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Pale Immortal    by Anne Frasier order for
Pale Immortal
by Anne Frasier
Order:  USA  Can
Onyx, 2006 (2006)
* * *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

The sleepy town of Tuonela Wisconsin is known for one thing: one hundred years ago a killer known as the Pale Immortal stalked its streets and drained his many victims of blood. Nobody has lived in Old Tuonela since then, the residents choosing instead to move their town to a new location where the valleys are less dark, and warning others that old Tuonela is a place no human should ever go. These days, only Goth kids and the odd tourist or land speculator dares go there. But one day the town's past rises up with gruesome clarity; the drained corpse of a young girl is discovered dumped alongside a local road. Has the Pale Immortal risen from his unmarked grave and started killing again - or is some other monster responsible for the despicable act?

Many people choose to blame recluse Evan Stroud. The writer lives in solitude and is forced to haunt the darkness due to his rare affliction of porpheria. He's often considered leaving Tuonela since there are those who don't understand his illness and taunt him for being a vampire. Butů where would he go? Here, everybody is used to him. He doesn't have to explain anything, and for the most part people accept him. He might be a freak, but he's their freak. Sometimes he even gets a kick out of playing up the vampire act and scaring curious kids or the odd crazy off his property. If not for the return of his childhood friend, Rachel Burton, Evan might have pulled up stakes. But after her long absence they're both ready to renew their acquaintance and maybe take it to another level.

Evan's life takes another turn when he meets Graham Yates, the son he never knew he had. While Evan waits for DNA proof, Graham gets mixed up with a small group of Goth-obsessed teens who believe that the Pale Immortal's rotting bones hold the power of life and death and immortality. For a boy who's craved nothing more than stability and acceptance his entire life it's easy to fall into their vampire-obsessed underworld. But Graham, as well as Evan and Rachel, have no idea of the true evil they must face once they venture into the dark and shadowy streets of Old Tuonela.

Pale Immortal is one of those nifty, page-turning thrillers that keeps you reading non-stop till you turn the last page. And Anne Frasier is a writer talented at creating vividly fractured characters and a dark, disturbing atmosphere and theme. As she's done so well in previous books, she sets the tone for menace and fear from the start when Graham's less than likeable mother threatens, 'If you aren't good, I'll send you to Tuonela. You don't want to go to Tuonela, do you?' That same aura of menace - as well as mystery - ratchets up with every chapter as Evan falls prey to the lure of the Pale Immortal, and then both he and Rachel race to find Graham and unmask a killer. But all along Frasier leaves hints that she's not quite done with Evan - and that the mysterious link he has with the Pale Immortal has yet to be answered. If you want to taste something a little different, then Pale Immortal is a heady and sinister brew - as long as you don't mind waiting until next year for a second sampling.

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