- Anita is upstate with Edward as US Marshals, trying to catch a serial killer that is killing Were Tigers across the country. Anita and Edward both know that the Harlequin still loyal to the Queen of Darkness are killing the Were Tigers, but they can't tell the police because they know that anyone who mentions the Harlequin without being invited, will be hunted down and killed and there are too many secrets from the other police. Anita can't explain everything, but because the Harlequin met each other masked, even the Harlequin on her side don't have faces or names to give to the police. Anita and Edward know everything and nothing that will help catch the killers. Edward begins to think that the killers are a trick to try and lure Anita away from Jean-Claude and all his bodyguards, so that the Mother of all Darkness can either have her kidnapped try and takeover her body, or kill her. Edward will propose to set a trap to lure the Harlequin in to try and take Anita. He bets that he, Anita, some guards from home and other Marshals will be better than millennium old vampire assassins. The vampires call Anita the executioner and Edward death but can even death and the executioner win against the Harlequin?
Anita is in Washington state with Edward as US Marshals; they are trying to catch a serial killer that is killing Were Tigers across the country. Anita and Edward both know that the Harlequin, still loyal to the Queen of Darkness, are the killers. ("The Harlequin had been the law of the vampire council in Europe for thousands of years, but their original job had been as bodyguards to their Dark Queen. Half of them had broken with the vampire council and were back to taking orders from the Mother of All Darkness.") However, they can't tell the police because they know that anyone who mentions the Harlequin without being invited, will be hunted down and killed. Because the Harlequin meet each other masked, even the Harlequin on her side don't have faces or names to give to the police.
The situation is made worse because the weretigers in Seattle are not public about their existence, so when policeman Raborn questions Anita about what she's learned, she can't even talk about the weretigers never mind the murderers. He is frustrated. Anita and Edward know everything and nothing that will help catch the killers. Edward begins to think that the killers are a trick to try and lure Anita away from Jean-Claude and all his bodyguards, so that the Mother of all Darkness can either have her kidnapped try and takeover her body, or kill her.
Anita makes friends with her roommate at the hotel, Laila Karlton, and tries to get her to give her the warrant. She and Edward have a plan to get the warrant and call in Olaf and Bernardo. In the night, Anita dreams of Devon, whom she just killed, and the Harlequin. Suddenly someone breaks into their room and and breaks Laila's arm. Anita thinks the person was sent by the Harlequin to kidnap her. It seems to have been a shapeshifter. Laila can't work any more, Anita hopes she gets the warrant but it's given to someone named Newman who has no field experience and has been taught a lot of mistaken information.
Anita needs to feed the ardeur, so she goes to Alex, who is her tiger to call and the soon of the Queen of Seattle. Before Alex gets there, Anita forms a bond with a guard named Ethan who says he carries three colors of tiger, but Anita senses he has some gold as well. When Alex arrives, he is enraged and hurts Ethan. In the debriefing after the fight, Anita tries to find out where Alex's rage came from: he doesn't know. She could tell the rage came from a vampire who could do that. She learns that one of the guards is a shapeshifter who is a Harlequin spy put in place just at the time MoaD was waking up.
The police have gotten a psychic on the investigation who has pinpointed the location of the vampires she thinks are responsible for the weretiger killings. Anita, Edward and Ethan are ambushed on the way there, an hour before dark, when the vampires will rise and make the place even more dangerous. They fight the Harlequin-associated wereanimals, noting that it is odd that they are wearing masks and cloaks. They wound one and track the other as they retreat. They use a light antitank weapon to blow up one of the shifters and have a firefight with some Harlequin. After this, a wounded Tolford gives the warrant to Forrester.
