Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Last Twilight by Marjorie M. Liu

Rikki Kinn is a Doctor who works for the CDC, and is currently in Africa, in the Republic of Congo. When her superiors hear of an outbreak of what appears to be some new form of Ebola, they send Rikki to the area to check it out. But when she is attacked by mercenaries who try to prevent her from getting to the outbreak area, her boss calls in help from an old friend... who now owns the Detective Agency Dirk and Steele.

Those who work at Dirk and Steele all have some sort of powers, paranormal and otherwise. The two men sent to help Rikki are Eddie, a young man who can generate and control fire, and Amiri, an african man who is a werecheetah. While the Congo is not where Amiri was born, he doesn't want to return to Africa, as too many bad incidents in his life happened there. He's made a new life for himself in America, if not a happy one, and wants to stay as far away from his home continent as possible.

As soon as he meets Rikki, however, he's intrigued by this petite woman who is so strong on the inside, and she with him. She finds Amiri beautiful, but is more focussed on her job, finding out the origin of the disease that killed everyone in the small village, but doesn't seem to be spread in the way that Ebola usually does, by sweat or saliva. And it appears to have incubated amazingly quickly and killed everyone within about 10 hours, which is much, much faster than any known strain of Ebola.

As she puzzles over these strange facts, the area is attacked once again by mercenaries, and the doctors and nurses with her are killed, leaving she, Eddie and Amiri to flee into the jungle. As they attempt to keep away from the mercs and keep Rikki safe, Eddie comes down with the same disease that killed the villagers, and it also becomes clear that the villain behind all this wants Rikki... for some reason none of them can guess.

Rikki and Amiri are damaged, him by a threat from his father, also a werecheetah, to kill any woman that Amiri loved, because his father believed that humans would hunt down and kill them if anyone learned the secret of their kind, and Rikki by an attack that left her horribly scarred, and in her mind, extremely ugly and monstrous. She fears being pitied for her scars, but Amiri celebrates her strength in survival, whereas she is amazed at what he is, but is willing to keep his secret.

Captured by the villain behind the attacks, Rikki learns the real reason why he wants her, while Amiri must team up with his father and another villain who wants the research of the man who has captured Rikki for his own purposes. Can they overcome both men and escape with their lives, or are they doomed to meet their end in the steamy African jungles? It's a romance novel... what do you think? But the execution is the key.

I enjoyed this novel very much, as it involves a character from another, earlier, book finally finding his "soul mate" amidst a challenging situation. I can't really call it an adventure, because it's a little more uncomfortable than that. Other characters from the Dirk and Steele adventures also make an appearance and take Rikki into their confidence at the end, not to mention their organization, probably.

The romance between Amiri and Rikki is handled well, with her wanting Amiri, but not willing to show off her scars to him until after she is forced to strip by a villain. And even then, he has to assure her that no matter her scars, she is precious and beautiful to him. I thought this was realistic and very well handled, rather unusual for a romance novel. The background plot is interesting and almost cutting edge, with hot zone diseases like Ebola, and the actual culprit, a virus that rewrites a section of DNA.

This book was an interesting read. While it was more mild than actually sensually hot, I still enjoyed it greatly. I wouldn't run out to buy it, but getting it from the library worked just fine for me.

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