Holden is an abomination. In a world where the purity of your blood helps determine both your power and your place, he’s a hybrid of vampire and fae. Despised and distrusted, Holden works with the local paranormal police to help them solve crimes with his vampiric abilities, which allow him to read the memories within a victim’s blood, all the pain and joy of a life lived and cut short, as well as his ability to be up and awake in daylight hours. All he wants is to belong, to be one of the team. Holden wants to be a real detective and not some glorified CSI called out only when no one else is available. However, it seems like he’s about to get his wish as a serial killer has been stalking the city of London.
Given the lead position in this case — a case with no leads, no motive, and nothing tying the victims together — Holden is given a chance for everything he’s ever wanted. If he wins, he could get the respect of his peers, perhaps even his father, and find a place for himself in the world. However, if he fails to catch the killer, he could lose everything, including what little he has left. Assisting on the case is the tall, dark, and handsome Valerius Blackwood, son of the oldest and most prestigious witch bloodline. He’s the closest thing to royalty they have, and he sees Holden as little more than a stain on the heel of his shoe.
Holden is determined to do whatever it takes to make this work. He’ll play nice with Valerius, with his fellow police officers, even with his father if it means catching the killer. But catching the killer is only the first step, since the ritual murders hint at a greater motive than just a hatred for witches. Someone is looking to summon something, but what? And what will happen if — when — they succeed?
It’s not easy when the only person you can turn to for friendship and comfort is the man who seduced you only because of a debt, but such is Holden’s life. Raoul was his first and only lover, and the only person who will give him the time of day without spitting at him first. Holden, throughout all the insults, hatred, dislike, contempt, and even fear hurled his way on a daily basis has managed to not be made jaded. Instead, he lives with his heart on his sleeve, constantly bleeding, and hoping that someone — anyone — will care enough to give him a kind word. He’s a doormat, eager to inveigle himself into the good regard of both Raoul and Valerius, and he’d do the same with his father if only his father let him.
Holden begins this book as a weak, submissive character (the sort I, personally, want to shake) but ends up growing. His character arc is well-crafted and completely believable, and it makes perfect sense when the fist time he stands up, he does so for someone else. Bit by bit, every kindness Val and Raoul give him makes Holden braver until, at the end, he’s not a doormat. He’s the man closing the door in your face.
Raoul has taken on Holden out of pity, but also out of an honest friendship. The two of them shared blood, which allowed them to see deeper into one another, forming an honest bond of respect and fondness. It’s not love on Raoul’s part. And while he’s not the best friend, he’s not a terrible one, either. It’s better if Holden isn’t constantly exposed to vampire society where he will be forever shunned. Maybe it’s enough for Holden to have Raoul as a friend and lover, while Raoul gets an eager and willing Holden and his own life as a ranking member of vampire society. He’s not a good guy, but he’s never once tried to hurt Holden. He just isn’t in love with him, and doesn’t want love in return.
Then there’s Valerius. The golden boy of witch society, his first greeting to Holden is to call him a “that” and to inform the captain that working with Holden would be an insult to Valerius. He’s high strung, rigid with pride and arrogance, and hints at being an interesting, challenging character for Holden to clash with, only to fall apart as the story continues. While Holden has a graceful character arc, Valerius just slides downhill until he settles at the bottom, dull, lifeless, and two-dimensional.
Val goes from being an asshole — setting up a hate-to-love trope — to suddenly, with no warning, being attracted to Holden. With very little setup, he’s protective, he’s besotted, he’s in love. His whole life, now, is to be with Holden and to live for Holden. There was a situation set up to sort of break down Val’s walls and make him more vulnerable, but that happened after the initial 180 in personality. He’s also just a dick. He compares Holden’s life of being a pariah to his own life of being a hard-working and devoted son, cursed with being handsome, rich, and from a powerful family. Yes, yes, he was expected to be flawless and perfect, but how does that compare to the life Holden’s had? Holden, of course, buys it, because Holden is a good guy.
And that’s the worst part of it. I liked Holden. I liked watching him grow and I think the author handled his personal story well, without drowning in self-pity or naval gazing. We saw how miserable Holden’s life was, with hints at just how bad it was before he met Raoul, and at the end of the story we have a character who is strong enough to stand on his own … only now he has to deal with the clinging weight of Val.
The murder plot was full of red herrings, many of them thrown in without much build up and almost no bread crumbs, but it wasn’t badly done. The writing style was nice, but the author switched from British spellings and phrases to American English and slang. The pacing was good, but I would have liked a little more world building on the part of the witches, fae, and vampires, but perhaps that will come about in a future book, because I would very much like to see more stories set in this world, and to see the new, more confident Holden.