Book Review: Flame in the Dark by Faith Hunter

Posted November 20, 2020 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 2 Comments

Book Review: Flame in the Dark by Faith Hunter

I received this book for free from my own shelves in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Flame in the Dark by Faith Hunter
Genres: Paranormal Fantasy, Horror
Published by Ace Books on December 5, 2017
Pages: 364
Format: eBook
Source: my own shelves

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Also by this author: Blood Trade, Kicking It: These Boots are Made for Stalking, Blood in Her Veins, Mercy Blade, Shadow Rites, Bloodring, Seraphs, Dark Queen, Shattered Bonds, Black Arts, Broken Soul, Dark Heir, Cold Reign, Blood of the Earth, Curse on the Land, "Water Witch", "Explosion On King's Street", Skinwalker, Dirty Deeds, "Shiloh and the Brick", "Black Friday Shopping with Nell and Occam", Circle of the Moon, Blood Cross, Spells for the Dead, "Easy Pickings", True Dead

Third in the Soulwood paranormal fantasy series and revolving around Nell Ingram, a totally new paranormal who lives outside Knoxville, Tennessee. It’s a spin-off from the Jane Yellowrock series, 11.1. Not to worry, Soulwood can stand alone…I’m just OCD, *grin*

If you’re interested, there is a chronological listing of the Soulwood books on my website.

My Take

This case is a pip! I thought Curse on the Land, 2, was amazing, but it just keeps getting better.

Hunter uses first person protagonist point-of-view from Nell’s perspective so we know everything Nell thinks and feels. And she is really thinkin’ and feelin’ when she gets set up by her mamas!

I am curious to know just how far Nell’s transformation will go. Her hair and eyes changing color, and the leaves sprouting along her hairline and nails…let alone the cool wood grain “nail polish” she sports every once in awhile.

Ooh, mama! Nell’s been set up to talk sense into her daddy, and does she ever lay into him about his hypocrisy. It was a treat to read. Well, the mamas aren’t about to waste the opportunity, so they set Nell up for a romance, church-style, as well. Nell is determined to rub Benjamin’s face in her “wicked” world ways when she dresses up to go undercover and goes on a date with him.

“This undercover stuff was tricky, twisty, complex, and deceitful. And I liked it.”

It’s been a hard road for Nell, breaking free of the church and keeping her independence. It is fun to watch Nell experience microwaves, pizza, Krispy Kreme donuts, and the more of our “real” world.

“Home is choice. A chance to grow. To learn. Home, meaning my life and where and how I’ll live it.”

Independent also means going on a date if’n she wants to. Scary! Stepping out into romance.

It is sweet that Benjamin, Sam, and some of their friends want to bring the church into the twentieth century, but they have a long row to hoe and some deep attitude changes to effect. They still think a woman needs a man to be complete.

Hmmm, beware people who wear too much perfume…who knows what they’re hiding underneath!

There is plenty of side action, what with Nell’s worry about her changing self, the threat of Brother Ephraim, the conflict between Benjamin Aden and Occam for Nell’s affections, going undercover, the arson and murders, suspicious laboratory testing, Soul’s fury, the shock of the pool scene(!) — lots and lots of suspicious coincidences going on here. And it cracks me up every time that Hunter mentions how that Vampire Tree ate a bulldozer.

We also get introduced to Cousin Hamilton, who’s unconsciously carrying a witch gene…sucks to be him, since he hates paras, lol. We also get Occam’s back history with the cruelty of his minister father. Jesus.

Then there’s the Sangre Duello coming up in Jane Yellowrock. Rick and Soul are missing in part of Flame in the Dark, as they had gone to New Orleans when a ship full of European vampires tried to leave their cruise ship.

Coffee. The gateway drug to crack.

The Story

The Tollivers, a wealthy Tennessee family, is being targeted in a series of arson fires. Of special concern to PsyLED is a powerful senator who is pro-paranormals, an important voice in Congress.

Baffled by the assassin who is invisible to security, it takes Nell’s special talents to unravel a web of dark intrigue and malevolent motives that tests PsyLED to their limits and beyond.

The Characters

Special Agent (SA) Nell “Maggots” Ingram escaped from God’s Cloud and its then-leader eleven years ago by agreeing to be a junior wife to John Ingram. Leah had been John’s remaining wife. Nell’s three cats include Torquil, Jezzie, and Cello. Now, Nell doesn’t know what she is, but Jane Yellowrock reckons she might be yinehi, like a fairy. Shaundell Mason, a.k.a. Nell, is a fake identity for meeting informers. Whoowee, nobody would recognize our Nell in this undercover role, lol.

PsyLED is…
…the Psychometry Law Enforcement Division of Homeland Security with Clarence Lester Woods its director. Unit 18 is based in Knoxville and led by Special Agent-in-Charge Rick LaFleur, who is finally able to change into his black wereleopard form and back to human, aided when Nell claimed him through her land. Josephina Anna “JoJo” Jones is his second-in-command and their IT person. Tammie “T” Laine is the unit moon witch with strong earth element affinities — and enough unfinished university degrees to satisfy the most OCD person on the planet. Thom Andrew “Tandy” Dyson is the unit empath, an ability created when he was struck by lightning. Occam is a wereleopard, who spent twenty years in a traveling circus cage, and is very interested in Nell. He has a degree in ranch management. Clementine is what they’ve named the new voice-to-text software.

