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Night Child (OSI Series #1)

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Overview

That’s a dead vampire, I thought. My boss dragged me out of bed at two in the morning to see a dead vampire? I might be an Occult Special Investigator for Vancouver’s Mystical Crime Lab, but a dead vampire is routine, and no reason to disturb a person’s sleep! Then I took a closer look at the body…

Tess Corday soon realizes that there is not going to be anything ordinary about this case. Not the lab results on the cause of death. Not Mia Polanski, the teenage girl living at the ...

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Night Child (OSI Series #1)

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Overview

That’s a dead vampire, I thought. My boss dragged me out of bed at two in the morning to see a dead vampire? I might be an Occult Special Investigator for Vancouver’s Mystical Crime Lab, but a dead vampire is routine, and no reason to disturb a person’s sleep! Then I took a closer look at the body…

Tess Corday soon realizes that there is not going to be anything ordinary about this case. Not the lab results on the cause of death. Not Mia Polanski, the teenage girl living at the address found in the vamp’s pocket, who may well be in thrall to a demon. And certainly not Lucian Agrado, the necromancer who is liaison to the vampire community. Agrado is supposed to be part of the solution, but Tess suspects he might be part of the problem.

Under pressure from her boss, Tess is trying to go by the book on this one. But when Mia reaches out to her, she risks her career to help the girl. And finds herself in the middle of a paranormal conspiracy that will change her life forever.

Or possibly end it…

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780441016020
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 5/27/2008
  • Series: OSI Series , #1
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 477,139
  • Product dimensions: 4.10 (w) x 6.70 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Canadian Jes Battis is from Vancouver, but for the academic year 2007-2008, will be living in New York City and teaching at Hunter College. Jes is an academic, with a concentration in English and Pop Culture Studies, who has had two books published, one on Buffy The Vampire Slayer and one on Farscape.

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Read an Excerpt

"That's a dead vampire."

Selena Ward, my boss, raised an eyebrow. "Uh-huh."

"You dragged me out of bed, to a disgusting alley on Granville Street—at two in the morning—to see a dead vampire?"

She handed me the clipboard with the MCS entry log. Anyone entering a mystical crime scene has to sign in first, just like a regular crime scene. The only difference is that some of our responding officers aren't human. The scene was divided into three zones with a base of operations, or staging area, near the far end of the alley where extra photographic equipment, evidence bundles, and chemical reagents could be stored in portable kits. The perimeter around the vampire's body was taped off as the primary focal point, with access far more restricted than the outer edges of the scene. It all seems orderly until you have to explain to a high-ranking investigator that she should really get the hell out of your way. I'll admit it—I did get a secret pleasure out of that sometimes. There weren't any doors or fire-escapes at the back of the alley, so the only natural point of entry and exit was the street.

"Take a closer look," Selena said. "Make sure to put on gloves."

Tasha Lieu, our Medical Examiner, gave me a wink as she passed by. "Just released the scene, so it's all yours."

"Thanks, Tash." Selena looked tired.

I was already fishing the gloves out of my purse. "Sorry to call you out so late," I said sheepishly. I'd always assumed that Tasha had some type of normal human life outside of the CORE, unlike the rest of us. She was an intensely private person, and all I really knew about her was that she lived in Marpole and had a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon strip taped on the wall above the autopsy sink.

"No worries, I'm a night owl. See you at the morgue, bright and early tomorrow morning. I should have the post done by the time you get there."

I swallowed. "Yeah, great. See you there." It was just like a trip to the dentist, only the dentist was a vivisected corpse. Not my idea of a sweet morning. Tasha waved and left the scene, stepping carefully over the caution tape.

"Where's Siegel?" Selena's frown had deepened. Shit.

"Parking. The strip is packed, as usual, so I sent him down to the seedier part of Nelson Street. He may have to fend off some goth-chicks, but he'll survive."

