In this sequel to THIRSTY, we return to the now-familiar setting of Abbey Hills, Missouri, months after the gruesome murders were thought to have been resolved. New characters and themes are introduced, and the subject of alcoholism is no longer a focus. Nina is happy now in Abbey Hills, still sober, busy managing her veterinary clinic and newly engaged to Hunt. The crucial characters now are Lauryn McBride, a daughter who cares for an aging father who suffers from a terrible disease; and Amede Dastillon, a contact of Lauryn's, a vampire who has come to Abbey Hills searching for her half-sister.
Lauryn has lived in Abbey Hills her whole life and manages a local auction house, taking over her father's role in the business. She has teamed with her best friend in caring for her dad full-time; he has advanced Alzheimer's and has been declining rapidly. Lauryn has been close to him since the death of her mother when she was a little girl. Losing his mind has been agonizing for both of them. Lauryn is becoming more haggard as she attempts to juggle her personal and professional responsibilities while watching her father's mind force him into ignorance and ill health. He doesn't know her most days and sometimes calls her by her mother's name, and as time goes on, it becomes increasingly clear that he's become a danger to himself and to others.
New to Abbey Hills is Amede Dastillon, a contact of Lauryn's who she has talked to on behalf of the auction agency. Lauryn is arranging to auction Markus Chisom's valuable estate and wished to return to Amede the Dastillon family letters. Though Amede's interest in the town of Abbey Hills is piqued by this auction --- particularly as Markus's possessions are personally significant --- her real interest is a secret one that relates to the whereabouts of her half-sister, Eden. After the killings, Eden disappeared, yet her remains were never found. Amede travels to Abbey Hills after sensing Eden's presence nearby and stays at the inn under the guise of bidding in the auction. Meanwhile, she and her human assistant Juliette search for clues on Eden's whereabouts, while Amede's naturally dangerous tendencies grow stronger in the presence of another vampire.
The experience of reading TANDEM is similar to THIRSTY in that it isn't only a vampire story, but also a love story --- and a good one --- that deals with real-world concerns. A family's struggles while caring for a loved one with an incurable disease are approached with compassion. As expected, themes of love, salvation and grace play a major role, and Tracey Bateman juggles characters and plot turns adeptly while maintaining great interest in the mystery at the book's heart. Initial chapters require patience as individual characters are unclear at first; they’re presented simply as "I" in the beginning, leaving the reader with some guesswork but resolving by about chapter four. The book has broad appeal as an inspirational thriller, though it does encroach on one personal lifestyle choice in presenting the idea that drinking of any sort --- even moderately, responsibly, and by an adult --- is a wrong and unreasonable practice.
With alcoholism not being a concern and in the knowledge that even Jesus drank wine, this struck me as a bit extreme. But Christian values are generally approached carefully and broadly. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this mystery surrounding good and bad vampires and some small-town folks who manage to deal with danger and tragedy admirably.
Reviewed by Melanie Smith on October 5, 2010