After Dark




After Glow by Jayne Castle
(Jove, $7.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-515-13694-8
This book huffs and puffs and looks busy, but it doesn’t really go anywhere. Reading it is a bit like using a Stairmaster – without the aerobic benefits.

When Lydia Smith finds the body of former professor Lawrence Maltby, it’s a blow. This is the second corpse she’s found in a month and she doesn’t think the police will be amused by the coincidence.

She also hoped that Maltby had found some clue to the events that got Lydia fired from the university seven months earlier. A para-archeologist with a para-talent for untangling the dangerous illusion traps the former alien occupants of the planet Harmony left behind, Lydia had been exploring the catacombs under Cadence City. In an incident that left her with amnesia, she apparently came in contact with a dissonance-energy ‘ghost’ when the accompanying ghost-hunters either lost her when she refused to follow their orders (their story) or abandoned her (her story).

The incident did introduce her to Emmett London, a formidable dissonance-energy para-resonator, or ghost-hunter. Although she thinks most ghost-hunters are little better than thugs and mobsters, Lydia entered a passionate affair with the sexy Emmett.

Emmett has his own problems. Wyatt Mercer, the current boss of the powerful Cadence Ghost-Hunter Guild is fighting for his life after a murder attempt. Touted as Mercer’s successor, Emmett is a prime suspect for the crime. Plus, there are people in the Guild who don’t want to see him take over. Emmett turned his last Guild into a business-like, law-abiding organization – a prospect not everyone on the Cadence Guild council appreciates.

Emmett also has plans for the skittish Lydia, but, given her ‘issues’ with ghost-hunters, figures he’s going to have to ease her into a long-term commitment.

This book has a very complex beginning that had me struggling to figure out what was going on. I haven’t read the previous book, so I assume I was missing some important puzzle pieces. This was aggravated by the jargon that Ms. Castle seems to think passes for atmosphere and a sense of the local environment. She has, thankfully, abandoned cat-dogs, coff-tea, bat-snake and the like, only to wield another verbal bludgeon, in which ‘rez’ is used ad nauseum as verb, noun and adjective.

People are constantly ‘rezzing’ and ‘de-rezzing’ locks and engines, but I have no idea what their vehicles or homes are like, or the city in which they exist. And, in a world where everyone seems to be totally occupied with rezzing the dangerous energy that the previous householders left behind, where did Lydia get the plain old cheese and crackers to serve with the rez-tea?

Emmett is definitely a strong point of the book. Billed as a very dangerous man, he’s a pussycat where Lydia is concerned. Believing that it’s going to be difficult to sell her on permanence, he courts her with a determination and focus that’s very attractive. This would have been even better, however, if we’d ever seen his dangerous side. We never see Emmett truly challenged; in fact, the author actually writes him out of his big chance to prove his power. As a result, the story loses momentum where it should be gathering strength.

Lydia, while definitely a less complex character, does seem to be a good match for Emmett, and the romance is enjoyable if not exactly front and center. I liked the fact that they were already in a relationship when the book started, but the author didn’t seem to be able to grow the relationship from there. And I kept wondering why these supposedly strong, smart, assertive people were too wussy to admit their feelings for each other. They’ve both got reasons, but none I found particularly convincing.

Ultimately, I think my reaction to this book was lukewarm because there is nothing urgent at stake. Ms. Castle refers to it as “romantic suspense” but Lydia and Emmett are both so capable, and the villains so weak, that there’s no suspense at all.

Suspense and romance, like a good workout, are supposed to make your heart beat faster. After Glow never managed to raise my pulse.

-- Judi McKee

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