The Red Heart of Jade

Shadow Touch

Eye of Heaven
by Marjorie M. Liu
(Leisure, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-8439-5765-4
The fourth book-length entry in Liu’s “Dirk and Steele” paranormal romance/detective series, Eye of Heaven, is a complex, mesmerizing story that is worth the challenge of jumping in mid-series. Readers willing to pay close attention will be richly rewarded.

Blue Perrineau is an electrokinetic – he can interrupt electrical impulses just with a thought. While tracking down Santoso, an Indonesian mobster reputed to be harvesting organs, Blue is targeted for assassination. He’s wounded, but is rescued by several colleagues from the Dirk and Steele detective agency and is whisked away for some paranormal healing. Santoso will have to wait.

Blue is on his way back to health when he receives word of his estranged father’s death. Felix Perrineau, however, has faked his demise in order to lure Blue back to his estate – and blackmail him into locating Blue’s half-brother, Daniel. Blue was unaware of Daniel’s existence, but Felix’s threat of exposure makes him reluctantly agree. Soon Blue is surveying a slightly seedy circus in Las Vegas, where he will find Daniel, as well as someone entirely unexpected.

Iris McGillis is a big-cat trainer, and also a shapeshifter. She can morph into a leopard, which explains her affinity with big cats. Soon after they meet, Blue rescues Iris from a bullet, ostensibly fired by an eco-terrorist. Iris tries to keep Blue at arm’s length, unwilling to trust anyone with her secret, and unaware that Blue recognized her ability as soon as he met her since Dirk and Steele has several shapeshifters on staff. The attraction between them sizzles, in contrast to Daniel’s hostility. But it’s not the eco-terrorists that Iris and Blue need to fear – it’s something much more sinister. Santoso will stop at nothing to get his hands on Iris – and some of her organs.

Liu has built quite a nice cast of central characters in Dirk and Steele, all with paranormal abilities of one type or another. I hadn’t read any of the earlier books, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying Eye of Heaven. It did take some concentration, however, and slowed my reading while I was making the puzzle pieces all fit. Some of the secondary characters obviously figured in previous books (and their stories are tantalizing). If anything, there’s almost too much going on here, with the romance between Iris and Blue only occupying about a third of the story. The rest – Blue’s relationship with Daniel and the hunt for Santoso – keep the action moving at a frenetic clip, but the trade-off is the lack of much emotional intensity between Iris and Blue. The meet, they want each other, she’s the most amazing woman he’s ever seen, etc. but it’s really based on (forgive the pun) animal attraction.

That said, the writing is crisp and clean, the story is inventive, and there’s enough sensuality to please those who like a spicy story. Iris and Blue may not bond over deep conversations, but as a couple of loners who never expect to find a soulmate, they’re quite believable – and we end up believing in their romance anyway. Kudos to Ms. Kiu for pulling it off.

The secondary characters are intriguing, especially Iris’s long-lost mother, who may or may not be working for the good guys, and Agent Fred, an FBI suit who ends up not quite what he seems. Even Felix Perrineau, Blue’s billionaire father, may or may not be the SOB he appears. It appears that Ms. Liu’s next Dirk and Steele novel will feature Ric, an operative who is also a shapeshifter and can take the form of a dolphin. With characters this intriguing, Marjorie M. Liu seems set for a long-running series. Readers who like romantic suspense with a paranormal twist are in for a nice holiday treat.

--Cathy Sova

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