The Red Heart of Jade by Marjorie M. Liu (Dirk and Steele #3)

Dean Campbell can see and sense things that others cannot—an extraordinary ability that drew the ex-cop to the Dirk & Steele Detective Agency, a global association of more-than-human men and women. Dean and his peers—shapeshifters, psychics, and other paranormals—are dedicated to protecting life. But there are those who live for destruction.

Now Dean’s investigation into a series of unthinkable killings is calling him to Taipei, where a pattern is emerging that is more deadly than anything he could have foreseen. At the center is a power that could change the world . . . and the woman who can truly complete him: Mirabelle Lee, the girl Dean loved in his youth, the childhood sweetheart he once believed dead. Now that his heart has been reawakened, he will not lose her again—even as the forces of an immortal evil gather to destroy them and everything they love.

SLIGHT SPOILERS FOR BOOK 2 AND THIS BOOK

This was definitely my favorite book in the series so far. The time span of the novel is somewhere between 3-4 days, again, making the plausibility of the romance seem impossible. Once again, it works, even more so this time because Dean and Mira are childhood sweethearts who were just beginning to fool around in the back of a car when they were rudely interrupted, and each left that night believing the other was dead for good. Once they find each other again, they have to rearrange their way of thinking to include this person whom they believed to be long dead back into their brain, but otherwise, there isn’t a whole lot of angsting over whether it’s really “twu wuv”. They knew how they felt about each other when they were kids turning into young adults, they continued to remember them in each other’s supposed deaths, and now together again, they quickly realize their feelings for each other have never really died. They’ve always been there to support the other through good and through bad, and even though things are pretty horrible in this book, they hang on to that knowledge and make it through.

I can’t decide who I like better after reading this book, Artur or Dean. Artur’s a giant teddy bear, but Dean’s a brash, quick-talking smart aleck from Philly who always says what he means, no matter how blunt. Combined with that is intensity and a willpower that will let him do just about anything. When he says he will be there for Mira, he absolutely means it. Outwardly, he looks like a loose firecracker, but given something or someone to love and care about, he will channel his entire being into doing so. Both of these aforementioned qualities could have led Dean to become an intolerable asshat in the hands of a lesser writer, but Marjorie M. Liu is a master at not making character traits define her characters; instead, her characters embody those traits to become the lovable, frustrating people they are.

Mira was a definite improvement over Elena in that she actually felt like she had a past. Granted, it’s pretty intertwined with Dean’s, but it’s still her own. Actually, I really like how this was set up because it’s a terrific example of close friends realizing they love each other in a way that binds them closer than they previously realized. They have a history. They grew up together. This is important because it makes their reunion and all that they do together and sacrifice to solve the mystery of the jade that much more meaningful. What I love a lot about Miri is that she never stops fighting, even when she loses. Even when she knows she’s being overpowered, she never gives up or sinks into despair. Instead she focuses her energy on how wrong everything is that happens and how it shouldn’t be so, and this gives her strength to fight back and hopefully get something out of it.

The plot here was just as crazy as it was in the last book, with a number of twists and turns and players, but everything fits together better here. Most everything adds up by the end, even the opening nightmare, and the Book of Jade is somewhat satisfactorily explained. Only Robert and whom he’s working for remains a mystery, and I’m inclined to believe it’s for the mysterious organization introduced in the last book. I liked how pieces of Taiwan and China’s history and landscape were incorporated into the book and used to support the plot, rather than just being a background.

I always had a bit of trouble distinguishing Dean’s psychic ability from Artur’s, but I guess Dean’s is that he can read people’s energies, but mostly from the present, so he can tell if they’ve been there recently, what they were thinking, etc. Which is pretty cool. Mira, for a change, has no innate powers, except for her relationship to the Book of Jade.

I think Koni should get his own book, because he’s so mysterious and he’s such a prick. I’d love getting to learn more of his story and what his deal is.

I think that this is the book that shows Marjorie M. Liu is a terrific writer in her chosen genres and she knows how to tell a satisfying story with crazy plots and characters with relationships you can believe in and root for.

Disclosure – library

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