The Scent of Shadows (Signs of the Zodiac Series #1)

The Scent of Shadows (Signs of the Zodiac Series #1)

3.9 186
by Vicki Pettersson

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When she was sixteen, Joanna Archer was brutally assaulted and left to die in the Nevada desert.

By rights, she should be dead.

Now a photographer by day, she prowls a different Las Vegas after sunset—a grim, secret Sin City where Light battles Shadow—seeking answers to whom or what she really is . . . and revenge for the horrors she was

…  See more details below


When she was sixteen, Joanna Archer was brutally assaulted and left to die in the Nevada desert.

By rights, she should be dead.

Now a photographer by day, she prowls a different Las Vegas after sunset—a grim, secret Sin City where Light battles Shadow—seeking answers to whom or what she really is . . . and revenge for the horrors she was forced to endure.

But the nightmare is just beginning—for the demons are hunting Joanna, and the powerful shadows want her for their own . . .

Editorial Reviews

Kim Harrison
“The Scent of Shadows came out of nowhere and slapped me silly. … You’re going to love this.”
Charlaine Harris
“...Read at your own risk —it’ll keep you up past your bedtime.”
Publishers Weekly

Despite its romance pedigree (Kim Harrison and Charlaine Harris contribute advance praise), this moody, fast-paced debut falls into the growing "dark fantasy" category, which blends fantasy, comic book superheroism and paranormal romance, but holds no promise of a happily-ever-after. The book's heroine, Joanna Archer, has spent the years following a brutal attack learning martial arts and trolling Sin City, Nev., for trouble. On the eve of her 25th birthday, she finds it in the form of a peculiar date who looks like a gaunt banker one moment and like hell spawn the next. Joanna fights her way out of his grasp, but her close encounter is only the beginning. Before long, she finds herself caught up in a world where a superhuman few—the Light—fight evil from the Shadow realm, a world in which she's recognized as the "Kairos," a prophesied warrior made up of both Shadow and Light who's destined to help Light prevail. Pettersson centers her story around the signs of the Zodiac, putting an imaginative spin on a familiar setup. Though graphic scenes (in which tongues are severed, heads ripped off, etc.) will repel some readers, others will embrace Pettersson's enduring, tough-as-nails heroine and anticipate gleefully the next volume, due in April. (Mar.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Signs of the Zodiac Series, #1
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
4.50(w) x 6.80(h) x 1.50(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Scent of Shadows

The First Sign of the Zodiac
By Vicki Pettersson

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2007 Vicki Pettersson
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780060898915

Chapter One

He didn't look dangerous, not at first glance. Still, a girl can never be too careful on a blind date, and that's why I'd insisted Mr. Sand meet me in a popular steak-house nestled in a casino dead center on the Las Vegas Strip. It was, I'd thought, the most public of all public places. Yet now, watching the way shadows from the muted lighting sought out the unhealthy hollows beneath his eyes and cheeks, and the way he toyed with his blue cheese and endive appetizer, I decided the most ominous thing about Mr. Sand was a deeply embedded issue with self-control, and the only thing I was in danger of dying from was boredom. Of course, that was before I really knew him. And before my death the very next day.

At the time I had no way of knowing Mr. Sand's true intentions, not like now. Besides, who knew homicidal maniacs came wrapped in horse-faced packages with little to no fashion sense? Beyond that, he was so skinny his Adam's apple bobbed like a buoy above the opening of his pressed shirt, while knobby bones protruded at both knuckles and wrists. Ichabod Crane in a poorly fitted suit. Not exactly intimidating.

Looks aside, the next mark against him was his first name.

"Ajax?" I repeated as our soups arrived, notquite sure I'd heard right.

He nodded, lifting his spoon, though I noted he didn't actually use it. "Ajax."

"Like the cleaner?"

His smile was tight. "Like the Greek warrior."

I mean, really.

Cursing my sister for setting me up on yet another blind date—and myself for letting her—I nevertheless tried to plant my feet firmly on the bright side of things. At least this one could walk without dragging his knuckles on the ground. And even if the woman in me had recoiled at first sight, the photographer in me had something to do.

I tried to picture Ajax in a bank, as he'd already told me how the world's financial industry would fall flat on its ass without him, but I couldn't quite imagine him languishing behind a desk. There was too much movement, too much latent energy in those snaking limbs for that. His fingers twined and untwined, his bony elbows rose to rest on the table only to drop a second later, and his eyes darted around the dining room, taking in everything but never fully settling. I'd like to still those relentless limbs with my camera, I decided. Take time to study those shifting eyes. See just who Mr. Sand became when seen in two dimensions instead of three.

