The first book in the Pandora Project trilogy. It’s also the fourth Vigilantes book, a historical superhero series set in 1960s US.

Publication year: 2019
Format: ebook
Publisher: Beautiful Fire
Page count: 329

Colleen Knight’s mother Tina leads a mob family. Colleen’s grandfather tried to make Colleen into a mobster as well; he even threatened to hurt Colleen’s lover unless she did was he wanted. That’s why Colleen left Karen without a word six years ago. However, now her grandfather is dead and she’s trying to distance herself from her mother’s job. Colleen is also afraid of her fire powers; she’s killed people before and now she’s trying to avoid it.

But when Tina asks a favor from Colleen, she can’t say no, especially when she’s asked to save another powered person. To do that, she goes undercover on a river boat, assuming the role of a mistress of a known playboy.

Karen Gray is a spy for a government agency, the Bulwark. She believes that she’s doing good work when she hunts down powered people, sometimes killing them. However, she’s been deep undercover for some years now, as the fiancee of David James, the son of a rich man and powerful man. Karen is given the mission to retrieved yet another powered person from a river boat.

When Karen and Colleen meet unexpectedly, they can’t trust each other and their history together, especially the abrupt break-up, comes between them. But when they find out that the powered person they both need to retrieve is a black child, the mission taken another turn. Colleen and Karen must band together, for a while at least.

Colleen is a black woman and Karen is white. Through Colleen, we see the bigotry of 1960s USA, especially because the river boat is in southern US. But Colleen doesn’t let other people’s attitudes stop her even if sometimes she must bow her head and hide herself. She’s fierce and fights for what she believes in. Karen has also had to fight hard to be accepted as an agent and when she must face the growing evidence that her job might not be what she thought it is, she must decide what’s more important to her: her career or conscience.

Regular people know about powered people and some are afraid of them. Some people, especially the rich and the powerful, want to use powered people as weapons, no matter what that powered person thinks of that.

This is a fast-paced story with twists and turns. The characters are believable and they struggle with both personal feelings and with larger moral issues. The fight scenes are detailed and great. However, the story (as Heinrich’s other books, too) are more bloody than comics; both main characters kill people, sometimes in rather grisly way, while fighting for their lives.

There are some references to DC/Marvel comics, in addition to the names of main characters. I personally got a kick out of Liefeld.

I’m not a romance reader but this time I didn’t mind how old feelings rekindled in Colleen and Karen. Neither has forgotten the other and both were deeply wounded by their break-up. Of course, in 1962 their romance must be a secret.

It’s possible to read the story as a stand-alone but I’d recommend reading from the start. Colleen was introduced in “Shadow Dreams”.

The book starts with a short story “Mizuchi” where Alice as Serpent and Marco as Shadow Master confront a girl who can control water. She’s killing people and the local police are overwhelmed. However, things become more complicated when Alice and Marco realized that she’s barely a teenager who is only killing men who belong to the local Chinese mob.

The book doesn’t quite end in a cliffhanger but the story isn’t finished.

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