by Stephen Leather
Review by Harriet Klausner
AmazonEncore Trade Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781612181479
Date: 22 November 2011 List Price $14.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK
As a cost cutting measure, British psychologist Dr. Jamie Beaverbrook is hired as a consultant to LAPD. His mission is to determine whether suspects are insane or acting the part; if his Beaverbrook Program testing validates the mental state as insane the individual goes to a ward for treatment rather than an expensive investigation and court case. In his personal life, Jamie's marriage has crumbled with the death of their infant child.
The police arrest a teenage girl standing over a corpse with blood on her mouth; the victim's throat has been ripped apart. The only suspect, Terry Ferriman, informs Jamie she is a vampire but gets her blood from banks not people's throats. She also claims she is much older than she looks. Yet even with her blood and age declarations seemingly sincere but crazy, she passes Jamie's sanity test. Although Jamie knows better than to become involved in a field investigation and a suspect, he cannot resist helping Terry and wanting her. He takes her into his home when she is freed due to a lack of evidence and searches her apartment just before the police arrive. Inside her pad, Jamie finds an old picture. He tries to identify the actor in what looks like a 1950s movie, which takes him into a world he never believed existed until he met Terry.
The storyline is told in the first person by Jamie as he investigates what seems impossible. His observations of a different world that fails to follow his logic system of what he has believed in shakes Jamie to his soul. This mental paradigm switch comes on top of his depression as he still grieves his daughter's death and is in a nasty divorce war with his wife. He knows he acts out of character especially getting involved with a 'client', but cannot stop himself from needing to help her, wanting her, and investigating her claims of immortals needing blood as sustenance. Jamie knows something is not right inside his head beyond the depression he suffers, but he ignores his obsession for a woman who looks like a teenager but acts like someone from a previous century and ironically fails to read a key result from the test he administered to Terry.
The audience meets Terry and the rest of the cast including the vitriolic wife mostly through Jamie's filter though there is some interaction between him and others. Thus the reader finds Terry fascinating and the spouse's loathing of him unexplained as if he does not know or want to know.
The tale is at its best when Jamie struggles with accepting each new find that supports a conclusion he logically needs to reject as he wonders if he may fail his own sanity test. When the plot turns to the federal national security agencies charging into the case, the story line detracts from its best element; Jamie's slow awakening from his safe denial to a world of bloodsucker immortals he never believed existed. Overall Once Bitten is an exciting vampiric psychological thriller that fans will enjoy.