West Granville was Vancouver's nightclub district, and its irregular streets were an explosion of noise and neon light. Hipsters danced the night away at Aquarius and The Plaza, while underage kids drank pitchers of cheap Molson at The Roxy. After last call, the strip became a drunken labyrinth of kids eating hot dogs and fries from late-night vendors, taxi cabs dodging each other, and police cars wailing their sirens. Just another night in Terminal City, as Vancouver was often called, since the only thing beyond it to the west was ocean. Like Shangri-La. The end of everything. No wonder demons liked it here so much.

"Funny lady." Derrick Siegel emerged from behind the yellow tape, smiling apologetically. "Right here, Selena. Sorry—I had to—"

"—park the car, yes, I heard." She rolled her eyes. "Just put some gloves on and follow us. Apparently there are four different concert venues spilling out drunken teenagers onto Granville right now, and I'd like to avoid a security leak."

Neither of us looked like we belonged at a crime scene. Derrick was wearing a pajama top and rumpled blue jeans with a jacket hastily thrown over. The jacket was probably Kenneth Cole: Derrick was the only person I knew who would wear designer clothes to a crime scene. He'd learned some tricks over the years, though, and he was wearing old shoes this time. Black runners—the kind that he'd normally never be caught dead in. I was wearing the same. Try scrubbing blood out of a new pair of Charles David boots. I learned that lesson quickly, and now I always brought sneakers.

A black cat was wandering about the scene, delicately avoiding a tripod stand as she surveyed the walls of the alley. This was no random stray, but rather Sophie, one of the trained forensic animals that the CORE employed for sniffing out magical scenes. Cats didn't have quite a broad sense of smell as dogs, but their olfactory nerves were more refined, which allowed them to detect a variety of demonic and nonhuman scents that lingered in the air long after a kill. Unlike dogs, alley cats like Sophie didn't need to be trained with a scent pad—she simply roamed about the alley, did her thing, and let her trainer know if she found anything interesting. Cats don't exactly work on the clock, but they're more valuable to the CORE because their close proximity to magic allows them to sense the residual chemicals left over by strong materia flows. Why do you think they always followed witches around? Cats are strongly attracted to the smell of materia leftovers, or ‘frass,' as they're known. Like mystical catnip.

Sophie, however, didn't appear to be turning up anything tonight. She sniffed the air around the body disinterestedly, then flicked her tail and retreated. A handler returned her gently to the cat-carrier, and she immediately curled up and fell asleep. She was used to being around mystical crime scenes.

Selena had paged me around 1:30 AM, which was actually a pretty decent time, all things considered. I'd gotten calls a lot later than that. As an Occult Special Investigator, it was my job to do the preliminary investigation around any mystical crime scene in the Greater Vancouver Regional District and follow up on leads. Selena gave the orders, and I followed them. Most of the time. I used to be scared shitless of her, but three years of working together had softened our relationship.

Derrick and I were both junior employees for the Mystical Crime Lab unit of CORE, the Central Occult Regulation Enterprise. CORE was a transnational blanket organization that controlled just about everything mystical within North America and Europe. The City of Vancouver's crime lab was one of the best in Canada, with a fully equipped DNA testing site and separate pathology departments that included a standalone morgue. Vancouver may have had the reputation for being a quiet city when it came to violent crime, but as far as mystical disturbances were concerned, it was a hot spot.

Since I was only an OSI-I, the crime lab tended to give me probationary assignments—that is, the back-alley jobs like this one that nobody else would take. Derrick was on probation as well, but as a telepath he had a different union. I think. Office politics get kind of hairy when you're dealing with demons and mages.

We slipped on our Tyvek suits, which were modified to protect us from mystical as well as organic contamination, and then Selena led us to the body. It was a male vampire, lying almost peacefully near the back of the alley. His head was propped up slightly against the corner of a dumpster, and his shirt had been unbuttoned, revealing a smooth white chest that was otherwise unmarked. He was wearing a pair of dress pants and black shoes. Cheap Stuff—the kind you could pick up at an Eaton's sale. The guy looked like he'd just come from an accounting firm. His blonde hair was neatly trimmed, and he was clean shaven.

"Have a look," Selena said.

