Monday, December 15, 2008

Review: Blood Sins by Kay Hooper

I've been a fan of Kay Hooper and the FBI SCU series ever since I discovered the series while I was doing my undergrad... I loved the books because of the blend of mystery, romance and psychic abilities and Ms Hooper's ways of explaining it.

It is unfortunate that I've started reading Ms Hooper's books after she moved from romance to romance mystery/thriller... thanks god for re-issues/re-prints though :) Although I have to admit, I much prefer her FBI SCU series to her romance books. However, I have been a bit disappointed with her recent entries in the series... I found both Sleeping with Fear and Blood Dreams okay reads... if it was any other authors, it'd be good with me... but since it's Ms Hooper, I expect to be wow-ed.

So what did I think of Blood Sins?

Blood Sins by Kay Hooper
published by Bantam Books in December 2008

Some sins can't be forgiven...
because some sins no one survives.

"New York Times" bestselling author Kay Hooper has touched our darkest fears but none so dark as in her latest thriller. Here's a psychopath who lures his victims with a promise no one can resist... and demands a price no one would knowingly pay.
Young, vulnerable, attractive, Tessa Gray made the perfect victim. Which was why Noah Bishop of the FBI's Special Crimes Unit recruited her to play the role of grieving widow. As the supposed new owner of property coveted by the Church of the Everlasting Sin, she'd be irresistible bait for the reclusive and charismatic Reverend Samuel. His fortified compound in the mountains near Grace, North Carolina, had been the last known residence of two women murdered in ways that defied scientific explanation.

Though hardly as naive or as vulnerable as she appears, Tessa knows she has a lot to learn about using her unique gift. She also knows that Bishop and the SCU have to be desperate to rely on an untried psychic agent in an undercover operation so dangerous. And desperate they are. For the killer they're hunting is the most terrifying they've ever faced and shakes even the most seasoned agents: a soulless megalomaniacal cult leader who can use their own weapons, talents, and tactics against them.

By entering the cult's well-guarded compound, Tessa will be exposing herself to the dark magnetism of a psychopath on an apocalyptic crusade of terror that spares no one, not even the youngest victims. And Samuel has protected himself within a fanatically loyal congregation, many of whom occupy surprising positions of power within the community. Even Grace's chief of police, Sawyer Cavenaugh--a man Tessa will have to trust with her life--may be unable to protect her. Because no one, not even Tessa herself, can guarantee she's strong enough to resist--or powerful enough to battle--a killer who's less than human.

Genre: mystery, thriller
Series: FBI SCU series, Book #11 (Book #2 of the Blood trilogy)

The Story: Blood Sins doesn't pick up right after Blood Dreams stopped; however, it is definitively a continuation. In Blood Dreams, Noah Bishop's team was able to stop a killer, but realized that the killer was only a puppet... in Blood Sins, they are after the puppet master, a sect leader named Adam Deacon Sammuel. Since the authorities have no evidences that Sammuel has been murdering people, Noah Bishop cannot send anyone of his team... however, the resourceful man has turned to the FBI SCU's civil group sister, Haven.

Haven already has someone infiltrates the compound, but when that person is killed, it becomes imperative to the FBI SCU and Haven to stop Sammuel. Hence, they send Tessa Gray as bait.

My Opinin: Okay, so my summary wasn't very good, but it's hard to summarize it, since it's quite complex. First, let me start by saying: there's no romance in this book, at all. Yes, Tessa and the chief of police, Sawyer Cavenaugh, share some attraction, but they hardly know each other, let alone start to build a relationship. I find it unfortunate... I always liked Ms Hooper's blend of romance with her mystery... On the other hand, this makes the book more realistic in my opinion. I mean, the story spans over a couple of day, perhaps not even a week... so any relationship would have been unbelievable.

Secondly, this book is more focused on action and stopping the cult leader, then on the characters. To tell the truth, we hardly get to know Tessa and Sawyer... We know what kind of people they are, why they do what they do and what they think of the case, but we don't go any deeper. To tell the truth, I didn't mind that much... Usually, I think that most of the FBI SCU novels can stand alone; however, Blood Sins was clearly the continuation of Blood Dreams. The goal of this book was to stop Sammuel and it would have been difficult for Ms Hooper to develop both... especially given the length of the book (it was a bit short, coming under 300 pages). As a result, Ms Hooper made a choice, to develop the story... which I guess would explain the lack of development of the characters. In which case, it explains the lack of romance elements. I'm not sure how other readers will take it, but in my case, I didn't mind it.

So how was the story then? I think it was very good and that Ms Hooper did deliver. The readers will definitively be surprised at some of the twists :) I know I was. I thought the story moved at a fast pace, was tightly written and I enjoyed it. I liked the fact that Noah Bishop played a more active role than in the previous books. We also get to see familiar faces such as Quentin Hayes, Hollis and Galen. We also get to catch up with some very old characters - although they don't appear, they are mentioned, and I can't help to think that Ms Hooper is building up for something more :) Those who have been curious about Galen, he plays a more active role too in this book and we get to learn what is his ability (or at least one of them). I also like how Ms Hooper has Hollis as a recurring character... she first appeared as a victim, then a rookie agent... and we've seen her grow and change... I wonder what Ms Hooper has in store for her :)

I'd say that this book is less gory than Blood Dreams, although there is something a bit disturbing... but then again, we're dealing with a cult, so it is to be expected. I also liked how this book was tied to the previous one. When she first started this trilogy, Ms Hooper did indicate that unlike her previous trilogies, the Blood trilogy would have an overall storyline spanning the three books. Ms Hooper also does a good job preparing for the next book, planting questions and preparing a threat for Bishop and the FBI SCU. I'm definitively looking forward to the next book.

Unfortunately, although I enjoyed this book a lot, I have to say, it was not perfect. I've always liked how Ms Hooper was able to explain the psychic abilities - them resulting from electromagnetic energy and so on. I think that Ms Hooper has to be careful in the future, because there's a fine line with psychic abilities and supernatural powers... In this book, Sammuel was able to steal the psychic abilities of others and the description Ms Hooper used made me think of supernatural powers instead... a bit more like X-men and Heroes. I know that the difference is very minime, but still... If someone in the FBI SCU would start being able to control elements or time travelling, it would ruin everything.

Also, there were many unanswered questions left. Some of them were to prepare for the next book and that is fine with me... but others... For example, what was Ruby and Cody's abilities? I think that sometimes, Ms Hooper uses psychic abilities and the paranormal in a way that's convenient for her... sometimes, things happened and they are just attributed to psychic events... and while in the past, she was almost always able to provide an explanation, it wasn't the case in this book... and I think that she has to be careful about that.

My Grade: B+. Overall, I did really enjoy the book, much more than the two last ones. Although the book wasn't perfect and didn't wow me (which is why, it didn't get a higher grade), it allows me to hope for the next one :) Can't wait to see what Ms Hooper has in store for my favorite group of FBI agents ;)

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