Release Date: February 22, 2011
More info: goodreads
Series: #2 in the Oracle series
Book Blurb: Tara Sheridan is the best criminal profiler around - and the most unconventional. Trained as a forensic psychologist, Tara also specializes in Tarot card reading. But she doesn't need her divination skills to realize that the new assignment from her friend and sometime lover, Agent Harry Li, is a dangerous proposition in every way.
Former Cold War operatives, all linked to a top-secret operation tracking the disposal of nuclear weapons in Russia, are disappearing. There are no bodies, and no clues to their whereabouts. Harry suspects a conspiracy to sell arms to the highest bidder. The cards - and Tara's increasingly ominous dreams - suggest something darker. Even as Tara sorts through her feelings for Harry and her fractured relationships with the mysterious order known as Delphi's Daughters, a killer is growing more ruthless by the day. And a nightmare that began decades ago in Chernobyl will reach a terrifying endgame that not even Tara could have foreseen.
My Thoughts: Last week, in my review of the first book, "Dark Oracle" I mentioned that the book wsan't, in my opinion, a solid fit for the urban fantasy genre. This book is definitely an urban fantasy. As soon as the villain of the story, Galen, showed what he could do, I immediately thought "Now THIS is fantasy!" Although, there's some scientific basis too. Williams blends science and fantasy, along with mysticism and mystery into an original, intriguing story. The series is, if not unique, then unusual with potential to be a bestseller.
Several months have passed since the end of "Dark Oracle". Harry and Tara haven't been able to spend much time together, which has Tara worried. Harry has been busy with his work and Tara busy with helping Cassie, and getting back into profiling. Cassie and Tara are living at the Delphi's Daughters farmhouse which allows Tara to keep an eye on the Pythia and her training of Cassie. She still doesn't trust the Pythia, a distrust that is furthered by a test that the Pythia gives Cassie when she is alone, with no help around.
As a result of that test, Tara and Harry arrange for US Marshall protection for Cassie by two agents, both named Steve. The Steves are interesting, funny, and well drawn, I hope we'll see them again in future books. They take care of Cassie, and keep her safe, even if their idea of safe doesn't always mesh with Tara's.
Meanwhile, Harry has asked for Tara's help in tracking down some missing Cold War era operatives. The only apparent connection between them - they all dealt with the aftermath of the Chernobyl incident. Simultaneously, there's been an increase in black market traffic for nuclear weapons, particularly older models. The US government fears that there is a connection between the events.
Harry's department, Special Projects, is tucked in a corner of the Library of Congress and the ongoing rivalry adds an element of humor. But the librarians there are also, proerly bribed, an enormous help. One librarian in particular has ties to Tara, though she doesn't realize it at first. One of their team members, Sam Veriss, is not so fortunate and has several clashes with the LoC personnel. Verris, an econmist who tracks trends and then tries to make predictions (I simplified, greatly) is not taken seriously and he understandably finds that immensely frustrating. While he doesn't play well with others, he ends up being crucial to the case, and the story.
Tara's powers are also growing and Williams writes some very vivid dream scenes. Both Tara and Harry are scared at first as the trances involved in her new power leave her so physically cold, that she comes out of them almost in shock. But, they learn to cope and to prepare and Tara even learns how to control, to a degree, the trances and what she sees.
Galen, a Chernobyl survivor, is at times synpathetic. He survived a horrific experience, the Chernobyl nuclear reactor meltdown, saw his mother die from it, and himself has been physically affected, though it's not immediately apparent. He gained the ability to touch a person and meld with them. By meld, I mean he ansorbs both their memories and their bodies. His body transforms into the person he has absorbed. It's a painful, messy process but he takes full advantage of his ability to wreak havoc. He feels betrayed by the world and he is hellbent on revenge. Williams clearly did her research on Chernobyl and it's aftermath but at no time did I feel as if I was reading a history lesson or a treatise. She works it into the story and makes you feel the horror.
Williams weaves all the elements and plotlines - Galen, Chernobyl, Harry & Tara's relationship, Tara & Casie's relationship, the Pythia, the missing operatives, the black market weapons, etc- into a cohesive whole. As I mentioned earlier, she smoothly blends all of the elements into a cohesive, original, enjoyable story. I look forward to more in this series.
This book was received from the publisher for review.