Acquainted with the Night by Piper Maitland © 2011 by Michael Lee West, The Berkley Publishing Group.
Acquainted with the Night contains an interesting idea on the root of vampirism, but unfortunately gives it a back seat to an uninspiring romance and a DaVinci Code-ish hunt for artifacts. The heroine, Caro, suffers from unruly hair and lack of a boyfriend, the latter despite the fact she is half-vampire, which, we scratch our heads to learn, makes her highly alluring to men. Her uncle is murdered by vampires because he knows where artifacts important to vampires can be found, leaving us scratching our heads as to why they murdered him. But the murder introduces Caro to Jude, the man of her dreams and a geneticist unlocking the secret to vampirism. They travel to Bulgaria to get Uncle’s remains and are pursued by vampires seeking important artifacts who have now decided Caro is the key to getting the artifacts. We are treated to chase scenes straight out of every movie you’ve ever seen and to Caro and Jude’s relationship, which alternates between torrid sex and him brooding about how he can’t be with a half-vampire like Caro. I didn’t like either one of them.
Jude and Caro take it upon themselves to collect the important artifacts before the vampires kill them, so the artifacts won’t fall into the wrong hands. What the holder of these artifacts will be able to accomplish with them, we never really know. The interesting back seat story is that another geneticist, Caro’s evil non-biological father, Wilkinson, is unlocking the genetic secret to vampirism as well, and is on the brink of producing serums that will kill vampires and also give mortals all the benefits of vampirism without the inconvenient side effects. Wilkinson could be a really cool villain with this stuff, but never is, because he is hell bent on getting the aforementioned artifacts, despite already having the scientific means to put all of mankind and vampires at his feet. Scratch, scratch, scratch.
I was about to acquaint this book with my recycling bin after the first 100 pages, but then it started to redeem itself as the artifacts and genetic research appeared to take on importance. But in the end neither subject served any purpose other than to give people and vampires an excuse to try and kill each other. The last chapter was an expository rush to get the artifacts in one place, get Jude and Caro out of the clutches of bad guys, and tell us Caro’s uncle isn’t dead after all. These hasty conclusions felt more directed to satisfying a word count than a reader.
Matiland would have been better off limiting this story to the scientific angle and leaving the artifacts out of it. The two elements contradicted each other, muddling what the bad guys were after, and hence, why they were bad guys, and vice-versa what the good guys were after. A Jude vs. Wilkinson story, pitting the geneticists against one another with the fate of vampire-kind in the balance, would have worked better.
Into the bin, hopefully not to be recycled into another book in the series Acqainted is apparently the first of.