He looked at me like he knew what I was thinking.

And it was that look, those eyes, that sent up the first red flag. I don't mean the color, a blue so light it was nearly transparent, but more the way they tried to own me. I licked my lips, and his eyes dropped to watch my tongue dart out. I ran a hand through my bobbed hair, and felt him following the movement so that my fingers fisted there. I exhaled deeply, forcing myself to relax, and for some reason that made him smile.

I was jumpy, I confess, but I recognized that hungry look. I'd seen it once before, long before I'd ever started dating. I'd hoped never to see it again.

"So, what do you do for a living?" Ajax asked, finally breaking the silence. "I mean, you don't just live off Daddy's money, do you?" This was followed by a shallow "just joking" guffaw, one belied by how carefully he continued to watch me.

I ran my fingers over the stem of my wineglass, wondering just how long it would take Ajax to notice that mine weren't the hands of a debutante, but those of a fighter. "I take photographs."

"Like weddings or models or something?"

"Like people. Shapes. Shadows. Usually night shots using natural lighting and gritty settings. Reality."

"So . . ." he said, drawing the word out, "you don't make money at it?"

"Not yet."

He looked at me like I should apologize. He probably was a fucking banker after all.

"Sounds like a waste of time," he said, then turned away from my stare.

His little jab stung more than it should have. Normally I don't care what people think, but lately, looking at the world through a refracted lens, viewing the worth of places and people and objects in terms of light and shadow, black and white, wasn't as satisfying as it used to be. Restless, I had recently begun taking more self-portraits than anything else; zeroing in on singular things like my knuckles, constantly red and callused from nylon punching bags, or my eyes—right or left, rarely both—which were tawny and earth-colored during the day, but blackened like a clouded lake in the dark, or when I was extremely angry.

Instead of looking for enemies in the faces of strangers, I'd begun turning the camera on myself, and I didn't need Freud or even Dr. Phil to tell me I was searching for something. Question was, would I like what I eventually found?

"Banking, on the other hand," I began sweetly, once the server had delivered our entrées, "sounds absolutely captivating. Please don't skip one fascinating little detail."

Ajax's mouth creased even thinner than his hairline. "God, I should have known by looking that you're nothing like your sister."

I didn't really consider it an insult, but I was sure my eyes had gone black as tar. "And how, exactly, do you know what my sister's like?"

"I read her profile in Playboy," he said nastily, and shoved some saffron potatoes into his mouth.

In turn, I settled my own fork on the side of my plate. So that was it.

Though similar in build, Olivia and I had taken vastly different approaches to both our sexuality and our lives. The issue Ajax was referring to had come out three months earlier, and while I didn't approve of Olivia's overt approach to sexuality, I understood the reason behind it. Ironically enough, it stemmed from the same origin as my own.


Excerpted from The Scent of Shadows by Vicki Pettersson Copyright © 2007 by Vicki Pettersson. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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What People are saying about this

Kim Harrison
“The Scent of Shadows came out of nowhere and slapped me silly. … You’re going to love this.”
Charlaine Harris
“...Read at your own risk —it’ll keep you up past your bedtime.”