EMTs patch them up, but Anita is starts to scar, which is unusual for her. "I thought about [why her wound was scarring when her wounds didn't usually any more], and then realized I’d absorbed anger when I visited the red tigers, but I hadn’t fed the ardeur. The anger had taken the edge off my hunger, but it hadn’t really refueled me. I wasn’t healing as well as normal, which explained why the tree limb had hurt me so badly in the first place, as well as the scarring. I could go longer between feedings. I could control it, but apparently this was the price. I healed better than a pure human, but not as well as I could heal." ... "Always before with the ardeur it had consumed me, forced me to feed, but now I had enough control that I could delay it. The angry purple and red wound on my arm showed me the price for controlling the ardeur. Staring down at the wound, I realized that I had started counting on healing and being harder to hurt. I tried to remember the last time I’d been hurt by accident like this, and I couldn’t remember. "
Anita recognizes she has to feed the ardeur but is not happy about it: " I always have a problem with having to have sex." She has sex with Ethan and brings out his gold tiger. He becomes "one of the few goldens we had who wasn’t part of the bloodline the good Harlequin had hidden away." Bernardo turns up and says Olaf is on his way. Bernardo and Anita get to bantering: "You’re lucky to have lived through it, and so were the weretigers.” I shrugged. I put the rest of the food in the bag. My stomach was in a hard knot, and food just didn’t sound good right then. “Well, they’re not living through it this time.” “It’s not your fault that Mommie Darkest is making the bad vamps hunt weretigers.” “Maybe,” I said. “Oh, can the Catholic guilt.” “What does that mean?” I asked, glaring at him. “It means that you do what you have to do, and you try to enjoy it along the way. It’s what we all do.”
Bernardo, Anita, Edward go to meet Olaf. Anita breaks his wrist in the hugging, drawing weapons and disarming scene that attends this meeting. Olaf is taken off to the hospital. Then Anita has a conflict with Raborn, but Raborn's boss Clark tells him to stop harassing her. Anita brings in a guard of wereanimals: Ares, Nicky, Domino, etc. Newman comes with the news that Karlton is despondent because she's tested positive for lycanthropy. Anita goes to the hospital to comfort her. “They’ll try to let the Wicked Bitch of the World possess my body, Edward..."
There's an interlude at the hospital in which all the men around Anita fraternize with women who are around. The main focus is to try to keep Olaf with connecting with someone who will be his next victim as a serial killer. Anita deflects a woman who's interested in him to Bernardo. Nicky also flirts with a woman but drops her when Anita appears; this emphasizes his role as a bride. Lisandro says he needs to not get involved with someone as he's down to his last chance with his wife. Olaf connects with a woman named Karen Velazquez and lets Anita see that he would hurt and kill her by the look he gives her. Bernardo tells him. “You know the deal, Olaf. If you do your hobby on American soil you lose everything. Your badge, both your jobs, everything, and Edward will kill you, so really everything.” Anita cuddles with Nicky while talking on the phone to Edward who is warning her about Olaf. Olaf is livid with jealousy. Anita has a puzzling need to keep touching Nicky and wants to talk to J-C about it.
Anita is kidnapped by the Harlequin, along with Olaf, Lisandro, Bernardo and Ethan. In communing with one of her captors, the werewolf who infected Karlson, Anita meditates on the ardeur, saying to him, "I’d been told that the ardeur was about lust, but my version was more about your heart’s desire. What is it that you want, you really want? That part of me that carried the ardeur could see all the way through you to the truth."
Bernardo is almost choked to death. They chop off one of Ethan's fingers but he is a were animal he will be able to grow it back. Anita is interrogated by the Harlequin who try to get her to lower her shields to admit the MoAD. They torture Lisandro, but Anita slows them down by touching them. Some more Harlequin come and untie her and give her back some of her weapons. She and they succeed at decapitating some of the minor vampires who have not yet risen; it is not quite dusk. But then the MoAD rises in a borrowed body, and forces Anita to drop her shields by hurting Bernardo and Ethan and threatening to hurt them more. Anita drops her shields, hitting the MoAD first with the ardeur and then with a forces she acquired from a vampire in New Mexico, a force that sucks all the life out of her target. Anita uses her connection to J-C and Nathaniel and Richard, but especially the power of Ethan and Domino who together give her all the colors of tigers to suck the energy out of Marmee Noir.
