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The Kensei: A Lawson Vampire Novel    by Jon F. Merz order for
by Jon F. Merz
Order:  USA  Can
Griffin, 2011 (2011)
Softcover, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Here's a different take on the vampire series from Jon F. Merz. The Kensei: A Lawson Vampire Novel reads like a fast-paced videogame. The protagonist? Think an undead 007. Lawson, who last appeared in The Syndicate, is a good guy, who works for the Council (old vampires who govern their race). He's a Fixer, charged with protecting the Balance, 'the delicate, tenuous and ultrasecret coexistence between the vampires and the humans'. These vampires don't hunt humans, but rather get their blood supply from blood banks.

The Kensei is set in Japan where a burned out Lawson has come for a vacation and advanced ninjutsu training with a grandmaster, in a dingy little town north of Tokyo. The action starts immediately when Lawson intervenes in a yakuza (Japanese Mafia) assassination on the train to Noda-shi. At a Starbucks by the train station, Lawson meets Yuki Matsuda, Control for this sector, who tells him the man he killed was an agent of a vampire known as the Kensei, who will want vengeance.

At his hotel, Lawson is joined by his human lover (a relationship forbidden in vampire society), former KGB assassin Talya. She enlists him in her personal quest to stop an organ-harvesting and trafficking ring that exploits children. Yuki tells them that the albino Kensei runs this operation. Before they can even get started, they're attacked, and the violence only escalates from there. Soon Lawson is being interrogated by police inspector Tetsuo 'Moko' Nakahashi, who shows up at all the subsequent scenes of murder and arson.

Along with the relentless action, there are surprises for Lawson and readers along the way, in particular the true identity of Moko, who is much more than he seems, and the Kensei's overall game plan. While I enjoyed The Kensei as a good escapist read, I also appreciated the author's commentary on modern Japanese culture and on Lawson's martial arts training, which he ties in nicely to the storyline.

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