The Kensei

Jon F. Merz, St. Martin's Griffin, $14.99 trade paper (416p) ISBN 978-0-312-66223-3

Fast-moving but predictable, this horror-thriller hybrid takes heroic vampire secret agent Lawson (last seen in 2003's The Syndicate) to Japan in search of some R&R: namely, advanced martial arts training at his favorite dojo and a passionate rendezvous with Talya, a former KGB assassin. First, Lawson gets into trouble with the Yakuza while thwarting a murder on a train; then he learns that Talya needs his help to wipe out a vicious organ-trafficking ring. Both matters set him on a collision course with the Kensei, an albino vampire crime lord who wants to create an army of warriors and—what else?—conquer the world. The fight scenes are vivid and convincing, as are the glimpses of nontourist Japan. However, Lawson's constant, relentlessly macho patter may irritate readers even sooner than it does the Kensei, and the plot and characters are drearily familiar. (Jan.)