Title: Stalker of Shadows (SPECTR Series 3, #1)
Author: Jordan L. Hawk
Publisher: Self Published
Release Date: May 17, 2019
Genre(s): Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Vampires
Page Count: 129 Pages
Reviewed by: ColinJ
Heat Level: 3 flames out of 5
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
John Starkweather feels restless. Though still technically an agent for SPECTR, his only job now seems to be hanging out with his boyfriends, Caleb and the vampire spirit Gray, and binge-watching TV in their New Orleans apartment.
The inactivity comes to an abrupt end when a rougarou attacks John’s estranged grandfather. Even though he hasn’t seen his family since he was a teen, John can’t pass up the opportunity to reconnect.
The more John investigates the attack, the stranger everything about it seems, from his parents’ odd behavior to the rougarou’s unnatural size. And the closer John comes to finding answers, the nearer he draws to a truth that might be better left uncovered.
This story takes a while to get up to speed. As ever, it is well written and bears all the hallmarks of the author’s technique. Characterisation is largely established from previous books and this story looks to explore previously blank areas of the past. To do this through a new series, the author uses reminiscences to bring the reader up to speed. There is quite a lot of this and it can be a little intrusive, but it does help given that there has been some time between books. The characters are balanced with both positive and negative personalities. New family members are introduced and as with other characters from the past these tend to be polarised only to have plot features revealed that enrich them within the storyline.
These series are a good vehicle to introduce a wide range of monsters not widely known. This story adds another character, which not only reaps destruction but also shows characteristics that broaden the potential skillset and raise questions about what is possible. As the reader only picks up glimpses of the creature’s thoughts there is so much that remains unknown about them and their reasons for being there. The setting is well described but is used more as context to the story rather than atmosphere. The author is very effective at using the setting to enhance the atmosphere, as is shown in some of her other series.
As noted above, this is a slow boiler and it takes a while to place the story in context. The earlier parts of the book are easy to switch off from; nevertheless, the tension cranks up towards the end and there is a clear path through the set pieces that increases the pace. To that end, it is a little formulaic, but the writing is sufficient to keep the reader’s interest.
The shift in dominance within the central relationship is reinforced in this series and there is bravado on one side and self-doubt on the other but a strong bond that continues to cut through this. The author uses this to implicate that positive action can sweep aside self-doubt, at least temporarily. Sex in this book is implied rather than detailed, it is to be assumed that there is only so many times it can be described before it loses its impact. Nevertheless, the passion between the partners is reinforced time and again.
The plot provides the necessary increase in pace, but there is a sense that key points are skimmed over. Whether this was deliberate to allow for hooks to be placed in subsequent books is unclear, but it does impact the intensity of the read, the reader looks for resolution and clarification but the story moves on. There are quite a number of twists and revelations that also are posited only to be passed by. This is common in the first book in a series, but as this is a rather thin book it does leave a taste of more questions than answers.
By the end of the book, it is clear that some immediate threats are resolved but there are both obvious plotlines and less clear questions that allow for subsequent books to latch onto. It is to be hoped that as the series progresses there will be an enrichment of the plot.