Matters of the Blood
by Maria Lima
Review by Gayle Surrette
Juno Books Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780809573035
Date: 29 September 2008 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
[NOTE: This review originally appeared in our July 2007 issue.]
Keira Kelly stayed in Rio Seco, a small town in the Texas Hill Country, when her family uprooted themselves and moved north. To stay, she had to agree to two conditions: 1) keep an eye on her cousin Marty, town mortician and family flake, and 2) notify the family when she started the change. (Did I forget to mention that Keira's family isn't quite human?) Well, she'd managed to keep Marty solvent and mostly out of trouble but she wasn't about to tell the family about her horrific nightmares and flashes of weirdness. But then that didn't factor in Marty waking her at dawn demanding she come talk with him, refusing to talk on the phone or give details. Who could blame Keira for taking her time and finding him gone when she got there? Well, guilt doesn't play fair and Keira's steeped in it when Marty turns up dead on his own embalming table drained of blood.
Maria Lima gives us a convoluted mystery with strong characters, a very different background in the Texas Hill Country, and some interesting twists on the old vampire, were/shapeshifter tropes. The beginning is a bit slow but you hardly notice as Lima introduces you to the characters that populate Rio Seco. It's a small town with no real claim to fame except as a hunting area for the rich. Wild Moon Ranch has just been built but it's using outside labor and isn't spending much money locally which is causing some resentment. The only people making money from the ranch are Greta and Boris Nagy (an elderly couple that run the gas station and general store). Boris and Greta are concentration camp survivors and something about Wild Moon Ranch has Boris on edge. Then the new sheriff turns out to be Keira's high school boyfriend, unhappily married, returned to town, and being a bit too friendly towards Keira.
We learn that Keira's family has powers, some members are shapeshifters, some are clairvoyant, some have other powers not specified in this story. Marty unfortunately was totally, mortally, human and an embarrassment and a trial to the rest of the family. No one will shed tears over his death and most will see it as a relief. But not Keira; Marty was her responsibility and, while annoying, he didn't deserve to die.
As the story progresses links among the towns people and with Keira either pull tight or unwind giving us glimpses of the past and where that past might impinge on the future. This is an area that has been set up for far more than this one story. While this mystery is satisfying, you can't help wondering if we'll met Keira again now that she's looking at the world around her rather than hiding in her home.