Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Voices and Visions from Jayne Ann Krentz

Sizzle and Burn
By Jayne Ann Krentz

The second of the contemporary Arcane Society novels, Sizzle and Burn gets off to a marvelously creepy start. We meet heroine Raine Tallentyre as she walks through an old empty house on a dark and stormy day. It was Raine’s aunt who owned the house, and Aunt Vella, who claimed to hear voices, was considered to be a crazy lady by the town residents. Vella spent the last year of her life in a psychiatric hospital, and Raine is in town to deal with her estate. Like her aunt, Raine is clairaudient – she picks up traces of psychic energy that manifest as voices in her head. This is not a tidbit of information that Raine normally shares, so when she hears echoes of a disturbed mind whispering “Burn, witch, burn” as she walks through the house, she decides not to inform the real estate agent accompanying her. Instead, she follows the traces to the basement, where she finds a shiny new padlock on an old storage locker. Presuming the worst, Raine dials 911 to report finding a body. The policeman who responds is a little skeptical – after all, Raine has not actually found a body – yet. But when he opens the locker, there is indeed a woman inside, bound and gagged. The good news is that she is still alive; the bad news is that she was very nearly the next victim of a local serial murderer known as the Bonfire Killer.

While Raine is dealing with skeptical law enforcement, Arcane Society member and PI Zack Jones arrives in town. It seems that on the day Raine’s Aunt Vella died, a high level Arcane Society researcher disappeared from the same town. If the Society’s suspicians are correct, this researcher was working on the same type of psychotropic drug that Raine’s father was investigating at the time of his death decades before. The drug is a version of something called the Founder’s Formula, and has the ability to enhance paranormal talents to a frightening degree. Judson Tallentyre was drummed out of the Society because of his forbidden research, and had his lab burned to the ground. He died under mysterious circumstances shortly thereafter, and it was assumed that no trace of his research survived. His sister Vella took Raine and avoided all contact with the Society, whom she suspected of murdering her brother. Now it looks like someone believes Judson Tallentyre’s research notes still exist, and the only link left is Raine. Now Zack has to determine if a rogue group of people with paranormal abilities are trying to find the Tallentyre notes, and what, if anything, Raine and the serial killer have to do with it. Given her history, Raine is not inclined to help the Arcane Society, but she does want information about her family history and her abilities. Like Zack, she suspects her aunt’s death wasn’t from natural causes, and so the two strike a bargain – she helps him figure out what happened to the researcher, and he helps her find out if her aunt truly died of natural causes. Sounds good – until the serial killer targets Raine, and the bad guys Zack is after decide he needs to be eliminated as well. The action heats up and so does the chemistry between Zack and Raine. Each has emotional baggage from past relationships, but the attraction between them is strong and the constant danger they face cements the bond. Zack understands Raine as few other men can; where she hears voices, he sees visions, and so is unfazed by her psychic ability.

There is a lot going on in this story, but Krentz keeps things moving along. The plot twists and turns come fast and furious, keeping you guessing until the end. The interaction between Raine and Zack is believable enough as the string of near death experiences forces them to open up emotionally at a quick pace. Add in lots of sexual tension and genuinely likeable characters, and you have a very satisfying love story. Though most loose ends are tied up by the end of the book, there are one or two left dangling, making it clear that a certain lurking menace will need to be dealt with in upcoming novels. Overall, this is a real page turner, and I am looking forward to reading the next installments.

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