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Grave Dance, July 2011
Alex Craft #1
by Kalayna Price

Roc
Featuring: Falin Andrews; Alex Craft
336 pages
ISBN: 0451464095
EAN: 9780451464095
Kindle: B004MW404Y
Paperback / e-Book
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Fresh Fiction Review

"An Enticing Mix of Humor and Paranormal Thrills"

Grave Dance
Kalayna Price

Reviewed by Diana Troldahl
Posted June 24, 2011

Paranormal | Fantasy Urban

When disembodied feet start turning up, all lefties, Alex Craft is called in by the Nekros City Police Department to give her take on the situation. Her business Tongues for the Dead fills a niche in the market (how else to find out where Great Aunt Selma hid the silver?) But trying to raise an entire spirit from such a small footie remnant is beyond her skills. Then the fae get involved, threatening her with all sorts of mischief should she not drop the case; and then seemingly random attacks by constructs (a very odd mixture of witch and fae magic) start targeting Alex and her friends.

Her old pal (and wanna-be lover) Death is showing up all moony-eyed and she hasn't heard from Fae Investigation Bureau agent Falin Andrews since their night of mattress- romping. Then again, with a serial killer (or at least a serial amputator) on the loose she has bigger things to worry about than her love life.

GRAVE DANCE has got to be one of the ten best urban fantasies I've read. Since I am a voracious reader, that means they have beaten at least seventy others to hit my top ten list. Alex is funky, funny, and far from invulnerable. Her special gifts are powerful but provide little to no defense against the enemies she comes up against, which makes for a rollercoaster ride in book form. Her more mundane friends ground the story firmly in reality while the dangers approaching from the lands of the Fae as well as the ghosts her talents attract brings an eerie edge to the tale. Price has written a well-balanced story with GRAVE DANCE, the second in the Alex Craft series (after Grave Witch). Her writing style has me hooked and I plan to pick up the books in her other series, Haven, while I wait for more.

Learn more about Grave Dance

SUMMARY

Whoever said dead men tell no tales obviously never met Alex Craft.

After a month spent recovering from a vicious fight with a sorcerer, grave witch Alex Craft is ready to get back to solving murders by raising the dead. With her love life in turmoil thanks to the disappearance of Fae Investigation Bureau agent Falin Andrews and a shocking “L” word confession from Death himself, Alex is eager for the distractions of work. But her new case turns out to be a deadly challenge.

The police hire Alex to consult on a particularly strange investigation in the nature preserve south of Nekros City. The strange part: There are no corpses, only fragments of them. A serial killer is potentially on the loose, and Alex has no way to raise a shade without a body, so she’ll have to rely on the magic of others to find leads. But as she begins investigating, a creature born of the darkest magic comes after her. Someone very powerful wants to make sure the only thing she finds is a dead end—her own.

Excerpt

When I first straddled the chasm between the land of the dead and the world of the living, I accidentally raised the shade of our recently deceased Pekinese. The former champion dog floating around our backyard resulted in my father shipping me off to a wyrd boarding school. Seventeen years later, I still reached across that chasm, but now I got paid to do it.

"That isn't a body, John," I said, staring at the open black bag. "It's a foot." A pale, bloated, waterlogged foot.

John Matthews, personal friend and one of the best homicide detectives in Nekros City, nodded. "It's a left foot, to be precise, and I have two more back at the morgue. What can you tell me?"

I frowned and nudged the toe of my boot at a clump of grass sprouting between chunks of loose gravel. My business cards read: alex craft, lead private investigator and grave witch for tongues for the dead. I was actually the owner and only employee of the firm, but that was beside the point. I raised shades and gave the living a chance to question the dead—for a fee. My work tended to take me to a lot of graveyards, the occasional funeral home, and to the Nekros City morgue. The parking pit for the Sionan Floodplain Nature Preserve was most definitely not my typical working environment. Nor was a single severed appendage my typical job.

"Sorry, John, but I need more than a foot to raise a shade."

"And I need some better news." His shoulders slumped as if he'd deflated. "We've been scouring this swamp for two days and we're turning up more questions than answers. We've got no ID on the vics, no obvious cause of death, and no primary crime scene. You sure you can't give me anything? " As he spoke, he shoved the flap on the body bag farther open with the butt of his pen.

The foot lay in a sea of black plastic. The sickly scent of rot filled the humid afternoon air, coating the inside of my nose, my throat. The bloodless skin had sloughed off the exposed ankle, the strips of yellowish flesh shriveling. My stomach twisted and I looked away. I'd leave the physical inspection to the medical examiner—my affinity for the dead was less tangible and more spectral. Memories hid in every cell of the body. Memories that my grave magic could unlock and give shape as a shade. Of course, that depended on having enough of the body—and thus cells—at my disposal for my magic to fill in the gaps. I didn't need to cast a magic circle and begin a ritual to know I couldn't pull a shade from the foot. I could sense that fact, the same way I could sense that the foot had belonged to a male, probably in his late sixties. I could also sense the nasty tangle of spells all but dripping from the decaying appendage.

"The foot is saturated with magic. Some pretty dark stuff from the feel of it," I said, taking a step back from the gurney and the sticky residual magic emanating from the foot. "I'm guessing you already have a team deciphering the spells?"

"Yeah, but so far the anti–black magic unit hasn't reached any conclusions. It would really help if we could question the victim."

But that wasn't going to happen with such a small percentage of the body. "You said you had a matching foot back at the morgue? Maybe if we assemble all the parts, there will be enough to—"

John shook his head. "Dancing jokes aside, unless this guy had two left feet—literally—neither of the other feet belong to him."

Three left feet? That meant at least three victims. "You're thinking serial?"

"Don't say that too loud," John said, his gaze flashing to a passing pair of crime scene technicians headed toward the dense old-growth forest. "No official determination yet, but yeah, I'm thinking serial." His grizzly bear–sized form sagged further and his mustache twitched as he frowned. The mustache had been a thick red accent to his expressions as long as I'd known him, but in the weeks since he'd woken from a spell-induced coma, slivers of gray had joined the red. He pushed the flap of the body bag closed. "Park rangers found the first foot yesterday morning when they were checking the paths after the recent flooding. We got wardens and cadaver dogs out here and the second foot turned up. When we found the third, I pulled some strings to hire you as a consultant."

"Do you want me to stick around? Wait and see if your guys find more of the body?"

"Actually"—John rubbed a hand over his head, wiping away the sweat glistening in his spreading bald spot—"I was hoping you'd join the search."


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