The fifth book in PD Martin’s series takes place over the course of only three days and opens with Los Angeles based FBI profiler Sophie Anderson being called in on a case involving the death of a young woman in a state park. Normally Sophie’s team would not be called in so early on in an investigation but the woman’s body has two puncture wounds on the neck and appears to have been drained of blood so the lead detective on the case engages the FBI to cover her bases. They soon learn that the woman, an acting student called Sherry Taylor, had recently become interested in the local vampire sub culture which, given the nature of her death, opens up an avenue of investigation that takes the team into a possible cult-like group in the midst of the city. The detectives are also interested in the traditional lines of enquiry, such as an ex-boyfriend or a possibly jealous best friend, but Sophie has had one of her psychic visions that lead her to believe it is the vampire angle that will ultimately uncover Sherry’s killer.
I have an amateur interest in the psychology behind religious cults (I recently posted about this at my other blog) and so was pleasantly surprised that this book tackled the subject (it’s been sitting on my TBR shelves for quite some time and I’m ashamed to say I had forgotten what it was about). I really liked the way the book delved into the subject of cults/new religious movements without being sensationalist or judgemental and I learned a little more about how such cults and their leaders work thanks to Martin’s extensive research (which she has blogged about here and here). In the story, some lines of enquiry lead to a group of vampires (who don’t bear much resemblance to those in Twilight or Buffy) who are led by a charismatic and wealthy vampire who even manages to exert a strange kind of influence over Sophie. She has to work hard to both maintain her professional distance while she tries to determine if they are just an odd social grouping with a sexy leader or something more sinister. I liked the way Martin depicted the tension between the more traditional investigation and the less rational one; it felt realistic to me.
Sophie occasionally has visions which are generally from a victim’s point of view which can help her with her cases although the bulk of her success still comes from old-fashioned policing. However the ‘woo woo’ element was probably a bit more than I like in this particular outing. Martin explored the possible psychic connection between Sophie and some of the self-confessed vampires she met and, for me, this went a bit over the top towards the end. It still didn’t take over the book by any stretch of the imagination but I will admit to having a pretty low tolerance for paranormal activity (pun intended).
The book has a good mixture of investigative procedure and personal life. Sophie’s very understanding long-distance boyfriend makes an appearance and the pair once again struggle to have any kind of time together with Sophie working all the time (are FBI profilers really never off call?). Still he does get to see her in a provocative outfit she wears for an evening spent undercover as a vampire wannabe (and remove the outfit later) so his trip to LA is not entirely wasted. I did find the ending a little more predictable than I normally do with Martin’s books but there was still plenty of suspense as there were many ways things could have gone.
While this is not quite my favourite Sophie Anderson novel (that honour goes to The Murderers’ Club) it is still a welcome addition to the series and a very entertaining read. I’m sure if you’re even slightly more open to paranormal ideas than I am you’ll enjoy it even more than I did and if you’re not there is still much to enjoy. I’m certainly keen to tackle the latest instalment of the series (Coming Home) which was produced via an interesting experiment in which Martin’s readers were able to influence the direction of the story by voting on options at key points along the way.
My rating: 3/5 stars
Publisher: Pan MacMillan 
Length: 339 pages
Format: Trade Paperback
Source: I bought it
PD Martin, otherwise known as Phillipa was featured in the series of author interviews we ran during Aussie Authors month earlier this year and indicated that her next book is a departure from this series. I’m always intrigued by how authors make the choice to go with something different, though why shouldn’t they as we readers get to read more than one series or type of book 🙂