Anita's power seems connected to her polyamory: "Love made home not out of boards and walls and furniture, but of hands to hold, and smiles to share, and the warmth of that body cuddled around you in the dark. I swam in the darkness of the ocean on a raft of hands, and bodies, and giving a damn what happened to them all. We let her pour her scary, lonely, insane dark into us, and we drank it down with our comforting hands, our bodies that had made us all home, and the craziness of having too many people, too much going on, but what would we give up, who would we give up, and the answer, in the end, was not a single thing. The golden tigers were the power of the sun to bring life to the earth made flesh. They’d been created to chase back the darkness and remind us all that sometimes beauty and life triumph even on the darkest night."
It also seems connected to being able to rise above negative views of oneself:
"Her voice in my head held the first note of panic, as she said, 'If you take my power into you, you will be as I am.' 'I’m not like you,' I thought. 'You will be.' The power felt so good, and yet I knew I was draining the life out of two people, evil vampires, but still people. I prayed, not for help to do it, but that the power wouldn’t corrupt me. That drinking in her darkness wouldn’t make me evil, too."
One of the Harlequin injured Nicky and Olaf badly but they are able to recuperate. Olaf is now a werelion and disappeared. Dr. Patience is nowhere to be found; Edward and Anita believe that he took her. He leaves Anita a note stating he still wants to be with her but does not want to become a Bride like Nicky. He wants her under his conditions. The MoAD is now supposedly really dead, and her Harlequin all either come over to Anita or go off on their own.
The novel takes place in August, about a month after the events of Bullet.
- August. Hit List, chapter 01: "It was fifty freaking degrees here. Whoever heard of fifty being the regular temperature in August?"
- A month after Bullet. Hit List, chapter 03, regarding Anita killing Haven in Bullet: "It's only been a month since you had to make the hardest kill of your life, Anita."
- Olaf/ Otto Jeffries: Olaf comes to help out with the murders. He becomes upset when he sees how much Anita has rolled Nicky. He flirts with one of the nurses in the hospital to upset Anita and show her that he would kill the nurse. One of the Harlequin injure Olaf badly but he is able to recuperate. He is now a werelion and disappeared. Dr. Patience is nowhere to be found. Edward and Anita believe that he took her. He leaves Anita a note stating he still wants to be with her but under his conditions.
- Bernardo Spotted Horse: Bernardo is the one to pick up Anita in the hospital and to inform her that Edward had to call Olaf to be part of the job. Anita makes him realize that he is jealous of her because Edward rather take her as back-up before him and Olaf. The main problem is because she is a woman. He is taken into captivity by the Harlequin and is almost choked to death.
- Bobby Lee
- Ethan: He is a weretiger that carries 4 colors of tiger, blue, red, and white, and one that he does not know he had that is gold. When Anita first meets him she realizes he carries the gold tiger inside. Left alone with Anita, due to not being a pure red tiger (meaning not important to the clan), the ardeur begins to ride. Later in the story he feeds the ardeur and Anita promises to take him back to St. Louis. He is captured by the Harlequin with Anita, Lisandro and Bernardo. They chop off one of his fingers but it is stated because he is a were animal he will be able to grow it back. Anita's connection to him and Domino allows her to suck out of the energy of Marme Noir at the end of the book.
|Anita Blake Series|
|Novels||Guilty Pleasures • The Laughing Corpse • Circus of the Damned • The Lunatic Cafe • Bloody Bones • The Killing Dance • Burnt Offerings • Blue Moon • Obsidian Butterfly • Narcissus in Chains • Cerulean Sins • Incubus Dreams • Micah • Danse Macabre • The Harlequin • Blood Noir • Skin Trade • Flirt • Bullet • Hit List • Kiss the Dead • Affliction • Jason • Dead Ice • Crimson Death • Serpentine|
|Short Stories||Magic Like Heat Across My Skin • Blood Upon My Lips • The Girl who was Infatuated with Death • Those Who Seek Forgiveness • Selling Houses • Beauty • Dancing • Shutdown • A Girl, a Goat, and a Zombie • Wounded|
|Comics||The First Death • Guilty Pleasures & Handbook • The Laughing Corpse • Circus of the Damned|