Cameo the Assassin is set in a past/alternative world that is both dark and bleak. As the story begins, Cameo is clinging to life, after a brutal rape and attack. But a vampire steps in and keeps her from succumbing. She survives, in a manner of speaking. She becomes the vampire’s thrall, half-living, half-undead.
Years later, she has become an assassin. In the course of a hit, her path crosses with two highwaymen who rob her carriage. She lets them escape, but tracks one down later to get her things back. It’s those same highwaymen who become her next targets for assassination. She would have carried out that mission as well, if her boss hadn’t sent Gail with her as a partner. She was a victim of Gail, herself, once. And the urge to kill him finally gets the better of her. Now she is thrown together with Opal and Bel as they try to survive the next wave of assassins.
Opal confused me a little as a character. He is flamboyant and over the top. He wears lots of make-up and Cameo asks more than once if he and Bel are involved. Yet, he is also painted as a rake who charms the pants off of women and develops a thing for Cameo, himself. I’m not entirely sure what to make of him, even now. But I do know, that I found myself rooting for him and Cameo to reach out to each other throughout the course of the book. So maybe all the make-up and purple brocade were just lagniappe. Who knows?
Joining our strange trio is a teenage acolyte named Kyrian. Cameo becomes his protector after his grandfather shows her a kindness. There’s mystery surrounding the boy, not the least of which is why Cameo’s master can barely stand his presence. And speaking of Cameo’s master… he is hardly a benevolent sire. I’d kind of like to kill him myself. Despite the fact that he saved Cameo from death, all those years ago, he doesn’t seem much better than the men who nearly killed her in the first place.
Overall, I did like the book. It features vampires and ghouls, but it didn’t feel like standard horror or Urban Fantasy fare. Cameo isn’t your standard heroine, either. Most supernatural heroines these days are snarky/sexy/tough/witty women who kick ass on the side of right. Cameo is haunted and broken and surprisingly sympathetic. I get the impression that she kills because she doesn’t consider herself worthy of doing anything better. The ragtag group that comes together in the book are likely the only friends she has ever had. Which makes me ache for her to have just a little bit of happiness with them.
The ending of the book does wrap things up for the most part, but leaves several loose ends for the next installment, Cameo and the Highwayman. 4 stars.
*This book was provided by the author for review.
Cameo the Assassinby Dawn McCullough-WhiteRelease Date: July 16, 2009Publisher: iUniverse