I knelt down beside the body. The photo techs were milling around me, snapping pictures from every conceivable angle with different filters for contrast in the dark. One photographer was taking reference shots of the alley with a 28mm lens, while the other snapped shots of various artifacts around the alley with a 55mm macro-lens for close-ups, placing evidence placards next to them to establish scale. A third technician was furiously scribbling notes in the photo log, trying to keep up with the others. All of the flashes gave the scene an even more macabre feel.

An occlusion, or perimeter field, had already been set up at the entrance to the alley. In order to work unhindered, we have to seal off the area from bystanders. The occlusion is a kind of mystical envelope that alters light wavelengths around the area. It has something to do with quantum packets, but I never really get the explanation. With mystical crime scenes, you have to preserve all the evidence while simultaneously hiding it from the general public, and that includes the Vancouver RCMP. Not always a simple matter in this city.

Vampires decomposed a lot more slowly than human bodies, so it was impossible to tell how long he'd been lying here. No insect activity, no temperature changes, and no postmortem interval to establish. But I was trained to detect even more subtle alterations. Einstein told us that energy can't be destroyed—only transformed. Every organism has an energy signature, an aura. Even the undead.

I passed my fingertips through the air a few inches above the vampire's chest. I could feel a faint differential in the energy flows—a trickle of something, like spider silk against my face. It made me want to sneeze.

"Feels sketchy. Maybe 48 hours ago, but I can't be certain. You know how tough it is to establish time-of-death with vamps."

"Derrick?" Selena gestured to the body. "You want to give it a try?"

It wasn't really a question. Derrick sighed.

"One of these days," he said, "I'd like to read the dying thoughts of a really happy person. Someone who expired in a bed full of puppies and bunny rabbits."

"I'll see what I can do," Selena said flatly.

Derrick knelt down beside me. He placed his gloved fingertips on the vampire's forehead, and closed his eyes.

I didn't really understand how Derrick's powers worked, since I wasn't a telepath myself. All I knew was that, just like I could sense auras, Derrick could sense faint neurological impressions—like letters pressed into wax, or soft slate. He couldn't always make sense of what he saw.

Derrick's body tensed up. He was trying to read the vampire's last thoughts, just like a laser would read a compact disc. When we die and our brains collapse, they send a myriad of electrical spasms throughout our bodies. Organic memory, it's called. Telepaths can try to access that memory and reconstruct it. Sometimes, a victim's last few seconds or perimortem interval, can be recovered.

Derrick was starting to sweat. I put a hand on his shoulder, tentatively, and his eyes flicked open. He lurched away from me, as if my touch had burned him.

"You okay, hon?"

"Tess." He said my name like it was unfamiliar. His pupils were huge and black. Then he blinked, shaking his head as if to clear it. "Sorry. That was intense."

"Did you see anything?" Selena asked. "Anything that makes sense?"

"A lot of it was a blur." He closed his eyes again. "There was a girl, though."

Selena leaned in closer. "A girl?"

He nodded. "I can't really make out her features. I think she's a teenager. Thirteen, maybe fourteen years old. She seems young."

"What else?" Selena was writing notes on a pad.

"Fire." Derrick swallowed again. "Some kind of fire. Something burning, but I can't tell what." He nearly gagged. "A horrible smell."

I flinched at the word ‘fire.' Memories I didn't want to deal with. Screams I couldn't bring myself to hear again. I looked away to hide my stricken expression. I don't think Selena noticed.

Only things and people burn—not the past. I heard my old teacher's voice, sighed, pushed it down. You can't bring people back. It's not like in the movies.

Mostly, magic is just a bitch.

"I could feel intense fear," Derrick said. "Not of the fire, but—something else. Whatever killed him must have been extremely powerful."

"Not necessarily," I said. "I think he was newly minted. Inexperienced. A lot of higher demons might have been able to scare him."

One of the photographers was leaning close to me, peering at the vampire's body. I pushed his camera away.

"Something we can help you with?"

He grinned sheepishly. He was just a kid—barely twenty, at best—with one of those spiky faux-hawk cuts that was currently popular, hair sticking out every which way. He looked like he should be at a rave, not at a mystical crime scene.

"Sorry, Miss Corday." Points for knowing my name, at least. "I just don't get it—shouldn't he be dust?"

