Blood Ties by Kay Hooper
published by Bantam Books in January 2010 (HC)
The elite Special Crimes Unit, the FBI's most controversial and effective team, is a group of mavericks and misfits trained to use their unique psychic abilities to hunt the worst monsters imaginable - human ones. Led by the enigmatic Noah Bishop, the SCU team has earned a reputation for pitting their skills and cunning against killers that other cops fear. But this time Bishop and his agents face an enemy who has them in his sights, a trained sniper with a deadly plan - and more than one ace up his sleeve.Genre: Mystery/thriller
It starts with an unspeakable series of grisly murders across three states, a trail of blood leading, finally, to the small Tennessee town of Serenade. There, two more brutal murders lure the SCU into what may be the ultimate trap.
One of the first investigators on the scene, Special Agent Hollis Templeton is willing to push herself as hard and as far as necessary. Risking more than her life to help and protect her fellow SCU members, Hollis is coping with psychic abilities that are evolving in unprecedented ways, an attraction to the most complex man she's ever known, and a serial murder investigation that has just turned very, very personal.
In her time with the SCU, Hollis has shown an uncanny ability to survive even the most deadly attacks. But what she doesn't count on is that this killer intends to destroy the team from within.
The clock is ticking. The body count is rising. And as Bishop and his agents race to uncover the identity of their true enemy, not even their special senses can warn them just how bloody, and how terrifyingly close, the truth will be.
Series: Blood trilogy, Book #3 (FBI SCU series, Book #12)
The Story: Wow... where to start? While the back blurb is quite a good summary, the story is so complex that it cannot cover it all... So I'm going to add my two cents.
The FBI Special Crimes Unit is the result of Noah Bishop's hard work, efforts and beliefs. It is an unit composed of psychics who have some sort of control over their gifts which makes them functional. As their gifts provide them a certain edge (not always good), they are the ones sent to chase the worst serial killers... which is what they are doing in Blood Ties.
Chasing after a serial killer who has dumped his horribly tortured victims in three different states, Miranda and 4 other agents - Quentin, Reese, Hollis and Diana, arrive to Serenade, a very little town out of nowhere, where a body matching the M.O. is found. Then, when a second body - one that wasn't supposed to be found, the case is becoming puzzling. Could it really be possible that such a small town would be the home of two deranged killers? However, when a sniper starts taking shots at them and after they dig deeper in the past of all the victims and find out they are all somehow connected to past cases, the agents quickly put two and two together and realize they've walked into a trap and the enemies are literally gunning after them.
Unfortunately, there's no backing out of it. The team has a case to solve and some of them have problems to sort out with their psychic abilities... while Bishop is busy trying to save the future of the SCU.
My Opinion: Okay, so here's the deal with my favorite authors. I don't have a problem being objective about the books in the review, but I tend to be more generous with the grades at the end ^_^; So a "meh" book becomes an "okay" book, an "okay" book becomes a good book and so on... It's just hard to be tough with favorite authors sometimes ^_^; However, I'm working on it. The reason why I'm bringing this up is because I have been a bit too generous with the last few books in the FBI SCU series. Quite frankly, I have been disappointed with them. Some of the stories were confusing, the characters a bit under-developed... It didn't dim my love for this series and at no time did I consider not getting this book; however, in my mind, I did write off Blood Ties and I was ready to move onto the next trilogy, hoping it'd be better.
Well I was a bit too quick in my judgment... because Ms Hooper definitively came back very strong with Blood Ties. Very strong. In my opinion, I'd say Blood Ties has been the best book since Chill of Fear or even Hunting Fear :D So this was a great surprise and made me very happy :D
I think what made this book so good was the fact there was no new H/H. Instead, all the characters that were playing important roles were ones that we have met in past books: Noah and Miranda Bishop, Quentin Hayes and Diana Brisco, Hollis Templeton, Reese DeMarco and etc. This was a good idea because it allowed the readers to catch up with the characters, but also allowed Ms Hooper to focus on the storyline. Blood Ties is definitively a complex story - it's not only about a case to be solved, but also the story arc spanning the whole Blood trilogy and wrapping up some loose ends from previous books as well. I believe if Ms Hooper had
introduced new characters, their development would have been disatisfying and the storyline would have suffered.
Seriously, it was great to re-visit some characters. Finding out what they've been up to, at which stage of life they are. I really enjoyed the camaraderie in the SCU. I think the SCU is really the place where they are the most comfortable, at home. It helps them so much being surrounded by people who don't doubt their gifts and understand it. LOL, the SCU is like a very big family with papa Noah and mama Miranda :P Once again, Hollis has a pretty big role in Blood Ties and her character is really getting interesting. It's also great to see her finally getting a love story :) and I'm sure Ms Hooper has more in store for her. The other character that gets a lot of "screen time" is Diana, who was introduced in Chill of Fear. I really enjoyed catching up with her... While her past has not been as tragic as some of the characters (Hollis), it was still hard and I was wondering how she was coping. To read about her in Blood Ties made it more realistic. Having spent half of her life medicated, in daze, she now has to find out who she really is... that was an interesting part of the story :D
As for the story itself, it was really interesting. I thought it was quite complex and multi-layered. Ms Hooper really did a good job at peeling one layer at the time and revealing all the villains and their motives. There were a lot of "ohhh" and "ahhh" moments, especially concerning the overall story arc. Quite frankly, I didn't think much of the overall story arc, but Ms Hooper really did a good job linking everything... One of my "Ohhh" moment :) I also found the amount of romance in this book satisfying. Of course, it's not as much as in romantic suspense, but compared to the past couple of books, I'm happy. I mean, at the beginning of the series, the first two or three trilogies could have passed for romantic suspense... but not Blood Dreams and Blood Sins. The romance was very minimal, quasi non-existent. While nobody is going to mistake Blood Ties with a romantic suspense, they are some relationships that are going forward :) Again, I think this is due with the fact that most characters were recurring ones.
So yes, I enjoyed the characters and the story and was very satisfied with Blood Ties. I do believe now that I would have enjoyed Blood Dreams and Blood Sins more if I've had read the whole trilogy in a smaller period frame instead of one book a year. There are just so many details that you forget in one year ^_^;
There was also a small section at the end of the books for additional information: mini-bios for the recurring characters as well as the definitions of the psychic abilities. It's pretty much the same information that you can find on Ms Hooper's website. I think it was a good idea to add that section, especially since the SCU and Haven are growing so much and it's a great way to refresh our memory. However, I could have done without the footnotes found throughout Blood Ties, I thought they were distracting ^_^; And personally, I don't think anyone should read Blood Ties without having read a few key books in the series... Then again, I have a pretty good memory, but I know not everyone feels the same.
Finally, a little warning about Ms Hooper's books. The books in the FBI SCU series have a very peculiar style. First, the settings are all very similar - Special Agents of the SCU called to isolated town to investigate on possible serial killer. Then, there are all the psychics abilities and etc. I do think there's very little foreshadowing to the identity of the serial killers at the end and so, I'm not sure everyone is going to find the mystery satisfying. However, all this is part of Ms Hooper's style. In order to enjoy Blood Ties, I believe you need to know her style and enjoy it. Also, I wouldn't pick Blood Ties to star the series. So what I'm trying to say is, if you've read Kay Hooper's FBI SCU series books in the past and enjoyed them, you're going to like Blood Ties. If you haven't liked them, then this is not for you... and if you want to give this series a try, start at the beginning :)
My Grade: B++/A-. This time, I'm not being too generous LOL... and sorry about the long review ^_^;