One Foot in the Grave by Jeaniene Frost (2008)
One Foot in the Grave is the second book in Jeaniene Frost’s Night Huntress series. It’s official. Catherine “Cat” Crawfield is now part of my favorite first-person narrators in an urban fantasy series (if you haven’t been paying attention, she joins Harry Dresden and Atticus O’Sullivan in that club). If you haven’t read the first book in this series, Halfway to the Grave, you might want to stop reading and go and find that book at your favorite bookstore. The book starts about four years after the end of the events in Halfway to the Grave. I have to admit that one of the reasons the first book didn’t get a review here is that I was a little unhappy with the ending. Not unsatisfied or upset, just unhappy with how things all played out with Cat and Bones, the vampire who loves her. As it turns out, I needn’t have worried because by the end of this book all is well with Cat and Bones.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. It’s four years later, and Cat is still working for Don and his secret “Homeland Security” group that’s part of the FBI. Tate returns from the first book and he’s now Cat’s second in command. Frost wastes no time in getting to the catalyst for the plot–Don has sent Cat to kill a vampire named Liam Flannery. Cat goes in alone, and she soon discovers that Liam is actually Ian–the man who turned Bones into a vampire more than two hundred years ago. Knowing this, Cat lets Ian go but tells Don and her team of vampire hunters that he got away. Well, the old saying “no good deed goes unpunished” is appropriate here, since Ian becomes the primary antagonist of the novel. At the end of the first book, I wasn’t exactly thrilled with the plot development of Cat becoming a vampire hunter with a badge and the structure of the secret government organization in which she finds herself. It’s still not my favorite part of the series, but it serves its purpose, and I see why Frost chose it. It allows her to build a supporting cast around Cat and Bones and offers another way to build dramatic tension. Cat finds herself not only at odds with Don but also Tate in this novel, and her relationship with each man helps to further develop her character. Still, I have to say that if the time ever comes when Cat is an independent again, I’ll only be too happy. Although she’s become the part of this organization, she has retained her independence and she doesn’t let the fact that Don is her boss dictate her actions or her choices. There are several moments in the book where Frost delves into gender stereotypes, roles and dynamics and it helps to further define Cat as a strong female character while also illuminating that these issues continue to be pervasive in society. Cat makes mistakes, but Frost doesn’t ever really take away her ability to make her own choices, and I love that.
Can I take a minute to talk about Bones? I love his character, which is one of the reasons I was so unhappy with the ending of Halfway to the Grove, because I just can’t imagine this series without him or without him and Cat being together. How do I love him, let me count the ways. Bones is a master vampire, and one of the things we learn about him in this book is that he can fly (a la Eric Northman), he’s a strategic thinker, he’s supportive of Cat’s choices even when he doesn’t necessarily agree with them, and he will always do what he has to do to keep Cat safe and happy. And he has a sense of humor (indeed, in many ways he’s also the source of comic relief in this series). He’s a great example of an alpha male character that is totally likable while at the same time being practically invincible–his weakness, of course, being Cat. I highlight his character because so many male protagonists in paranormal romance novels fall flat because they are derivative and conventional. Bones stands out, and he’s the perfect complementary character for Cat and the two of them are one of the reasons this series is worth reading.
The final showdown of the novel is surprising if not a little anti-climactic. Although the antagonist is foiled in the end, achieving the goal that Cat has pursued for half of the novel ends up slipping through her grasp at the moment when she is sure to be victorious. Again, this is because she makes a conscious choice to let go of the pursuit in favor of something she wants more. It’s a part of the book that I admire because as someone who likes to write, it highlights the need to identify what your protagonist wants most. Cat has to decide what she wants most, and though there is a resolution to this part of the story, it’s definitely open-ended and promises to come back up again in future books in this series. I can’t help wondering if there will be a time jump to start book three, At Grave’s End, or if it will pick up relatively soon after book two ends, because a lot of things happen at the end of the book that will have far-reaching consequences.
If you haven’t tried the Night Huntress series, I highly recommend it, and I’m definitely going to go and find book three in my favorite bookstore.