During the March Mystery Madness readathon, I had the opportunity to read a lot of fantastic mystery novels. Many of the books I chose to read were titles that I hadn’t read before, but I also decided to do a little bit of re-reading as well.
One of the books I decided to re-read was Dead of Night, by Charlaine Harris and Amanda Stevens. The book is actually a collection of two independent stories (one novella and one novel), which focus on two very different main characters.
The first story in the book is Dancers in the Dark, by Charlaine Harris.
Dancers in the Dark is a novella about a young dancer/college student named Layla Rue La May. When Layla’s need for money causes her to audition for a dance company called Blue Moon Entertainment, she meets Sean, a handsome Irish vampire.
But as Layla begins to open herself up to the possibility of a relationship with her new dance partner, a dangerous figure from her past begins stalking her…and even Sean’s three hundred years of life experience may not be enough to keep her out of harm’s way.
I’ve been a huge fan of Charlaine Harris’s writing for many years, so I thoroughly enjoyed reading Dancers in the Dark. The novella is set in the same world as Harris’s Southern Vampire Mysteries series, but it does not require the reader to have any prior knowledge of that series, and functions well as a standalone novella.
While Dancers in the Dark could be classified as a mystery, I would actually describe it as a romantic thriller. While there definitely is some mystery surrounding Layla’s past, the majority of the novella focuses on her relationship with Sean…and, of course, the threat represented by her stalker.
I do think it is important to mention that Dancers in the Dark does include some content that may be very uncomfortable for readers, including: references to past abusive relationships and rape, physical assault, and stalking. There is also an animal that is killed during the course of the story.
The other story included in this book is The Devil’s Footprints, by Amanda Stevens. Unlike the previous story, The Devil’s Footprints is a full-length novel, which actually makes up the final three-quarters of the book.
The Devil’s Footprints focuses on Sarah DeLaune, a tattoo artist living in New Orleans. When she was a teenager, her older sister was murdered, and her killer was never apprehended. Fourteen years later, Sarah still has nightmares about the murder…which she apparently witnessed, but cannot remember.
When her ex-boyfriend, a police detective named Sean Kelton, asks her to come to a crime scene to look at a murder victim’s tattoos, Sarah can’t help but notice the similarities between this murder and her sister’s. As the number of murder victims begins to grow, Sarah is forced to take a hard look at her own past…and in order to do that, she’ll have to recover her buried memories.
The Devil’s Footprints is a really interesting novel, and one that I definitely enjoyed reading. Stevens does a great job of keeping the reader in suspense, especially since most of the characters are keeping some kind of secret. Even though I had read this novel before, it’s been close to eight years since the last time I read it, and I found that I was just as surprised by the solution to the mystery as I was during my first reading.
Like Dancers in the Dark, The Devil’s Footprints does include some content that may make readers uncomfortable. The novel includes several references to past child abuse, which was experienced by more than one character, and takes the forms of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse (including rape).
If you are a fan of Charlaine Harris and/or Amanda Stevens, or you just enjoy thrilling mysteries, then I definitely think that Dead of Night is well worth your time. I really enjoyed having the opportunity to re-read both of the stories included in this book.
It is worth noting that both of the stories included in Dead of Night can actually be found as separate publications. Dancers in the Dark has also been released as part of a book called The Layla Collection, which includes a sequel novella called Layla Steps Up. I personally have not read this second novella, but based on the Amazon description, it appears to include characters from Harris’s Southern Vampire Mysteries. I will probably be checking it out for myself one of these days, but I kind of liked where the original novella ended.
The Devil’s Footprints has also been released as a standalone novel. Unfortunately, the paperback edition seems to be out of print, but it can be purchased as an audiobook (through Audible), or as a Kindle or Nook ebook.