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The Scent of Shadows (Signs of the Zodiac Series #1) 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 186 reviews.
DanaMJ More than 1 year ago
Darn this book! I downloaded it to the Nook because there was a deal where I could get it free. I was thinking, by the brief description, that it was a mystery/thriller with maybe a little "magical" component thrown in. As I started reading, I started thinking "this is some WEIRD stuff" and "this is WAY over the top", and even "way too out there for my style". As I'm saying those things, I still can't put it down!! I'm normally your realistic suspense lover, somewhere between John Grisham and Dean Koontz. I like to read about situations that are a little "out of the norm", but NEVER EVER EVER would I read anything that remotely resembles fantasy or science fiction (I don't even like Star Wars). It's just that once I started reading it I couldn't put it down, so I went against my norm and found a new type of fiction that I absolutely love! It was full of twists, turns, and interesting developments. The characters were well-developed and kept me thinking all the time. I'm about to download the 2nd book so I can continue this journey into a new world for me!
Raven_Wrath More than 1 year ago
When she starts being stalked by the creepy-crawlies, Joanna Archer discovers she has inherited superpowers (for lack of a better term) from her mother, whom she hasn't seen in years. This leads to her joining the troop of Agents of Light, who battle the Shadows for control of Las Vegas. We mortals are cluless. Readers are introduced to her new world as she is, a smooth transition that doesn't feel preachy. This book is at times funny, especially if you like a sharp tongue and dry sense of humor. But it's always full of action and plot twists. Expect some horror aspects, as Pettersson pulls no punches. You'll feel for the characters immediately. She's got a way of plucking at reader's emotions expertly. It's a creative new idea, a fresh new voice in the Dark Urban Fantasy genre that must be read! Pick up the whole series because you'll want to keep going. These books are addictive cliffhangers! Enjoy!
OneTreeHillFANNUMBER1 More than 1 year ago
THE SCENT OF SHADOWS is the first book in the Signs of the Zodiac Series by Vicki Pettersson. I picked this book up because the cover art interested me, and one of my favorite authors reviewed this novel: Charlaine Harris. Charlaine Harris wrote the Sookie Stackhouse Novels, the Aurora Teagarden Mysteries, the Harper Connelly mysteries, some anthologies, short stories, and many others, and I love her work, so I picked it up and read her review. Here is her review on THE SCENT OF SHADOWS "The forces of Light and Dark battle over Las Vegas in this very exciting series debut. A missing mother, an evil father, and a butt-kicking e figure, to say nothing of assorted superheroes, power this bullet train of a book. Read at your own risk -- it'll keep you up past your bedtime." And I stood there, smiling, read the back of it, and I gave it a chance. 455 pages later, the book is done, and I'm satysfied with my buy! It had a GREAT plot, a GREAT e figure, and a GREAT adventure to live through (whether you are having a rough time, or you're too hyped up for bedtime, or you're just wanting a good novel to escape into for a while). Joanna Archer is a great female figure who will definitely pull you into the evil Sin City she lives in of Las Vegas, and take you on a THRILL RIDE of a life time! I HIGHLY reccomend this book to everyone who loves action, supernatural elements, (especially those who love BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER and ANGEL by JOSS WHEDON) The Sookie Books, and any other good series that is by a well-known author. If you don't want to buy the book and read an excerpt, you can go to and click on BOOKS, then click on THE SCENT OF SHADOWS, click on READ AN EXCERPT, or go straight to and look at the SIGNS OF THE ZODIAC post by me, and follow the link that tells you what to do. I love this series, and I cant wait to move on to the rest of the series! :)
slimikin More than 1 year ago
I have a difficult time reading about excruciatingly lonely people and about love stories with very little hope of a happy ending, and so on the surface of things, this book should have had two strikes against it. And indeed, there were moments I wasn't sure I wanted to follow the story to an uncertain end, but the difficulties Joanna faced were so interesting that I couldn't help wanting to see how she dealt with them. Add a vivid sense of Las Vegas, a cast of characters who felt real despite how little I truly knew about them, and an intriguing twist on zodiac personalities, and by the end of the book I knew this wouldn't be the last Sign of the Zodiac novel I'd be reading.
harstan More than 1 year ago
A blind date almost leads to socialite Joanna Archer¿s death as her companion explains they have been hunting her for years. She is able to escape him but tragedy strikes when someone breaks into her sex kitten looking sister Olivia¿s apartment to kill Joanna. However it is Olivia who winds up dead while Joanna is rescued by Warren, a man who masquerades as a homeless but is really the leader of Zodiac Troop 175. --- Each troop consists of twelve members representing a sign of the zodiac and is the next step up in human evolution. Since Joanna survived she is now a member of the troop as the Archer and these super being, warriors of the light, protect Las Vegas from their shadowy counterparts led by a Tulpa, a created man who happens to be Joanna¿s father. The zodiac troop makes it look like Joanne was the one who died and she now looks like her sister Olivia. She needs training in her new powers, but when they arrive at their destination in another dimension Joanna finds that members of the troop don¿t trust her because she is the mixture of shadow and light. When Warren¿s life is in danger, she risks everything including her life to save him. --- In only a few months Joanna runs the gamut of wonders from discovering the man see thought was her father was really a mortal her biological father used to work his evil on Earth in this roller coaster supernatural fantasy ride of unexpected twists and turns. Good people die, evil sometimes triumphs and the heroine has become a superhero protecting her world from the shadow zodiac. Vicki Petterson can hold her own with the greats in this genre including Kim Harrison and Kelly Armstrong as she makes the villains as interesting as the heroes. --- Harriet Klausner
