Sunday, August 30, 2015

Paranormal Mystery, DECEPTIONS, "A Cainsville Novel," Kelley Armstrong

The third novel in Canadian fantasy author Kelley Armstrong's Cainsville Series came my way this month, and it's a fast-paced thriller -- with the complication of two competing teams being Welsh mystical beings, one "fae" (not the sweet kind of fairy; picture instead carnival roustabouts), and the other "Huntsmen," drawn to the wild in the form of forests, animals, and their own lives.

At the center of a mythic confrontation between the two, however, is something more familiar to mystery readers: Olivia Taylor-Jones, strong woman equally capable with switchblade or firearm, delving into the crimes that her birth parents seem to have committed. Serial murders, to be precise.

And from there, despite paranormal forces and a generations-in-the-making competition between two suitors, two peoples, and one smart woman, there's a traditional crime investigation between the covers of DECEPTIONS. Olivia's determination to pry the truth from her birth parents and the people intervening is aided by her loyal defense-attorney friend Gabriel and her equally loyal lover Ricky, who's the heir-apparent of a major motorcycle gang with illegal enterprises and an antiquated code of ethics that frames women as belongings.

Obviously that's not going to fit Olivia. But she's self-confident enough to play along when it's necessary, as she figures out what Ricky's obligations to his own family are, and what the powerful attraction is between the two of them.

If the paranormal aspects were crucial to Olivia unfolding the secrets around her, or to her decisions about her life, I wouldn't pass along word of this book. But in fact, they're not -- they're the ethnic wallpaper for background. Consider this passage:
The dealership visit lifted Gabriel's mood immensely. I think my handling of the situation amused him. While I'd been following in the career footsteps of my philanthropist mother, I really was Daddy's girl. My father had turned the family business -- the Mills & Jones department store -- back into the Chicago landmark it'd been in the fifties, and he hadn't done that by letting salespeople tell him he couldn't get stock in until next month.

We had an hour before our appointment with Chandler, so Gabriel decided to swing by the office. ... It is relatively close to the Cook County jail. Given Gabriel's clientele, that may be the main attraction.
Nothing remotely "Harry Potter" about that passage, right? And Olivia's choices and actions are just as solid and strong and adult as all that. Consider this a crime fiction parallel to Diana Gabaldon's Outworlder series, with a bit more capability and friendship and a bit less graphic sexuality. A bit.

I enjoyed DECEPTIONS a lot. Maybe not quite enough to go out and search for the two preceding books in the series, Omens and Visions (those do sound a bit more magic-focused, don't they?). But I like Olivia, or Liv, very much, and I think Armstrong -- better known for her dozens of fantasy novels -- has a solid series going here. I would read the next one, and expect to enjoy it. Diversity is the spice of the reading life ... even for crime fiction.

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