It’s the early morning hours when Detective Artemis Gregory gets a phone call from his partner, Rachel Wayland. Another body has been found and that makes three in all. The victims were young, gorgeous, gay men killed on the full moon of each month. Each body looks posed and peaceful with little clues left at the scene to help them identify the killer. The latest victim has a fresh tattoo, exactly like the first body discovered. It’s the logo of the hot rock band Phoenix Rising.
An interview with the owner of the tattoo parlor leads them to Talis Kehk, the lead singer of Phoenix Rising. With his violet eyes and almost narcotic charm, Talis sets off Gregory’s suspicions. The more they investigate the timing of the murders, all leads keep pointing back to Talis. Yet he seems remarkably unconcerned for a man under suspicion of murder and his continued attempts to see Artemis confuse the detective even as he becomes attracted to Talis. Gregory believes he is a good cop. He has sacrificed his relationships and his private life to the hours required to be a detective. How can he reconcile his reactions to this impossible man who may just be a serial killer with his duties as a police officer? The time of the next full moon draws near and the moon killer will surely strike again. Can Artemis find the killer before its too late and will the killer’s identity destroy his chance for love?
Phoenix Rising is the first book I have read by Theo Fenraven and it has many wonderful qualities. Fenraven’s myth building here is terrific. He does an excellent job of bringing mythology to life with vivid descriptions. I can’t go into too much detail here otherwise I would be giving away too many spoilers, but let’s just say I could clearly see the splendor of the author’s creation. His humans fall a little short though after a promising start. Detective Artemis Gregory comes across at the beginning as a typical cop. He’s harried, sleep deprived, job obsessed, and lonely. Artemis long ago came to terms with the emotional costs of his job; it even lost Artemis his most recent relationship as his boyfriend recognized he would never be a priority that Artemis’ job was. Rachel Wayland makes a good partner as well and they balance each other nicely. I liked the details of the police investigation; they have an authentic ring to them and the author has clearly done his homework with regard to police work.
So what is the quibble? That halfway through the story, Artemis discards his hard won persona and becomes totally unbelievable. It’s very hard to talk about how his characterization failed without giving away the plot of the story, but right up until a certain dramatic event, Artemis is as thorough and compulsive a cop as you will meet outside of Law and Order. He’s watchful, sneaky, and smart. I totally got him. And then it all disappeared. Kaput. At one point in the novel, Artemis wonders how he is to live his life, how is he to occupy his time. A reasonable question and the first reappearance of the man who started the story. And then the question is never answered and the detective I loved disappeared never to return, leaving a shell of a persona behind. What a shame. Tossed away as well are the other fleshed out characters of his partner and coworkers.
The other quibble I have is that a tight, cohesive story starts to resemble swiss cheese about two thirds of the way through. A building burns around their ears and no one seems to care, a huge deal is made of the killing of the young men and then a surprising tossed off comment at the end made me confused at to the purpose of it all. A Interpol agent says they will remove warnings from the files, yet police around the world are now involved so that becomes a moot point. Hole after hole appears with nothing to plug them up. It’s quite dismaying because the first part of this book is just terrific. If I could divide the book in two, the first half gets a 4 rating, the second half? No more than 2.75 stars. That’s how big a shift takes place within the story. I would love to read a book from Theo Fenraven where the promise shown here is carried throughout the book. I will look forward to it, In the meantime, you will have to decide if only half a good book is worth your while.