Eternal by V.K. Forrest
(Kensington, $15, PG-13) ISBN  978-0758217165
****
Eternal, the first in a series that sounds like it's going to revolve around the city of Clare's Point, is a very good example of not judging a book by its cover. Not that the cover of V.K. Forrest's first book isn't intriguing, but it leads one to think that Eternal is borderline erotica at best.

To be fair, a large chunk of Eternal does revolve around Fia Kahill's current and past loves. Fia doesn't have a great track record, and, despite her many lives, that seems to be something she can't improve. However, the central part of the story is about crime. Serial crimes, in fact. Fia is an FBI agent. She is also a vampire, a member of the Kahill sept that settled in Clare's Point three hundred years ago after being driven from Europe. When a member of her extended "family" is found burned and decapitated in the post office of Clare's Point, another distant relative pulls some strings and gets her assigned to the case. Unfortunately for everyone involved, Clare's Point is out of Fia's jurisdiction, and so a local agent is assigned as well. A human man, Glen Duncan.

The Clare's Point vampires limit their association with humans to the tourism trade that thrives in their city and the public schooling they attend when they are in the childhood stages of a life cycle. So, not only does Glen's presence hamper the investigation because he's human, but he has the misfortune of bearing a striking resemblance to one of Fia's former lovers who turned out to be a vampire hunter.

Fia is initially drawn to Glen for that very reason, and though she convinces herself that it's a relationship that is simply about sex, it becomes more. When two more bodies are found - one of which was a friend with whom Fia had recently reconciled - the sept begins to wonder if, in the course of her ill-advised affair, Fia has lost her perspective on this case.

Fia's not so sure herself, and that's one of the beautiful things about this book. Fia is strong and smart and independent, but she's also got her flaws, and she's unapologetic about them. In fact, she's very good about dealing with the consequences of them; though some of the repercussions bother her, even centuries later. Although some of Eternal is told from Glen Duncan's perspective as well, the reader does not get to delve as deeply into the way he works. Compared to Fia - even without the vampirism - he's fairly dull. Fia's a shiny new penny in the genre, and her interactions with the sept are familiar in the way that any normal family relations are: you're tempted to snicker and shake your head in frustration at the same time.

Probably because this book is to be the first of a series, there are ends left loose; the reader is left to wonder if Glen will ever find out Fia's true nature, or what the nature of her relationship with her friend and occasional lover Arlan will become. Fia does solve the crimes, but it raised fears in Clare's Point that the people have not needed to confront in a very long time, so the long-term effects on the sept are left in question as well.

Eternal is a must-read for fans of the oh-so-popular paranormal genre. The crimes will keep readers entertained, but as a whole the characters, their history, and their centuries of interpersonal relationships will suck you in (lame pun intended).

--Sarrah Knight


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