|There is a very fine line between romantic suspense and suspense and, in my opinion, long-time romance author Andrea Kane has crossed into the latter. There’s clearly nothing wrong with doing this; indeed, the result for the author has been a move into hardcover and, one hopes, a wider readership. But denizens of TRR should be aware of the shift. If you are looking for a rather good FBI procedural with lots of suspense and a nice romantic thread, then Drawn in Blood may be right up your alley.
The heroine and hero of Drawn in Blood were introduced in Kane’s previous book, Twisted. (The reason for my above distinction is that their relationship problems were worked out in the previous book and while there are some bumps in the road in the present offering, the romance is clearly secondary.) Sloane Burbank is a former FBI agent who had to leave the force when a serious injury to her hand made it impossible for her to continue as a field agent and negotiator. She now works as a consultant to law enforcement agencies, security companies and businesses. As the story opens, she and her lover are planning to move in together. Derek Parker is an FBI agent in the New York office, specializing in organized crime.
Their idyll is shattered when Sloane receives a frantic call from her father, Matthew Burbank. Her mother apparently walked in on a burglary and is in the hospital. But Matthew’s tone and message tell Sloane that something else is up because her father insists that she come alone to the hospital. He doesn’t want to talk to Derek and the FBI.
Matthew confesses to his daughter that several years ago in Hong Kong, he and two of his partners in the art business walked in on the murder of a dealer to whom they had just sold a valuable Rothberg painting. They saw the murderer but rather than go to the foreign police, they left the country the next day. Matthew is sure there is a connection because the paperwork from the sale was taken during the burglary. Moreover, shortly before, he had seen the murderer in Chinatown. Since the FBI is looking into the provenance of the painting and has contacted him and his associates, Matthew is fearful that their lives are at risk. He has been told not to talk to the authorities.
Matthew is certainly right because he and four of his friends are the subjects of a diabolical revenge plot. Early on, we meet the man who has sought the five’s destruction. On the surface, Johnny Liu appears to be a very successful Chinese businessman. In fact, he is head of the criminal Liu Xian triad, with tentacles that reach all the way to New York. Liu blames one of the associates, Wallace Johnson, for the suicide of his only daughter, Meili. She had been Johnson’s mistress and had killed herself when she discovered she was pregnant after ending the affair. She had left her father a note, telling him of Johnson’s role and also that the other four men had treated her with disrespect. Johnny Liu has spent years slowly destroying the five friends. Now, facing imminent death, he wants to complete their ruin.
Drawn in Blood provides a full measure of suspense as Sloane and Derek seek to discover who is threatening her parents and to find the connection between them and the local head of the Asian crime syndicate that Derek is investigating. Matthew’s early refusal to come clean creates some problems in their relationship, but the seriousness of the threat brings them back together.
Kane weaves many strands into her story. Her villains - Chinese gangsters and Albanian art thieves - are absolutely ruthless in their pursuit of both profit and revenge. The author provides what appears to be an accurate and, indeed, frightening portrayal, of one of the dangerous side effects of globalization, the internationalization of crime. Her heroes - Sloane, Derek and the other FBI agents who fight against this looming threat – are courageous, determined and dedicated. Kane had extensive research support from the FBI and one gets a good sense of the challenges the bureau faces in this brave new world of disappearing borders. At least in this story, the good guys win.