"Vampires only dessicate when they're exposed to direct sunlight," Selena explained. "And even that takes a while. But this guy doesn't have a mark on him. No beheading, no heart trauma. Under optimal conditions, a vampire body like this could avoid decomp for a few days, maybe even a week."

"He looks so peaceful," Derrick said.

"I know. Almost like he's been posed this way." I turned to Selena. "Any way for us to tell if the body's been moved?"

She shrugged. "Hard to say with a vampire. No lividity marks, and you know how weird their blood chemistry is—blood and plasma don't separate in the same way. I think we'd just be guessing."

Most bodies decomposed in a uniform fashion. As the process of cell-death, or autolysis, went to work, the body was devoured from the inside. All of the bacteria, the intestinal flora, that protected us in life now began eating away at the vital organs. Without any cardiac momentum to pump it through the arterial system, blood separated into plasma and serum, producing a marble-effect as it settled throughout the flesh. But none of this was evident on the body of a vampire. Their rate of decay was too bizarre for even CORE pathologists to determine any kind of pattern.

Two investigators were probing the area around the body with long, black-handled daggers that shone like snowflakes in the dim light of the alley. The athame was a ritual dagger used for channeling mystical energy, or materia, from a variety of sources, usually geothermic. Our bodies are like transistors that can absorb materia without the help of ritual tools like the athame, but the energy—especially the type used in combat—can be as harmful as radiation to the body. The athame works as a kind of circuit for the materia, breaking it down into a palatable stream that the body can absorb.

At the moment, the two investigators were using their blades as alternate light sources, manipulating the radiant-energy spectrum in order to produce more penetrative types of illumination within the darkness of the alley. One athame was calibrated to emit clear blue light, which would cause any stray fiber to flare up like a tendril of orange flame against the cone of blue. The second investigator was moving her athame in a slow arc like a flashlight, bathing the walls and floor of the alley with the purple glow of longwave ultraviolet light. She flicked the dagger momentarily, and the cone of purple narrowed to an intense line of burning mauve—shortwave UV light, a new technology which could be used with a reflecting UV imaging system, or RUVIS, to reveal latent fingerprints. They fluoresced under the purple glow like writhing bruises, their loops, whorls, and tented arches glimmering like bright tattoos against porous wood and stone.

Derrick kept looking nervously at the vampire. "You're sure he's dead?"

"Yep. Again." I chuckled. "Sorry, I don't know why that's funny."

"Seems like a lot of expensive technology out here for a dead vampire," I said, noting one investigator as he began to carefully snap together the sighting rods for a total-station mapping device, which would be used to download 360-degree infrared pictures to a scene-reconstruction program like AIMS. That piece of equipment alone was worth far more than I made in a year.

"Marcus says we have to be thorough, given the delicate political situation," Selena replied. "We've got a vampire body with no visible wounds, which means that something must have killed him from the inside. We'll have to do an autopsy."

"Shit." I rubbed my hands to keep warm. "The vampire community won't be happy to hear that we're cutting up one of their own."

"We can do damage control later. We'll put a spin on it. For now, the body's in public view. It's fair game, and we found it first."

"That's kind of cold-blooded, don't you think?"

She blinked. "You want to send his family a card?"

I sighed. "Fine. Just trying to be politic for once."

"Leave that to me. Your job is to follow up."

"I know what my job is."

She handed me two evidence bags. There was a small, yellowed square of paper, folded up, inside the first bag, and a crumpled photograph in the second.

"From his pocket?"

Selena nodded. "The note is written in vampire script. I'll send it to questioned documents for analysis."

"And the picture?" I peered at it. One of the subjects was the dead vampire—he was grinning, eyes bright, arm wrapped around a woman's shoulder. I didn't recognize the woman, though. She had blonde hair and sharp blue eyes. She was smiling as well, but there seemed to be a hardness to the expression—almost a hint of cruelty.

"What do you think?" I asked Selena. "Vampire sweethearts?"

"Could be. Audiovisual should be able to pull something out of it."

"So, other than this picture, and the note, we've got nothing?"

