Through Violet Eyes

With Red Hands

by Stephan Woodworth

Review by Mary Ann Mogus

I've been reading SF/F and mystery books for a very long time and have noticed that the genres are morphing into one another. This allows for some interesting and eclectic crossovers and the two books reviewed below are examples.

If you are born with violet irises you are one of the "dead talkers" trained by the NAACC, the North American Afterlife Conversation Corps. Natalie Lindstrom is a member of the NAACC and in Through Violet Eyes she is called in to contact Rosa Munoz so that the deceased can testify that she was killed by her husband.

But Natalie has another problem. Someone is killing the violets, as the people with violet irises are called. Detective Dan Atwater is assigned to protect her from this unknown killer. Dan has his own problems, having mistakenly killed an innocent man. He is reluctant to be near a violet let alone have one touch him. He fears the rage held by the soul of the man he killed.

Thrown together Natalie and Dan discover a mutual attraction. They also discover that the killer has help from a soul on the other side. Someone the living violets know and trust. Someone they are willing to let into their mind. A dead violet. Suspicion falls on the character of Maddox since he fits the killer's profile. Maddox isn't a violet but believes he can communicate with the dead electronically.

Dan is drawn away from Natalie by this false lead, while Natalie is captured by the real killer, Evan, a violet and her former love interest. But Evan is supposed to be dead. He is supposed to have been summoned by one of the living violets. Instead, Sondra, another violet and Evan's non-living accomplice has been impersonating the dead.

Serena, another violet saves Natalie after the first attempt on her life but kills Dan when Sondra possesses her body. Dead, Dan seeks out Natalie and inhabiting her, helps her to escape Evan. Evan is caught and confined to a mental institution. Because Woodworth treats souls as a form of electromagnetic energy, Sondra's soul can be confined to a soul cage, a form of Faraday cage. Natalie leaves the Corps after discovering she is pregnant, setting the stage for the sequel, With Red Hands.

In With Red Hands a few years have passed and Natalie has given birth to a daughter, Callie, who has violet eyes. Natalie acts as a freelance violet and is very careful to give the NAACC little reason to step in and take Callie into protective custody. She is also forced to deal with her mother. Nora, a violet, who went insane pursuing a murderer called the Thresher. The Corps has hurt Natalie's family economically and forced her mother into a state asylum in revenge for Natalie's retirement.

Inez, a prosecutor Natalie has worked with before, asks for her help. Lyman Pearsall, an unstable violet, has been working with Lathrop, a defense lawyer, by summoning the victim's soul during a trial. But the 'soul' always testifies that someone else committed the deed. Natalie discovers that Pearsall has made a deal with the soul of the executed Thresher, allowing his soul to inhabit Pearsall's body and commit additional gruesome murders in return for pretending to be the dead person summoned for testimony. Pearsall has sealed the souls of the murder victims in soul cages in a house he purchased for that purpose. Pearsall's motive is to get enough money to escape the clutches of the Corps.

Thresher has been tormenting Natalie's mother for years and eventually possesses Pearsall and kills her. He also kills Natalie's stepmother. His motive is to get to Callie and live again as a child, this time a girl. He almost succeeds when he possesses Callie after sending her a sampler he created. But he is thwarted by Natalie who rescues her daughter by summoning Thresher's dead mother, the woman Thresher most fears. Thresher's motive is a very twisted version of the Oedipus complex, complete with castration.

Natalie gets revenge on the Corps, Pearsall, and Thresher by releasing the sealed souls and summoning a set of murder victims to give a press interview. The bad press keeps the Corps away from Callie and gives Natalie some time to teach her daughter how to protect herself from souls such as Thresher's.

Woodworth builds a plausible society complete with electronic Soulscan apparatus to indicate when a soul has entered a violet's body. He weaves the story so well that it sounds possible. The plots and subplots are interwoven and resolved at the end usually with a twist and this review can only give a sketch of what is contained in the books.

My one complaint is with the middle of With Red Hands. The murder trial is covered for 36 pages which I found a bit too long. The evidence could have been summarized rather than presented as testimony by several witnesses. The sequel to With Red Hands comes out in spring 2006 and is untitled at this time, but the excerpt sets it in Peru. Woodworth seems to have hit upon a formula for a successful and interesting cross-genre series.

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