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Black Oak #3: Winter Knight
Charles Grant
Roc Books, 240 pages

Black Oak #3: Winter Knight
Charles Grant
Charles Grant has won the World Fantasy Award three times, the SFWA Nebula award twice and is a recipient of the British Life Achievement Award. As Lionel Fenn, he is the creator of the Kent Montana series of humorous SF and fantasy novels and, as Timothy Boggs, he has been writing original novels based on the TV series, Hercules. As an editor he is responsible for nearly two dozen anthologies, including the award-winning series, Shadows. His latest books include the novels, X-Files: Goblins and X-Files: Whirlwind, as well as Raven and Jackals.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Black Oak #1: Genesis
SF Site Review: Black Oak #2: The Hush of Dark Wings

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Lisa DuMond

Ethan Proctor, ghost hunter and investigator supreme, is back. And -- fortunately for us, and unfortunately for those with something to hide -- he just keeps getting better. This time, his unusual talents are needed on the other side of the Atlantic. No matter; trouble will follow him anywhere.

The residents of the drowsy village of Pludbury have been living with a chilling secret for generations. Pludbury has its own private, not so chivalrous phantasm, one who drives a vicious bargain. Evil or good, though, the people aren't so certain they want to give up the arrangement.

Proctor has been hustled over to England by his biggest (and most overbearing) client to chase another dubious clue in the search for Blaine's missing daughter. This case has a trail long ago grown stone-cold. A quick perusal of the scrap of evidence and he should be able to return home to work the other cases occupying Black Oak Security. But, Proctor, being Proctor, cannot escape becoming entangled in the greater mystery haunting the area.

Especially when it appears that the two enigmas may be related.

Whatever the connection, Proctor isn't leaving until he gets the answers to all the questions that are plaguing him. Whether the good people of Pludbury want to know the truth or not. And no matter how great the threat to his own life.

Winter Knight entices readers with a few more glimpses into the complex leader of Black Oak Security, though what is subtly revealed in this installment barely scratches the surface of the man. Proctor is a man more cryptic than the bizarre cases he is asked, often begged, to investigate. Like Martha Grimes' sleuth, Richard Jury, (certainly one of the most intriguing characters in any genre) Proctor is a man we will never know in full. And that quality, as much as the unique mysteries they are drawn into, brings readers back again and again.

In this third installment of the series, Proctor tackles the case without the support of his crack team. With a cast of characters as engaging as Grant conjures up every time, it's always absorbing, but it's somehow frustrating to allow the other team members to languish offstage. Not that Proctor on his own isn't more than enough to rivet your attention, but there are more personality puzzles there to unravel.

Remember that the Black Oak books are no free ride. Even when all the elements are placed before the reader, questions remain. Proctor's cases are not the kind that fall neatly into place in the final pages. The "villains" of these pieces are not always mere flesh-and-blood criminals, and it's always possible that the danger has simply relocated.

We'll just have to put our trust in Proctor and his crew. They are the only ones equipped to stand between us and the darkness.

Copyright © 1999 Lisa DuMond

Lisa DuMond writes science fiction and humour. She co-authored the 45th anniversary issue cover of MAD Magazine. Previews of her latest, as yet unpublished, novel are available at Hades Online.

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