The tricky bit is coming back from the dead. If you can manage that, coming back from the undead should be easy by comparison. Let’s return to Back From the Undead, by D. D. Barant.
Another work day, another case for the Bloodhound Files. But this time, Jace is truly stumped: How is she, a mere human, supposed to penetrate the dark heart of a child-trafficking ring of pire orphans—one that turns out to be part of a blood-farm operation, in the crime-ridden border city of Vancouver, British Columbia?
Jace is in over her head. But with the help of her former lover, Tanaka—whose family is one of the last samurai clans left in Japan—she stands a chance at seeking justice for the condemned children… Until the Yakuza tries to put an end to Jace’s investigation. Jace risks more than death—this time, it’s the fate of her very soul that’s in danger . . .
Well, that was certainly a book.
There’s a whole lot of stuff going on in Back From the Undead. There’s the plight of orphaned vampire children, unable to age without the magical bond to their parents, who are being abducted for some unknown but doubtless nefarious purpose. There’s a yakuza-run blood-farm where humans are kept as cattle to feed their vampire owners’ thirst. There’s a villainous plan to create an artificial heaven and allow evil souls to escape to it from hell, for a price. There’s an Elder God stomping around like Godzilla, and another working more subtly behind the scenes. Jace is forced into a reluctant team-up with Aristotle Stoker, the serial killer she was brought to Thropirelem to catch; and her superior Cassius has gone missing while pursuing the evil sorcerer Ahaseurus and is trying to psychically contact her in her sleep through recurring nightmares; and Isamu and Tanaka from the first book have returned to seek revenge and redemption, respectively; and Jace is running out of bullets for her gun and having trouble making more due to the insidious effects of the planet-wide anti-gun spell.
That’s a lot of different threads to try and tie together, and the book doesn’t quite manage to pull it off. Some of the plotlines just come off as completely superfluous, random happenstance with no actual connection to anything else going on; and others never receive any resolution – I mean, the thing with Cassius is obviously a cliffhanger to lead into the final book, but a whole lot of time was spent on the issue with the bullets and it never ended up going anywhere.
This is also the first book of the series where Jace’s profiling skills don’t tie into the plot. Given that the whole reason she was brought to Thropirelem was that they needed someone capable of understanding the minds of mentally ill killers, the previous books in the series have all gone to great lengths to come up with ways of tying that into their plots – the first three had villains who were actually deranged or sociopaths, and the fourth had a character faking mental illness as part of a plan. Here, though… despite all the HPLC being thrown around, and the characters gazing upon the soul-flaying visages of two different Elder Gods, everybody makes their SAN checks and Jace’s defining skill set goes unutilized.
In any event, only one book remains in The Bloodhound Files. This penultimate adventure was only moderately good, but there’s still a chance for the grand finale to deliver a climactic and satisfying conclusion.
Final Rating: 3/5