"Nada." Selena cast another look at the body. "We've already been over every inch of the alley with UV and IR lights. We sprayed every surface with luminol and swabbed his clothes with phenolphthalein. Not a drop of blood. Anywhere."

Luminol was a chemical reagent that reacted to the iron in hemoglobin. Spray it on a surface, turn the lights out, and it fluoresces. UV light works particularly well for that. Phenolphthalein was a bit trickier—generally it was used for swabbing fabrics. Just add a drop of hydrogen peroxide, and if there's blood present, the swab turns purple. Our solutions were modified to detect the unique plasmids in demon blood, so our presumptive tests were species-specific. Goblin blood was pink. Like Klingon.

"A vampire dies without a mark on him, and there's no trace of blood. Seems unlikely. What about fibers?"

"None that we could find."

"There must be a print somewhere," Derrick said. "Nobody's that clean. Not even a trained killer. They always leave something behind, right? Locard's exchange principle: every interaction leaves a trace."

"Depends if it was another vamp. Prints come from a mixture of oil and amino acids, right? But vampire's don't sweat or produce oil. They're ghosts." Selena drew out a pack of smokes from her pocket. She stared at it ruefully for a moment, then sighed and put it back. I'd forgotten that she used to be a smoker. "If another vamp did this, we might never find prints. Aura traces, maybe, but getting a match will be impossible. And auras don't hold up in court."

A photographer's flash lit up her face momentarily, and I was struck by what a surprisingly beautiful woman she was. At nearly 6'1", she was tall enough to be considered statuesque. Lean and lithe, she had the kind of body that most women would kill for, although she made every effort to conceal it with grey pant-suits and men's shirts. She was wearing a tan jacket that made her brown skin look even darker, and her hair was tied up tightly. Selena wasn't the kind of black woman who let her hair down in public. I'd have killed to see what it looked like.

"What?" She asked. She'd caught me staring.

I looked away. "Nothing. Just wondering if the victim's own prints will pan out. We can run them through D-CODIS."

D-CODIS, our own version of the Combined DNA Indexing System, had all sorts of interesting DNA profiles that would have knocked the Vancouver Police lab techs right out of their chairs. Fortunately, our records were restricted.

I signed the tag on the evidence bag, then put it in my pocket. "I'll swing this by the lab on my way home. Anything else?"

"You leaving already?" Selena asked. "Why don't you stick around? There's still lots of work to be done here."

"I've got a meeting with Marcus at 6:30 AM—something to do with my upcoming performance review." I exhaled. "I'd rather chew on napalm than deal with him so early in the morning, but I guess I don't have a choice."

"He does outrank both of us." Selena's grin was sympathetic. "Don't worry about the meeting. I'm sure it'll go fine."

"That's probably what they said to Napoleon. And Custer."

"C'mon." Derrick fished the car keys out of his pocket. "You have to drop me off in Kits, and I don't want you taking any of your rage out on the late-night joggers."

"Right. Let's go." I took the keys from him. "Maybe we'll stop at Denny's for an ice-cream sundae. I'm craving sugar."

"You just saw a dead body."

"What's your point?"

He sighed. "None whatsoever."

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 26 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(8)

4 Star

(10)

3 Star

(2)

2 Star

(2)

1 Star

(4)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 27 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 8, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    So disappointing

