Blood on the Bayou, by Stacey Jay, starts with a nightmare and ends with a wedding. In between, Annabelle Lee learns more about her growing magical powers, the nature of the toxic fairies who menace humanity, and the secrets of her own heart.
Annabelle Lee… sounds all dreamy and ethereal, doesn’t it? Well, forget the romance, babe. Lee is a hard-drinkin’, hard-lovin’, kick-ass redhead doing a dangerous job in the war zone of Louisiana, where venomous sparrow-sized fairies have driven humans to live behind iron fences and travel in head-to-toe exposure suits.
As we learned in Book One, Dead on the Delta, fairies have been with us forever. An act of bioterrorism mutated the insect-sized creatures and gave them a growth spurt. Fairy venom drives humans mad before it kills them. Some humans, like Annabelle, have a high concentration of iron in their blood and are called “immune,” because fairies usually won’t bite them. In Annabelle’s case, a fairy on a suicide mission did bite her, but Annabelle isn’t going mad, exactly. She is developing paranormal powers. A mysterious group of humans called the Invisibles are treating her with a mysterious serum that they dole out of her — one that they say is keeping her alive.
In Blood on the Bayou, Annabelle is helping her ex-lover Hitch, an FBI agent, track down an illicit lab that may be trying to weaponize fairy venom. Annabelle plans to go underground at the local river port, where medical supplies are being smuggled to the lab. On her way to the waterfront, Annabelle’s truck is attacked by a horde of fairies, so many that they try to roll her truck over, and nearly succeed. Annabelle uses her new psychokinetic abilities to keep the truck upright. That isn’t the oddest thing, though. The oddest thing is that she can hear a fairy speaking to her, and fairies don’t speak.
In short order Annabelle discovers that there is a lot she hasn’t been told about fairies. They have an agenda, a strategy and a language, and now Annabelle can understand it. Her new powers also give her the ability to physically control the fairies, making her a serious threat and one they plan to eliminate, one way or another.
Annabelle’s revelations don’t end with this information. As in Dead of the Delta, she makes discoveries about friends and loved ones, like her straight arrow cop boyfriend Cane and her foster mother Marcy, that shake her faith. She is distracted, also, by Tucker, an agent of the Invisibles, who, when he is visible, is one gorgeous man, and one big hunk o’ trouble.
While I thought the alternate world was great in Dead on the Delta, I had some trouble warming up to Lee. I understood why she was self-destructive but I got tired of it. In Blood on the Bayou, our heroine tries a little honesty with Hitch, and opens up to the orphan girl Deedee. This makes her more admirable to me, and the vulnerability balances the constant risks she takes.
Annabelle is still brash and a bit crazy though, and one of the best and most chilling scenes in the book is not a confrontation with fairies (or pixies, a species of fey Annabelle has never seen before) but with a group of minor criminals who call themselves the Junkyard Kings. Annabelle has a scary moment of realization that many women can relate to. The scene, and its aftermath, is frightening and dramatic.
And the wedding — oh, but that would be telling.
Clues are laid as to the real nature of the fey, and just how much the government knew before the terrorist attack, but the central story is fully resolved. Dead on the Delta was a solid start to the Annabelle Lee series, and in Blood on the Bayou it is catching fire.