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Since devastating secrets were uncovered by Nora Kessler, Niklas Fleischer and Victor Faust have been divided as business partners and brothers. But ultimately Niklas is persuaded to lead a mission to Italy, and he sees it as an opportunity to set in motion forgiveness—or retribution—for his brother’s betrayal.
The mission: play the role of a wealthy German investor and kidnap a beautiful, notorious madam named Francesca Moretti. No stranger to these types of roles, Niklas is the best man for the job, but this time the risks will be much greater as he will not be doing it alone. Izabel Seyfried, still fresh out of a life of imprisonment and sex slavery, could be negatively affected by the things she will see in Moretti’s mansion, and Niklas must keep her in line so she does not blow their cover and get them killed. But Niklas isn’t the only one who must play a role—Nora takes on the humiliating task of playing Niklas’s slave, and Izabel must play the role of his lover. On one hand, Niklas couldn’t be enjoying himself more. On the other hand, the emotions that continue to rage inside of him may be too much for him to control, and it may be Niklas—not Izabel—who needs to be kept in line. He cannot forget what Victor has done, and this mission may just be the beginning of his downward spiral. Can the blood bond that Niklas and Victor share as brothers be stronger than resentment? Or will vengeance dig the blade so deep that their bond be eternally severed?
If you are not reading this series, you need to get on this now. J.A. Redmerski's dark and turbulent In the Company of Killers series just keeps getting better and better with each new book. In The Black Wolf, Niklas takes center stage, and the fall out from the previous book, Seeds of Iniquity, is just beginning. This series must be read in order - none of these books can be read as a stand alone.
At the beginning of The Black Wolf, Niklas is still estranged from his brother, Victor, and Victor's new Order. Izabel and Nora are picked for a mission in Italy, but with the caveat that Niklas accompanies them. The team is going into the den of a viscious Madam who at best, is insane. The Madam, Francesca Moretti, deals in flesh and sex. She sells the services of her girls, but also sells girls to the right buyers. Victor is hesitant to send Izabel on this mission because of her past, but Izabel is head strong and determined as always. She refuses to be treated any differently than any of her cohorts in the Order. This mission tests Izabel, mind and spirit, while Nora is noticeable throughout most of the story by Izabel's side.
The action and the character relationships are constantly twisting and turning. Redmerski does a phenomenal job with the characters in this book. Each one is so well constructed and operating on several levels that one would think it would be difficult to write a plot to go along with them. Not for this author. For as excellently drawn as her characters are, the plots are action-packed and just as twisty and turny as the relationships. Even a one-time-only side character like Francasca Moretti is carefully created to function on so many tiers of evil.
But this is Niklas' book. Niklas fights so many internal battles in this book - from his feelings of betrayal from Victor, to possibly becoming the betrayer to Victor. Niklas' feelings for Izabel are convoluted to say the least. As much as he once despised her, he realizes that he is only alive because of her humanity - something that he lacks and is striving for in his own life. I think that Niklas looks at Izabel and sees the kind of person that he wants to be, and it frustrates him to no end that that person is the love of his brother's life. Not only does Niklas see something special in Izabel, he begins to question his feelings for her...and I'll leave it at that. Niklas might put on a hard facade in front of Nora, Izabel and the rest of the Order, but it is very clear that it is just a facade. This man has deep feelings of loyalty, abandonment, betrayal and love. Redmerski has only scratched the surface with this character.
Izabel is becoming stronger - physically, mentally and emotionally. She is special in her ability to become an operative for the Order, yet still hold on to her humanity. She shows that she is determined and stubborn, but that she is learning how to control those basic parts of her personality. No matter what the situation is, Izabel will always champion the underdog - the victim - and this is due to her humanity. Izabel has come along way since she was called Sarai, and her character continues to grow and evolve with each book. Every character in this book has a special connection to Izabel, whether it's Victor who is in love with her, Niklas and Nora whose lives were saved by her, or Frederick and Dorian, who both have a brotherly soft sport in their hearts for her. Whatever happens in the future to Izabel will have harsh and lasting consequences with every other character in this series.
Nora Kessler. Crazy, psycho bitch. Nora is back, due to the grace of Izabel. Nora is tough on Izabel, always speaking up to point out Izabel's failures. Izabel wants to be just like Nora, which is a really bad thing. Nora is present in this book, but mostly as a silent observer. I began to question it until I figured out why at the end of this book. I do not like the relationship forming (non-romantic) between her and Victor. I don't like the task that Victor assigned to Nora while on the Moretti mission - it could even be framed as a betrayal of Izabel. Nora is very observant, and for whatever reason, feels the need to report her findings back to Victor, which is going to lead to a lot of friction.
Victor. As much as I have always loved Victor, this book left me reeling. Victor will never betray Izabel by cheating on her, but he has the I-know-what-you-need-better-than-you-do syndrome that is often seen in dominant, intelligent, alpha males. Victor knows that he will never love anyone like he loves Izabel, and he is hell bent on protecting her, even if he has to hurt her to do so. Victor wasn't a huge part of this book, but his conversations at the end of the story are crucial to the story line. Victor learns one of Izabel's secrets, and does not inform Izabel. The potential for angst and heartache is growing with this series.
This series, again, is one of the best I have read. I highly, highly recommend it. It combines dark romance with mystery and suspense. This series has a lot of violence and a lot of very dark and gruesome situations. There are sex slaves, guns, torture and murders for hire. However, I have yet to read another series that weaves together characters as flawlessly as Redmerski does. The characters are the real gems of the series. I can't wait to see what happens to them next.