Title: Smoke and Mirrors
Author: Tanya Huff
Published: June 2005
Series: Tony Foster, Book 2
Why I Chose this Book:
I read the first book in this series a while back and had always figured I would read the next one some time. This was that time.
Poor Tony Foster with his burgeoning wizardly powers. No matter how many times he and his undead ex-boyfriend battle malevolent spirits to save the cast and crew of Darkest Night (the most popular vampire detective TV series in North America), everyone else on the set regards him as only a lowly production assistant. Having fended off evil shadows from another world, Tony now has to contend with filming haunted house scenes in a house that's actually haunted. When all the doors slam shut, he finds himself trapped with ghosts repeatedly reenacting their deaths, his painfully cynical and egotistical colleagues and—worst of all—the boss's bratty daughters.
While a fairly solid read, this isn't one of Huff's best efforts.
There's a good story idea here, but I felt that Huff had taken enough story for a short story or possibly a novella and then forced it to last through a full length novel. In my view the padding shows and the book suffers for it.
Tony is continuing to make a place for himself in the life he's chosen, even if he's still considered one of the more lowly in the pecking order of the production crew. No-one there but Tony remembers the events of "Smoke and Shadows" and he has chosen not to use the guidebook laptop he was given to develop his powers as a wizard. That power remains all the same and because of it Tony can see the ghosts of two children that haunt the house where the crew are shooting an episdoe of Darkest Night.
There is an evil living in the basement of the house and once it is woken, it is determined to claim as many lives as possible and hopefully gain enough power to break out of its physical prison. Tony and a group of others get trapped inside the house, while Henry and CB, the studio owner, remain impotently frustrated outside.
The story was going well up to this point, but this is where it began to fall apart. Huff takes two of her most powerful characters, if not the actual protagonist of the series, and locks them out of the action, rendering them powerless. If she was going to do that, she might as well have left them out of the book altogether, as this just make me, the reader, as frustrated as the two characters were.
Due to the malevolence of the house, those trapped inside so become panicked and hysterical and the book becomes equally hysterical with them as past murders replay themselves in a way only Tony can see, and everyone begins to turn on everyone else. The "boss's daughters" plot felt equally unnecessary and the girls themselves were beyond annoying. The supposed romantic subplot of Tony's feelings for second billed star Lee also failed for me, as suddenly everyone knew how he felt, with the possible exception of Lee himself and no-one seemed particulary to care, which while it might make for an ideal reaction from the rest of humanity, didn't strike me as particularly realistic, especially with other kinds of prejudice and over-reaction going on.
People die, people apparently go crazy, and while I kept reading, it all just failed to gel for me.
There's been a gap of about three weeks between when I finished the book and when I'm writing this and unfortunately I only seem to be able to remember the book's faults. I did keep reading and I don't remember ever feeling like giving up, so it can't have been all bad. Huff is a solid writer and that carried the book through to the end, but I won't ever be reading it again. I may still read the next one is the series though. This one certainly didn't leave that much of a bad taste in my mouth. I don't know. I'll try to whittle the TBR down some before going back to the library for "Smoke and Ashes".