camino_kid More than 1 year ago
Very good reading, nice twist on the supernatural, and heroes and demons etc. very creative change form the norm.... I can recommend this book to people that want a change in their reading material....
ZombieJoe More than 1 year ago
This is a series that has been on my radar for a while, but I finally forced up towards the top of my "To Be Read" pile (more like mountain) once I came back from Romantic Times. The idea of superheroes and supervillains duking it out in Vegas in a zodiac inspired Heroes-like mashup grabbed my interest a bit. It spoke not only to the urban fantasy reader in me, but the comic book reader as well. Of course that places me firmly in the camp of the "shifty eyed adults," but I get ahead of myself. The first of a series (book five released just recently), is what I would expect from a first book. A few chapters of getting used to the characters and introducing the world and setting they will be playing in. For me, that is the hardest part of a book. At the same time, by the point I was sitting around page 60 or so, I was seeing an evolution to the character that was drawing me into her story. As we follow Joanna Archer in her adventures I am drawn more and more in by her duality - a damn near self-destructive personality that fights at odds with the good natured person she wants to be. In short, she is broken. Much like the characters I love in Mark Henry's books or on the show True Blood, Joanna is broken in some of the most interesting ways. What I would like to see more of is the description of Krav Maga and how it pertains to Joanna. Krav Maga is a brutal, unforgiving martial art, but as The Archer it seems that the conduit that she inherits from her mother is at odds with her fighting style. In some ways it shows the duality of the character, but I would honestly like to see a bit more bone-popping from her. Overall, it was a solid read and a good opening book for the series. It took me all of 30 minutes to download the second book in the series to my Nook. Book 4 and 5 are still sitting on my too be read mountain. For a beginning novel in a series I will give it a B+ for sure. Well worth the investment and also available in audiobook form.
asohnly More than 1 year ago
i loved this book and i would recommend it to anyone
Guest More than 1 year ago
Roaming the book store's sci/fan section, happened across this title, read the back plus harrison's review and thought if its good enough for her then it's good enough for me. Best decision I ever made book wise. Man oh man! Not one disappointing moment except for the fact it ended!!!!Books like these are the reason I read. Right now I want you to go pick this book up, if you believe in superheroes.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have to admit this is my first time learning of this author. Yeah, I know, where have I been? I love her attention to detail, twisting plot, good and evil, fantastic characters. What a fantastic read. Now hungry for more Patterson. Good job!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This beginning to the Zodiac series has it all: a little action, a little mystery, a little romance, some sarcastic comedy. I own the paperback, which is now quite worn and couldn't resist purchasing the slightly more resilient Nook version so I can read again and again without worrying about a book binding or pages falling out. Joanna is a heroine you can love, sympathize with and beg for more of her story. And the other Zodiac troop members bring such variety to the world they live in. It's definitely an adventure!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read the entire series. If you are looking for a new series where all the books are out and you can find out the ending i recommend. This is a dark series where bad things happen to the main character. She has to transform herself into a tougher person each time. This is a very different story line from the usual. I enjoyed that a lot. I couldnt predict her outcomes. I also recommend the mortal coils series.
jlm548 More than 1 year ago
I had high hopes for this series, with the rave reviews and excellent first chapter. But there are too many points in the book that I hate. First is the Ben issue. To have loved and lost, then to rejoin again...then yanked out from under you several hours later blows. I mean, if I want heart ache just look at real life for most people. This is a fantasy novel, so there should be SOME hope for true love. Also on that note, when Jo 'dies', she fails to even think about Ben until she sees him at her funeral. Jo does not even think about how her actions have affected his life..his heart, his safety, his moral fiber. Secondly, thru the whole book, I could not get over her failure to think about the kid she gave up. Hello! Earth to the self absorbed Jo- there is an innocent 10 year old out there who needs protection and guidance. Jo did not even think about the kid until Hunter brings it up. Needless to say, not going to be buying the rest of the series.
Galaxcgrl More than 1 year ago
I am already on the fifth series and I'm sad it's almost over! The book has a great story line, great characters, mystery and an offbeat topic of "super-heroism"! The fifth novel is by far has the most plot twist thus far... You will not believe where Zoe has been!
Kloee More than 1 year ago
