This debut novel is tightly written, so much so that I’ll keep my eye out for more books by the author.
Two teenagers go missing in the small town of Sandy Lake, one of them is Sheriff Ben Packard’s cousin’s daughter. Packard is new to town, having moved from the big city to start anew after the death of his boyfriend, and has history in Sandy Lake. Long ago, his brother Nick went missing while his family was there during summer vacation.
Emmett Burr caught the teens breaking into his house and took action. His own life is dreadful; a failed marriage, chronic pain, and bad health. He had dreams of having a girl who would do his bidding like Jeannie from I Dream of Jeannie and took steps to make that happen.
The story alternates points of view, giving the reader the opportunity to be fully immersed in both characters. This helped keep the tension nice and tight, which never wavered. There were no sagging spots in the plot, no extraneous details, no red herrings.
I especially enjoyed the descriptions of each character as they were introduced. Each one was vivid and interesting. If a fair amount of time had passed, the author made sure to remind the reader of who the character was and/or the relationship of that character to the current ones on the page.
The disappearance of Nick was never answered, which bothered me a bit. There’s a hint as to who was involved and a nugget of mystery surrounding the evidence, likely to be foreshadowing for the next book in the series.
Other than that tiny nitpick, I enjoyed this novel immensely. Highly recommend to people who like small town mysteries with interesting characters.
The Seep is a gentle alien invasion. The entity merges with humans to make them happy and give them peace. Police officers are no longer needed and jobs aren’t mandatory. People can grow wings, hooves, and unicorn horns. In addition, the environment changes so that if you drop dirty clothes on the floor, the floor washes and dries them.
Humans’ relationship with animals change as well. Pets are willing companions and not leashed. Animals are no longer bred to be eaten.
Trina and Deeba are married. Deeba announces she’d like to be a baby again and receive the love she didn’t when she was a child. Trina is unable to accept this change, and actually seems to feel there’s too much change already. She barely enjoys everything The Seep has to offer because The Seep took her wife from her. Deeba goes through the transformation anyway and Trina plunges into depression and becomes neglectful of herself and her environment.
When Trina meets a boy who’d never experienced The Seep (these people live in the Compound), she gives him directions, then decides to find him. Make no mistake, she’s not looking for him to help him, she’s looking for him to help her.
The book is immediately engrossing and the worldbuilding rich and intricate for such a little book. I’ll be buying this one so I can read it again and again.
Hester Marley is the main character, who was a survivor of a ship explosion. She received medical care and prosthetics, as well as indentured servitude to pay for those prosthetics. Her job and life shifted from being an AI programmer to an investigator for a company that doesn’t care about solving crimes, just sweeping stuff under the rug.
Another survivor of the explosion, and a friend of hers, David Pressenko, is found dead on a mining asteroid with less than a dozen inhabitants. Shortly before his death, he sent Marley a cryptic message. She goes to investigate his death and gets caught up in a terrorist plot.
I love mysteries even though I sometimes have trouble following all the clues. I like that the clues are subtle and I like when all the loose ends are tied up, but I do find it frustrating when there are too many diversions. This book had too many diversions. It was hard for me to keep track of what was an important clue and what was just information.
I felt like the first quarter of the book was backstory. Every time something new happened, the reader was treated to Marley remembering something about her past. This information was relevant, absolutely, but I found it annoyingly long in places and was happy when the plot finally started moving forward. The pacing was slow at first and ramped up significantly toward the end.
Everything does get tied up neatly, with a surprise or two thrown in for good measure. The book is written as though a sequel could take place but also could stand alone.
This book was listed as LGBTQ+ because the main character was a lesbian, her partner in the investigation is a gay man, and her former/part-time lover is non-binary. There’s no romance in the book – thankfully, as it wouldn’t fit well – but it’s mentioned here and there.
The non-binary character was written so smoothly that it took me a couple of pages to realize the pronouns were they/them. I loved this, I absolutely adored how seamless it was to read a non-binary character this way, as just another character and not someone who needs to be pointed out to the reader or put in a spotlight.
Overall, the book was good enough to hold my attention and make me want to keep reading, even with the frustrating way the backstory was integrated.
I received this book from the library terribly fast. I really thought I’d be waiting longer for it to be available. I read the first page to see if I should start this book or another, and ended up reading it at every available moment I had. I loved this book. Absolutely adored it. Let me tell you why as succinctly as I can.
The narrative voice was consistent and delightful. My eyes wanted to eat every word so my brain could have something to munch on. I wanted this book to go on forever, yet also wanted to get to the end of the story. Not because I was eager to finish, but because I desperately wanted to know how the author was going to wrap up the storyline.
The author’s choice of descriptors were vivid, delightful, and innovative. I don’t think there’s any repetition (or if there is, very little) in adjectives, which kept the book fresh from page one right to the end.
The pacing was excellent. Not once did I feel like the book dragged on or skipped anything important. The author had an excellent sense of how much information to give to keep the story moving, but also how little to give to keep my attention hooked.
I loved the main character – Anna – mostly because she felt realistic to me. She was someone I could imagine in real life, ‘warts and all’ as my mom would’ve said. Anna has her faults, she’s vulnerable, but she’s also got a core of toughness that impressed me.
Now I’ll tell you about the story.
Anna is a “hench”. This is someone who works with the villains when asked. Yes, like henchmen but without the gender specification. Anna works for a temp agency that hires out henches. Even Meat – the muscle of the operation, so to speak. She gets a job and is injured by a superhero named Supercollider. The temp agency promptly dismisses her, leaving her out of work and deeply wounded.
While healing, Anna starts checking into the cost of superheroes. How many lifeyears are lost to the supes’ carelessness? How much property damage? That kind of thing. This hooked me immediately. I’ve consumed enough superhero media to ask these questions myself. The supe always saves the day, but at what cost? Anna posts her Injury Report online and gathers a bit of following.
Anna needs a job, and applies everywhere. When on her way to an interview, she’s intercepted by a villain named Leviathan. He wants to hire her for her ability to amass data and parse it in whatever manner is most useful.
This is the story of a budding villain. Anna isn’t necessarily evil, but she does want superheroes to be held accountable for their careless destruction. Her tactics are somewhat evil though, in the sense that she knows how to manipulate people.
All of this is set in a world where people are tested for abilities, then, if they are found to be in great enough quantity, the person is groomed to be a superhero. This world is immersive. I was enveloped in it from the first few pages and only left when I closed the book. Excellent work by the author.
Some other notables: the book felt technically perfect. Every scene had a purpose. Every event had a conclusion. No extra words were used and none were spared. I felt like this is a fine example of constructing a story, one I’d like to remember as I write my own.
I was pleased to read how well the author worked genderfluidity into the narrative. This was done exactly as I’ve experienced it in real life: there are people who prefer they/them, there are trans people, there are people who are not straight. There was no shaming, no shoehorning. The author made this feel remarkably commonplace, and I absolutely loved it. Remarkably refreshing compared to many other books I’ve read.
This book could easily be converted to a ten episode series. More accurately, I want this to be a ten episode series, as long as it’s done well and with the author’s consent and participation.
I heavily recommend this book to anyone who enjoys superheroes, a tongue-in-cheek style of narration, and multifaceted, interesting characters caught in a plot that’s resolved neatly and efficiently.