Smoke and Mirrors (Darkest Night, Vol. 2), by Tanya Huff

I reviewed book 1 of this series on Monday, public health and I have very little new to say about Tanya Huff or her “Blood”/”Darkest Night” series. In any case, this site to recap, cialis 40mg Ms. Huff wrote five books featuring Vicki Nelson, a former cop turned PI; Henry Fitzroy, a vampire who writes romance novels; and Mike Celluci, Vicki’s old partner on the force. Tony Foster, a recurring character, has finally grown up enough to get his own series, and here it is. Ms. Huff, at one point in her life, worked at Bakka Phoenix Books in Toronto, and I’ve been there. Of course, it was five or ten years after she worked there, but hey, good enough, eh?

Tony Foster is a PA on a low-budget Canadian show about a vampire who also happens to be a detective. One of the crew found an old house that everyone decided would be perfect to film a haunted-house episode in, so the entire cast and crew is somewhat outside Vancouver on location. It’s called Caulfield House, and was formerly owned by Creighton Caulfield, a mining and timber millionaire. It’s a little bit spooky to start with, and when Tony thinks he’s seen a ghost, he’s not that surprised. Of course, everyone is surprised when, at sundown, the house manages to trap more than a dozen members of the cast and crew — including Tony, Mason the star, and Lee the costar — inside. Can they survive the malevolence that lives in the house until morning?

I honestly feel that this is the best book of the three. Not only is the antagonizing force the most organic to this world, but it’s the most innovative. Wizards, demons, sure; this is a haunted house in the best ways. There are dozens of ghosts, and nearly all of them spend their afterlives replaying the murder-suicide scenarios that turned them into ghosts. All of them died in grisly ways, ranging from axes, to arsenic, to hanging. Ms. Huff shows us each of these scenarios, and they’re somewhat graphic. I wouldn’t say, necessarily, though, that they’re too graphic or gross; they didn’t feel as if she were only going for the shock value. In truth, the descriptions of the scenarios felt necessary, and luckily Tony’s attempts to lighten the situation work.

Of course, at the beginning, only Tony can see the majority of the ghosts. By the end, however, the whole group can, and things have gotten very dangerous. It’s a weird situation they’ve gotten themselves into, and it takes more than just Tony’s odd skills to get them out of it. It’s very interesting to see some of the characters I’d gotten to know from the previous book in such a situation. Some show their true colors under stress, and some change barely at all. Speaking of characters, two of them are Chester Bane’s (the executive producer)’s daughters — Brianna and Ashley. They are true terrors, and they add a lot of humor to the situation, lightening up what could have been a grim tone.

I really, really wish that this book were a standalone. However, so many of the relationships in the book, let alone some of the actual plot elements, depend on the first volume. Don’t get me wrong — I do recommend the first volume, but I feel that the second volume is so outstanding that I wish I could say to readers, “Hey, there’s this awesome book I want you to read,” rather than, “Hey, read this good but not outstanding book because I swear that book 2 is amazing!” Overall, though, I’d definitely recommend reading both of them. 4.5/5 stars.

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