    Tess is a forensic cop (kinda) in a world populated by demons, vampires (who are demons) and mages (who are part demons). Her most recent case is a dead vampire with no signs of trauma and the address of a 13 yr old girl in his pocket. And the girl, Mia, reminds Tess very much of her childhood friend who died traumatically in a fire, giving Tess plenty of fuel to protect Mia and make sure she doesn't end up like the dead vampire.
    Close to the end of the book the bad guy says to Tess, "You couldn't do your job right if your life depended on it...You screwed up paperwork, botched evidence, showed up late, clocked out early, got hopelessly confused on your way to the bathroom, and you couldn't even work the photocopier." I don't remember Tess trying to use a photocopier, but sadly the rest is true. Tess is a extremely weak character. She blatantly ignores protocol (despite other people warning her constantly), irritatingly complains about being too old and not powerful enough (she's 24), leaves crime scenes when she's supposed to be in charge, takes an underage suspect to her house after she's been banned from contact with the girl and almost gets her killed. Everyone, including Tess, gets wrapped up in science tech talk, which would be fine for a forensic novel, but the voice is exactly the same every time, which makes characters sound like parrots of each other. And instead of sciencing up the magic Battis mucks up the science, saying that magic (or materia) is really just dark matter and mages can manipulate it..magically.
    While there are good ideas here, like Derrick, and the demons, and the very concept of the night children, it's lodged like a great meal between some very awkward, and at times down right annoying teeth. As a reader one can see why Tess hasn't advanced anywhere in life, and I had to wonder if Battis wasn't just writing the wrong thing, trying to hammer a more classic fantasy or horror novel into an urban fantasy shape. In short, there are better urban fantasy and paranormal procedurals out there for public and private collections.
    Contains: violence, language, sexual content

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2013

    Fun paranormal read

    Well written, fast paced read was quite enjoyable.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 20, 2012

    This book is a waste of time. I've been reading a lot of urban f

    This book is a waste of time. I've been reading a lot of urban fantasy novels recently and some are riveting and exciting and some are not. This book is definitely the latter, it contradicts itself on several occasions. Its very choppy and confusing with plot elements that just don't make any logical sense at all and the protagonist comes off as if she suffers from multiple personality disorder, with the sheer number of times her personality changes throughout the book.

    I forced myself to finish the book but I will not be reading the other books in the series nor do I recommend this book to anyone.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 26, 2012

    Was Hoping She'd Be A Lesbian

    Nice read. Too short though. It was also a little confusing when she spent a lot of time admiring women, only to almost have sex with a latin necro.

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  • Posted August 29, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    A Nice Surprise

    It started out a little slow, but once it picked up I couldn't put it down. I can't wait to see the other stories this author spins.

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  • Posted April 24, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Exciting 1st novel from this author

    For those who like forensics with a twist, this is your book. Tess is an investigator for the supernatural unit. This book really rocks along, with well-fleshed out characters and interesting plot. There is some romantic involvement, but not as the primary story, just a side plot. It does get a little steamy at one point, though! I can recommend this book whole-heartedly! I hope the author is planning another book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 28, 2008

    Solid Urban Fantasy

    This was a good read. At times it did get a bit repetitive and the main character did make some silly decisions but nothing that would've stopped me from finishing the book. It will be interesting to see the next chapter in Tess' career and her relationship w/ Lucian. I recommend this book.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Fabulous worldbuilding

    She is an Occult Special Investigator for Vancouver Mystical Crime Lab which is part of the Central Occult Regulation Enterprise. They are mages who try to prevent demons from harming humans. Currently the two sides have a working truce that is about to be tested.------------- In the middle of the night Tess Corday and her partner Derek are called to the crime scene featuring a murdered vampire. The telepath at the crime scene picks up images of the vampire¿s last moments filled with fire and a teenage girl. In the vampire¿s pocket is a picture of himself and his sire as well as an address. Tess and Derek visit the home of Cassandra and her niece Mia. They are shocked to realize the aunt is a demon and the niece is a mage whose powers remain surprisingly dormant. Mia confides that the vampire was in her guardian¿s home. A vampire attacks the two investigators, but they escape unharmed. They get into further trouble when they are warned then ordered by their superiors to stay away from Mia. Tess feels a strong affinity for Mia so she risks her life and her job to keep the focus of seemingly everyone¿s interest safe.----------- NIGHT CHILD will appeal to a wider audience then just the obvious Dresden urban fantasy crowd. The world building is fabulous as the audience will feel like Jes Battis¿ humans are caught in the middle of a cold war that could go hot in a nanosecond between mages and demons. Adding to the depth of the characterizations is both sides have good and bad members with their ethics being extremely complex. Fans will appreciate this tour of the Battis universe where the supernatural, the natural, and the hybrid live together in a not so peaceful co-existence.------- Harriet Klausner

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 1, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted November 18, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 15, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 3, 2009

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