Came across this interesting series by Vicki Pettersson, which is about a woman named Joanna Archer whose life was never the same after she was attached and left for dead when she was 16. Now a photographer, she uses the camera as a way of keeping everyone at arms length. In addition, she made it her policy to never say, 'no', when asked for a date; a way of empowering herself and proving her past has no influence on her future. She believes her mother to have 'abandoned' her, as well as her father and sister. Her father, Zoe Archer, owns and runs several Las Vegas businesses, (read power and wealth here) which has left their family under constant scrutiny of the public eye. Needless to say Joanna is not a large advocate of this and attempts to spite her father whenever she gets a chance. Although Olivia complies with their fathers expectations and keeping up appearances, (read 'daddy's favorite.) she also adores her sister Joanna and is constantly pushing herself into Joanna's life to maintain their connection. Meanwhile, Joanna's 25th birthday is around the corner..and her life is about to change. She runs into her ex-boyfriend Ben, when one of her dates turns out to be a bad guy. (aka shadow agent) Joanna and Ben were high school sweethearts that grew apart after the assault but their 'spark' never really died. After questioning her about what occurred on her 'date,' he asked her out for dinner the next night. Flames ignite between them and he asks her to come home with him; she declines indicating a previous engagement with her sister. Not wanting to loose this chance to rekindle, he leaves an open invitation to swing by afterwards. Olivia is elated about Ben and Joanna reconnecting and assures Joanna that Ben never stopped loving her. Before long, their celebration is interrupted by an ex-lover who stops by to pick his remaining things. Joanna notices something isn't right but finds out too late just how wrong things can be.
Bomanta More than 1 year ago
What I really enjoyed about this story was the focus on the action. There was romance, however it did not dominate the plot. The storyline is rather convoluted, but it kept my interest.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I couldn't put the book down and I couldn't wait to get the rest of the series! I hope Pettersson comes out with book # 5 very soon.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a real slow read. Not anything like I thought it would be. Disappointing because a lot of the authors that I normally read had commented so positive on this author.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Wow. I picked up this book based on the endorsements by Kim Harrison and Charlaine Harris. It's not uber romancey. But it is action packed and intriguing from the very start. It grabs you, pulls you in and doesn't let go. YOU MUST TRY THIS BOOK!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book got me right from the first page. It was very riveting from the first word you were hooked into this woman's life. I personally do not read these paranormal books but because of Vicki's words they seem all so real.I cannot wait to read the next 11 books ,I hope..Kim K.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've read some not so great fantasy/sci-fi books lately that have been so boring I can't finish them so when I picked up 'Scent of Shadows' I wasn't too optimistic but this book was FANTASTIC! Truly original and unexpected, no cliches here and great characters, especially Joanna. I'm always on the look-out for good books with Strong female protagonists and this one does not disappoint.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Vicki Pettersson¿s dark debut, The Scent Of Shadows: The First Sign Of The Zodiac, is a stellar urban fantasy novel that unfolds beneath the belt of the heavens in Las Vegas, Nevada. Reluctant heiress, Joanna Archer, is a broken yet bold heroine fighting against the loss of innocence and the repercussions of rape. Ms. Pettersson handles sensitive subject matter with compassion, but not at the expense of glossing over the serious emotional ripples of such an unwelcome event, an event that molds Joanna into a woman prepared to fight the evil that seeks her and the darkness trying to take hold inside of her. Family secrets and tragedy, sweeping supernatural battles, and the prophecy of hope propel Joanna forward in furious motion. Ms. Petterson¿s prose teeters on perfection, the literary equivalent of a high-definition experience. The stars have aligned over this reader, and I am hooked. I can¿t wait for The Taste Of Night: The Second Sign Of The Zodiac.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really wish I could give this book more than 5 stars! I finally found a book that deals with the paranormal and has no other authors 'voice'. It was a delight reading this book without looking to see what author Vicki was copying, as so many other authors have been doing lately. As far as I can see, a highly original read, considering all the others out there. This book really deserves the praise that it got from the well-respected authors that 'blurbed' it. Bloody enough in spots to satisfy our horror fans, no real romance (but the idea is not off the table *I hope*), one good cry in the middle of the book, and enough action and mystery to keep the fans of these genres happy too. A complex read, which kept me from thinking about real life *LOL*, and the only complaint I have is, since it's a first book that sets up the whole series, our heroine Joanna/Olivia (that's the only 'hint' I'm giving) has a lot of inner-monologues in which she keeps asking herself too many questions, the character interactions soon pick up and the answers to these questions are revealed allowing Joanna now live the life she was given . Many extremely clever and new ideas went into the making of this book(I would really LOVE to get in to Vicki's head to admire the brain that thought this world up!) Seasoned authors are going to be scrambling to find a way to vie with the talent of Vicki Pettersson!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I picked it up for something to pass the time. This book caught my imagination and I stayed up until I finished reading it... about 3 a.m. And it was well worth the lack of sleep. It is definitely a keeper and something to recommend to others. I recommend this to you.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago