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REVIEW:  Delia’s Shadow by Jaime Lee Moyer

REVIEW: Delia’s Shadow by Jaime Lee Moyer


“It is the dawn of a new century in San Francisco and Delia Martin is a wealthy young woman whose life appears ideal. But a dark secret colors her life, for Delia’s most loyal companions are ghosts, as she has been gifted (or some would say cursed) with an ability to peer across to the other side.

Since the great quake rocked her city in 1906, Delia has been haunted by an avalanche of the dead clamoring for her help. Delia flees to the other side of the continent, hoping to gain some peace. After several years in New York, Delia believes she is free…until one determined specter appears and she realizes that she must return to the City by the Bay in order to put this tortured soul to rest.

It will not be easy, as the ghost is only one of the many victims of a serial killer who was never caught. A killer who after thirty years is killing again.

And who is now aware of Delia’s existence.”

Dear Ms. Moyer,

A beautiful cover can catch my attention and the one for “Delia’s Shadow” got me in a headlock. I saw it and had to click on the link for more information. Who is this woman in the Edwardian clothing and why is she so somber? Well, I guess if you’ve seen ghosts all your life and are now returning to a city that’s teeming with them after the earthquake, you’d be straight faced too.

Though Delia has returned to San Francisco for her best friend’s wedding, she’s also aware that a ghost she calls “Shadow” has ties to the city and wants something from Delia. Since she can only see them and experience their emotions – horrifying in the case of the people who burned to death after the earthquake – Delia doesn’t know why Shadow has appeared and haunts her both by day and in her dreams. It doesn’t take her long to find out.

The book is told from Delia’s first person POV and the 3rd person of Gabe – a police officer whose father was also cop and who is now trying to find and stop a horrific serial killer. Delia’s sections were more immediate, more emotional to me. I guess the reason behind the two differing PsoV is that Delia is our window into the paranormal while Gave stands for the cold realism of the every day? I’m sure there’s an reason for the choice to have Gabe’s section told in third person I’m still not sure that it made a difference to me beyond what I said earlier.

“Delia’s Shadow” is a sort of romance x mystery/thriller. While neither part totally fell apart for me, I did have issues with both. For suspense fans, I think it’s important to note that there is little chance of them being able to solve the identify of the killer until late in the book at about the same time as the police. The emphasis is more on how Gabe and Delia go about solving the crimes using their own particular knowledge and skills.

I found it fascinating to see how by this point in time so many modern forensics techniques – including using folding Kodak cameras to take crime scene photos and taking plaster casts of footprints – went along with the time honored questioning of witnesses and examining crime scenes. Flamboyant psychic character Isadora also introduces important information she learned while helping on murder cases elsewhere. Dora is a fascinating character and I’d love to see her story told. The new age just dawning seems like it would suit her to perfection: Flapper dresses, ciggies in long holders, fast cars, loose sex and lots of booze.

As Delia explained how she sees ghosts, I got more twitchy. It’s one thing to encounter them at specific places – at least that way you can leave – but to have them follow you around and not be able to shake them off – that gave me the creeps. The number of ghosts just exploded as the story progressed to the point that it felt like a “pile on.” Delia sees and senses tons of them out on the streets but the Larkin house gets packed to the gills with all the ones Shadow hauls back from the spirit world.

Delia’s dreams of Shadow get more intense, more involved the longer she’s back in SF with Delia now “in her skin” and seeing/feeling what Shadow felt. These were skin crawling scenes to me showing the horror of what the victims their fate would be. We see none of the crimes actually happening which is good for my stomach given what is done to the victims but … I wanted to know how the killer so easily overpowers two victims at a time x multiple times. And what was behind his obsession – the reason behind the madness? It’s made clear what he’s enacting but why? That was never explained.

I didn’t feel that there isn’t any romance but the main emphasis of the story, and a lot of Gabe and Delia’s relationship, is catching the killer so their progressing courtship tended to get caught up in that. This does serve to establish how much Gabe is willing to believe in what Dee tells him about how she “sees” and experiences the world and how much he trusts her about this. Enough to face the skepticism and amusement of the police force who know about what she can do. Mention is made of long walks they take as they discuss the case and many evenings spent chastely together but I would have liked to actually see more of this instead of just being told.

Lots of historical detail is included which made the book feel very much of its time and place. There were some sections, however, that got bogged down in stuff that I felt went on too long and added little to story. For instance, when the two couples initially went to dinner at the Pan Pacific Fair, the pace slowed to a crawl as the sights were described. I kept wondering if this information would be important later but ultimately it just felt like unneeded padding.

I did guess some of the things that happened in the story, some of the relationships, some of the outcomes but other incidents took me by off guard. Despite the fact that Gabe and Delia put 2 and 2 together early on and start working together, I was happily surprised by how well the tension is maintained even through the catching of the killer. I almost knew who would be the final victim but was still caught up in what was going to happen and would the police arrive in time. So, well done with that. If a few things had been explained more or shown more, I would have been a happier camper though. B-


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REVIEW:  Omens by Kelley Armstrong

REVIEW: Omens by Kelley Armstrong

Dear Ms. Armstrong,

I’ve been a fan of your work since the very beginning. Some books work better for me than others, but that’s to be expected from an author with a sizeable backlist. When your Otherworld series ended last year, I wondered what you’d do next. I knew you’d be writing another Nadia Stafford book but was that it for the adult realm? Then one day I opened up my mailbox to find that Jane had sent me an ARC of your latest book, Omens.

omens-armstrongOlivia Taylor-Jones is a privileged rich girl. There is no dancing around this fact. She comes from a filthy, stinking rich Chicago family, has an Ivy League education, and is engaged to a young CEO who’s being groomed for political office.

Then everything comes crashing down around her when tabloid journalists and bloggers break the news that she’s adopted. What’s more, her birth parents were infamous serial killers who murdered 8 people. The scandal and ensuing attention proves to be too much, leading her adoptive mother to flee to Europe (how nice of her) and driving Olivia out of Chicago.

Where she goes, though, is the small, insular town of Cainesville. There she hopes to learn more about her parents’ pasts, in the hopes of making peace with the newly uncovered truth. But her investigation only leads to more secrets, including mysterious abilities that seem to have awakened and grow stronger by the day.

I hesitate to call this an urban fantasy. It takes place in a small town where everyone knows each other (and their business) and where you can’t get a job until the locals get to know you. Small town gothic would be more accurate perhaps. As with all your previous books, Omens has a writing style that’s easy to read. It’s never a struggle and that’s so comforting to me.

Despite the fact that Olivia is so ridiculously privileged, complete with her “Oh, let me help the poor!” deal in the beginning that allows her to counsel them but never exposes her to the reality of their lives, I found myself sympathizing with her. It’s helped by the fact that even after she learned of her adoption, she continued to think of her adoptive parents as her real parents while the serial killers were just those people who gave birth to her. In so many stories, upon learning they were adopted, the protagonist drops everything to find their “real” parents, as if all the years spent with their adoptive parents amounted to nothing.

That said, I also liked that it didn’t gloss over the complications of having memories of your birth parents. Olivia as a little girl adored her birth parents and the news that she was adopted causes all those old memories to resurface. She may not call them her parents, but she loved them as a little girl and those feelings don’t entirely go away.

On the surface, I suppose you could say this is a narrative about a rich girl who gets knocked off her pedestal and is exposed to the real world. I don’t think that’s what this story is doing, however. Not entirely. For one, Olivia’s privilege is called out many times over the course of the novel. There’s nothing stopping her from asking for money from her family other than pride, after all. Nor is there ever a sense that she can really up and leave her new “poor” life and return to her old one. I mean, of course she can leave Cainesville and return to her Chicago mansion. There’s nothing stopping her from that either. But her entire world as changed, based on the perceptions of the people around her, and a person can never go back from that.

The fantasy aspects in Omens are subtle. There are no werewolves or witches here. Olivia’s ability relates to seeing and interpreting omens, actual omens. Omens related to luck, omens related to the weather, and omens related to death. The mysteries of Cainesville are never explained in this book but readers who know their European folklore (or are willing to google a few words) will get a big hint. I found myself preferring the subtle approach here because the branch of the supernatural world this deals with has never been my favorite, I admit.

Despite all this, however, I found myself finishing the novel and coming to an abrupt realization: nothing really happens in this book. Olivia meets her birth mother, thanks to the efforts of the lawyer who used to represent her birth parents. Her birth mother insists upon their innocence and sends Olivia to investigate the circumstances of the last couple they allegedly murdered. The investigation leads to secret conspiracies and then… And then…

And then?

That’s kind of the problem, isn’t it? There is no “and then.” The circumstances of the final couple’s murder are revealed and that plot line is resolved, but we don’t learn anything else. Not the mystery of Cainesville. Not the meaning of Olivia’s abilities. Not the depths of the secret conspiracy she may have uncovered. We don’t even learn if her birth parents are actually innocent. Omens is very much a set-up book, and I wish that wasn’t the case. The earlier novels of the Otherworld series were self-contained and standalone, despite being part of a series, and I miss that format. I really wish Omens didn’t show signs of following the pattern set by later novels in your previous series instead.

For readers looking for romance, there isn’t much of one here. There’s an implication of something brewing between Olivia and Gabriel, the lawyer helping her, but the relationship is more similar to the relationship between Nadia and Jack from the assassin books. There’s something there but chances are it’ll be slow to form, and there’s a high probability Olivia will take a detour along the way.

I enjoyed Omens for its intriguing premise and compelling character conflict. What I’m cautious about is the execution and payoff, since recent novels from you fell short for me in this area. I’m willing to stick along for the ride but I’m definitely keeping my expectations in check. C+

My regards,

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