ‘vampire’ – here (in case you didn’t read the description) we have “Athanate.” Yet, somehow, they are still creepy. Our heroine, Amber, has, in a previous operation, been attacked by a vampire. She has the ‘prions’ in her blood that will eventually turn her, but hasn’t yet turned. She is fighting this with every fiber of her being. In other words, Amber is smart. 😉 There is some mystery here concerning her turning that is being uncovered piece by piece – so I don’t expect a complete answer for a few books down the road . . .

Amber is also a trained soldier. It was in that capacity that she had her first “other-worldly” encounters. After she was released from isolation, she briefly entered the local police department. After another such encounter, she turned to private investigation – where she could be her own boss. Her (friendly) contacts typically refer ‘weird’ cases to her . . . Not that she is always excited about it. But, this is the case with Jen Kingslund. The chief of police is her friend. Amber is left to decrypt the financials, find the missing, and resolve the whos, whys, and wherefores.

But, at its heart, this is an action novel – not a mystery novel. The action sequences are well written and well delivered. Mr. Henwick does a great job with them. I want to say the characterizations were bit shallow, but many *many* of the characters come vividly to mind . . . The rich beauty, the new initiate, the elite old Athenate and even the werewolf. Not to mention the receptionist and the other people whose lives Amber has touched.

There are some things done a little differently here (even beyond those upon which we have already touched). This is a male writer writing about a female protagonist. This usually would not be of importance to me – but I think it makes a difference here. There is a lot of touchy feely going on in this book. I mean – things I just can’t see happening in any realistic environment. For instance, shortly after they have met, Amber shushes Jen by touching her lips with a finger. Ok, seriously, Jen is her client and a very wealthy woman. And, slightly intimidates her in an oh my God! She has so much money kinda way. I know of no one who would shush someone in this instance but this very personal kind of touch – honestly, I don’t think she would have shushed her at all. At least at this point . . . now, maybe later . . .  And, that is just an example of all the touching going on.

Also, this is a Brit writing a story in Denver. Typically, this is another non-issue for me – certainly other authors write about areas with which they are not completely familiar. And, Mr. Henwick has certainly spent time in Denver. However, I do not believe he is entirely comfortable with the colloquialisms used in the states. And, I may be totally, completely, irrevocably wrong. They may really talk like that in Denver. It is just that the only times I have heard such things have been in the UK. So. It bugged me. Not a great, huge amount – just enough to take me out of the story for a period of time. Such things as – Amber driving on the I-25 or dropping Tullah off on the slip road. Typically, we just get on the interstate (highway or whatever) or I-25. We take the exit . . . not the slip road. This being said, I was happy to see this term used in this manner – my GPS (Australian voice – best sound on the GPS) uses it and I wasn’t entirely sure I understood it.

Not that these issues (which I’ll admit are totally silly) really affect the overall quality of the story. I enjoyed the characters. Wondering what on earth was happening and why it was happening kept me interested. And, the world Mr. Henwick developed is intriguing. While it doesn’t end on a cliff-hanger per se, there are many questions left unanswered. The love triangle includes one woman – another woman and a man. And lots of wondering. The next book picks up exactly as this one ends. I haven’t actually decided whether or not I will move on in the series. There are not actually enough books yet that I feel enough of my questions will be answered. I hate that. Were the series complete, I think I would move right one.

I find this book really hard to rate. In the end, I think it is 3.5 stars. Which I will round down to 3 for no other reason that I just don’t feel it is a 4 star book.

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