Friday, March 6, 2009

Review: The Dark Sleep (Vampire Files #8)

“…Someone’s after Jack. But who? Jack is willing to risk his life to find the truth—after all, he’s already dead.

Only this time, it’s not his life he’s risking…”

The Dark Sleep, the eighth book of the Vampire Files series, begins with main characters, Jack Fleming, vampire detective, and his English friend and private agent, Charles Escott. It is April 1937, post-prohibition Chicago. Two months have passed (for fans who have read the previous novels) since the rivalry between the Chicago and New York gangs. Charles has a new case from a woman named Mary Sommerfeld to retrieve important love letters that could ruin her relationship with her future husband. The man who has them, her ex-boyfriend Jason McCallen, is too stubborn and upset about this affair. Everything goes wrong during undercover mode that Escott and Fleming are left bruised together on the floor. They were almost killed!

Without arguing any further with Charles upon their return to the office, Jack visits the Nightcrawler Club to see his girlfriend, Bobbi Smythe, debuting her act on stage. The owner of the club, Gordy Weems, is one of Jack’s few closet friends (Jack did save his life a couple of times). As a regular at the club, he has the best seats in the house. Bobbi, the star of the show, is a sensation as the audience congratulates her performance. Meanwhile, Jack meets a few national celebrities. One man, Ike LaCelle, believes he could lead Bobbi to the right people for larger stardom. We meet three other important individuals: actress Adelle Taylor, businessman Gil Dalhauser, and Chicago’s own radio show host, Archy Grant. Archy is quite an impressive gentleman to any woman with his handsome face and perfect smile.

Jack has been contemplating about starting his own nightclub. In the previous novel, A Chill in the Blood, he is a rich man by lucky chance. With business as usual, Escott needs Fleming’s assistance again to solve the Sommerfeld case. They stop by Mr. McCallen’s home on the Southside of Chicago to retrieve the letters. Fleming in his supernatural form of invisibility finds the letters and rushes back to the car. They drive to Sommerfeld’s home on the Westside where she is very happy to see her letters again. That same evening, Jack pays a visit to Chicago’s Bronze Belt, the predominately black neighborhood, to see Trudence Coldfield. Instead, he meets Shoe Coldfield, longtime friend of Charles Escott and kingpin of the local black gangs. Shoe reminds Jack to watch and protect Charles carefully.

A night that should have gone excellent with Jack and Bobbi proved disastrous as McCallen terrorized the Sommerfeld home for the letters. While Jack searches for McCallen, he meets Jim Waters, a soulful bar singer, whom he found fantastic and possibly necessary for his future club. Unfortunately, Jack must monitor the clever and womanizing Andy Grant, who wants something more than just a talented singer on his radio show: Grant wants Bobbi all for himself.

When Jack resumes his search for McCallen to find information for Escott, he instead discovers a new guy, Paterno, who wants the letters just as badly. Who is he and what does he have to do with this case? Are they truly love letters? Jack needs to find the answers soon because his mortal partner, Charles, is in some unexpected and serious danger. As Jack tries to rescue his friend, he ascertains information about Charles’s hidden and disturbing past that would help him solve this mystery case—even if it smells like dangerous territory for a vampire.

The Dark Sleep starts fresh with a new investigation, new people and more trouble for our hero, Jack Fleming. He briefly chronicles all seven books (it has been six months since his transformation as a vampire) in several pages of important characters, events and symbolic memories. Bullets exit his body like he is paper; however, sunlight and wood have serious and painful effects on him. For Charles Escott fans, this IS the book that reveals information about his past! He becomes terrified and furious when someone from his past tries to murder him. While I have not always appreciate Escott’s role in this series, I reconsidered my opinions about him: he is a CRUCIAL character. This book is dedicated to Charles’ internal struggles and quest for justice to those close to him.

I also learned more about the career goals of Bobbi Smythe. She has the musical talent and beauty to aspire big for Hollywood, but she would rather build her local and regional connections. She is now 25 years old (Fleming is, pressumely, still 36 in human years.). We also learn that he is the youngest child from his parents, not that it is very important but it explains how he fits in his Ohio farm family. I don’t remember but his parents raised seven children, and Fleming is the only one unmarried and without children.

When Jack gives Ms. Sommerfeld the letters in her home, he notices an Evan Robley painting. Why is this special? Evan Robley was a main character in the fourth book, Art in the Blood, where he witnessed his dead sister on the floor of his own home. There is also another reference to Bloodlist when Jack notices Escott’s crossbow on the kitchen table. It would later become an important symbol in this book. Elrod reflects certain events from her previous novels of the Vampire Files series to provide a fairly continuous narrative which pleases longtime fans.

Jack also frequently recollects his past during the First World War, often known as the “Great War” when he served in the army. He compares and contrasts his experiences in the war to the Chicago gang-related gunfires. Elrod always include pop culture icons and vernacular dialogue that was very prevalent and significant in the 1920s and 1930s. She always describes important Chicago-related events and places like the Chicago Tribune (the city’s most famous newspaper), Chicago’s Bronze Belt (African-American community), Cicero (a famous neighborhood in Chicago), and Hyde Park (home of the prestigious University of Chicago). The setting of this story is before the brink of World War Two.

Stay tuned for my next review for the ninth installment in the Vampire File Series, Lady Crymsyn.

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