Title ~ Cronin’s Key
Author ~ N.R. Walker
Published ~ 13th March 2015
Genre ~ M/M Paranormal Romance
NYPD Detective Alec MacAidan has always been good with weird. After all, his life has been a string of the unexplainable. But when an injured man gives him cryptic clues, then turns to dust in front of him, Alec's view on weird is changed forever.
Cronin, a vampire Elder, has spent the last thousand years waiting for Alec. He'd been told his fated one would be a man wielding a shield, but he didn't expect him to be human, and he certainly didn't expect that shield to be a police badge.
Both men, strong-willed and stubborn, are still learning how to cope with the push and pull of being fated, when fate throws them another curveball.
Rumors have spread quickly of turmoil in Egypt. Covens are fleeing with news of a vampire who has a talent like no other, hell-bent on unleashing the wrath of Death.
Alec and Cronin are thrown into a world of weird Alec cannot imagine. What he learned in school of ancient pharaohs and Egyptian gods was far from the truth. Instead, he finds out firsthand that history isn't always what it seems.
Talent will out. It never fails. And writers don't come more talented than N. R. Walker. I am not a big fan of gay vampire fiction, although I readily admit I've read a few that were excellent (including Ann Rice's "Interview" series), and enjoyed them enormously. I just don't, generally, go looking for books in this genre. But Cronin's Key goes beyond any other vampire fiction I've ever before encountered. I should have expected that. After all, who but N. R. Walker could build an entire series of passionate and moving books based on the red dirt of Australia's Outback? If you think it's impressive that anyone could write a series in which dirt was a main character, just wait until you see what she does with vampires!
Unlike many other books in this genre that dwell either far in the past or future, Cronin's Key is wonderfully contemporary. It's the story of Alec and Cronin. Alec is decidedly human, a top detective with the NYPD. Cronin is a vampire - a 1300-year-old vampire. And the two of them are "fated", destined to be together, perhaps even before either was born. Alec isn't all that happy about that. The idea of losing his free will, his freedom to make his own choices, rankles, especially at first. But there's no denying their immediate attraction to, and affection for, each other. When Cronin suddenly appears in the squad room of Alec's precinct, Alec can sense him across the room. He is inexorably drawn to Cronin and moves into his arms without a second thought. When he does, in full view of the entire precinct (and a host of security cameras), they simply disappear together into thin air.
Alec doesn't know it yet, but he is special, too. He has certain talents, including a photographic memory (which is one of the things that made him such a great detective), and more important, he was born to a certain destiny. Throughout his life, he has escaped danger and death in unaccountable ways. He is dragged from a lake, on the verge of drowning. He is attacked, someone saves him. Most recently, a criminal he was chasing tried to shoot him in the head from only five feet away. The bullet deflected on its path, and hit him in the leg instead - in front of several disbelieving witnesses. As he says "we do weird well". Both he and his beloved father have gotten quite used to the inexplicable happening around him, but grateful, nonetheless. Each weird incident saved him from either serious injury or death. That makes it a lot easier to get comfortable with "weird".
What sets a great "paranormal" novel apart is the credibility and richness of the world the author creates. Let's face it, these are vampire tales and there's not a lot of reality inherent in the whole genre. But somehow, N. R. Walker manages to create
a lush, utterly believable and consistent universe that brings the reader into it on the back of the love story. Her descriptions, her rich and unique characters, her places, her blending of "vampire" with history, even setting the exciting climax in the burial chambers of the Giza pyramids all read real - perhaps even beyond real. This is where Ms. Walker's stunning talent reveals itself. The level of detail, the purring and growling of Cronin, the easy acceptance of all of this by Alec, the pain each suffers when apart from one another, makes you forget that you're in a fantasy, as you root for Cronin, Alec and the "good" vampires.
I dare not get into too much detail about the plot, because part of the huge fun of reading "Cronin's Key" is experiencing it all unfold, in real-time, right before the reader's eyes. And it is fun. There is humor, sarcasm, danger, a monumental battle, and the exquisite sexual energy that pulses, continuously, between Alec and Cronin.
The book also says a lot about love, the trust, the commingling of two hearts and lives, the way in which all others seem to blur out to nothing when our heroes' eyes meet across a room. There is great power in that love and, coupled with the extraordinary abilities of some of the vampires (including a "seer" who gets glimpses of the future), great promise for an epic shared life for this remarkable couple.
One of the best things about this book is the ending. Yes, all the threads are neatly wrapped up in what promises to be a happy and eternal future for the couple. But not yet. The last few paragraphs reveal a surprising twist that promises many more books featuring Alec and Cronin to come. I can't wait.
This is an extraordinarily well-written book, something I've come to expect from N. R. Walker. Run, don't walk, to get your hands on it. I promise you a compelling, exciting and beautiful reading experience. I recommend it with all my heart and soul, even to those of you who have no interest in vampire fiction. This is one of the best gay-themed books I've read in a long, long time.
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