Soul, a rainbow dragon, is Rick’s upline boss and the newly appointed assistant director. Pea and Bean are grindylows, judge, jury, and executioner of weres. Special Agent Ayatas FireWind is currently stationed in Arizona.

SA E.M. Schultz is the new director in Knoxville. SA Chadworth Sanders Hamilton is Nell’s third cousin, a distant cousin from the townie side, and too full of himself. SA Margot Racer is a coffee addict with a secret.

SA Elizabeth Crowley is Secret Service.

Officers May Ree Holler and Chris Skeeter are partners whom we met in Curse on the Land, 2. Officers Phil Joss and Culpepper are keeping an eye on Justin Tolliver’s house.

May Ree’s mama, Carla, had escaped from God’s Cloud of Glory Church.

The Tollivers are…
…wealthy due to ripping off the state’s farmers back in the day. Abrams Tolliver is one of the senators for Tennessee, pro-paranormal. His wife is Clarisse. Their son, Devin, is just eleven and may not be human. Justin Tolliver is heavily involved in the state political scene and runs the family finances. His wife is Sonya. Miriam Tolliver, Abrams and Justin’s older sister, got pregnant out of wedlock. Then she went missing…and it was never reported. Charles Healy is Justin’s biological father, who disappeared during a prison transfer. (Bradley “Boom Boom” Richards had been Charles’ cellmate.) Connie Bulwer is the nanny with the weird skin tone. An earlier fire killed Monica and Marcus Smith, a servant and her child.

Conrath and Carolyn Holloway had been throwing a fundraiser. Margaret Clayton Simpson was the first victim. Mayor Morning was at the party. Matilda Johnson and Irena Hastings are big in the arts scene. Samuel L Clayton is a local preacher and political up-and-comer.

DNAKeys is…
…a pharmaceutical company experimenting on werewolves and vampires. People like Candace McCrory, a supposed employee, is really Evelyn McCrory with a “fascinating” history. “Mary Smith” is the real girl.

ALT Security Services is…
…the highest rated security firm in Eastern Tennessee. Amos Guerling is a security guard at the Holloway house. Khaki Man, a.k.a. Peter Simon, was on the video surveillance. He’s also in charge of the team…with a whole lotta issues, ahem. T.J. is his bookie.

The American Vampires
Ming of Glass is the vampire Master of Knoxville, under Leo Pellisier, the Master of the City of New Orleans. Yummy is her bodyguard (we first met her in Blood in Her Veins: “Off the Grid”, JY 7.9). Cai is Ming’s primo.

The European Vampires are…
…led by Emperor Titus Flavius Vespasianus, who has challenged Leo to the Sangre Duello. If Leo were to lose, all American Mithrans are at risk.

God’s Cloud of Glory Church believes…
…that women are impure and must be taken in hand. Colonel Ernest Jackson, a pedophile and sexual predator, had been the previous leader. The disgusting Brother Ephraim was sucked under into Nell’s land, forming a pocket of pus, trying to reach out to the Vampire Tree.

The Nicholsons are Nell’s family. Her father has three wives — Mama Carmel (the senior wife), Mama Cora (Nell’s mother), and Mama Grace — and a huge assortment of sibs and half-sibs, including Mindy, a.k.a. Mud, who has abilities like Nell, and is now officially a woman; Edith; Esther, who’s married to Jedidiah Whisnut, may be like Nell as well; Priscilla; and, Judith. Sam is Nell’s older full sib. Grandma Maude, Mawmaw?, was disowned by the Hamiltons when she married into the church.

Benjamin Aden is Sam’s age and the eldest of Brother Aden’s boys. Ben’s a modern boy only wanting one wife. Sister Erasmus is Aden’s second wife; Sister Mary is his first wife. Another son, Larry, is looking to marry Mud. Imogene Watkins is on birth control.

Rex was a bluetick hound puppy who had been intended for Mud. But, the Vampire Tree…

Thaddeus Rankin Sr and Thaddeus “Thad” or “Deus” Rankin Jr are friends of Nell’s, volunteer firefighters, and builders who work on Nell’s house when she does upgrades or repairs. Humans First is a hate organization. Pierced Dreams is a four-star restaurant in Old City Knoxville. Kristy is a librarian and a friend of Nell’s. Wilder Thomas Jefferson owns a munitions factory that the Tollivers tried to buy out. Jefferson is also Clarisse’s father. I think Madeline is a respiratory nurse.

More Info
A psymeter 2.0 measures four kinds of paranormal energies, a.k.a. psysitopes. Paka, a faithless, backstabbing wereleopard mate to Rick, left. There are three kinds of paranormals: those from human stock like gwyllgi Welsh devil dogs, witches, and whatever Nell is; those infected such as vampires and werewolves; and, arcenciels and whatever Misericords are. Mithran is the politically correct term for vampires.

The Cover and Title

The cover fades from black to a truly dark orange toward the center where Nell, in a teal strapless (and low-cut) dress (which she would never wear), her long hair floating in the breeze of the orange and yellow flames surrounding her, looking to our right, has her hands out, reaching for her power. The border on the left side of the cover is black and red-orange with grouped pointed ovals. The author’s name is in the same orange-red at the top with an info blurb in white just below it. The title is in white above the whirl of flames. The series info is also in white and to the right of Nell’s head. A testimonial is at the very bottom and in white.

The title refers to all the murdering fires killing people right and left, the Flame in the Dark.

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