Mon 22 Sep 2008
Kat Richardson was born in California, got a degree from Cal State Long Beach, and lived and worked there for some years before moving to Seattle. She currently lives on a sailboat, with two ferrets (something that will surprise no one who has read this book) and, well, the rest of her family. She’s done magazine work as well as curriculum and technical writing for various institutions. Her books are generally described as spec-fic/paranormal mysteries, in the more literal definition of ‘paranormal’ and not a shortening for ‘paranormal romance.’ This novel is the first in a series; books 2 and 3 are already released, and if I’m not horribly mistaken, book 4 will be out in January of next year. (Books 5 and 6 are already contracted, so we know we’re going that far, at least.)
Harper Blaine is a P.I.; mostly this involves chasing paperwork, until one day she’s beaten senseless — well, actually, to death — by someone she was paid to find. She’s dead for two minutes before the EMTs revive her; after this, she starts having weird dizziness and headaches. Eventually she finds out that she now is a Greywalker — someone who can see into and go into the Grey, the sort of something that separates this world from the next. So she can see ghosts and she can disappear, in practical terms. Unfortunately, she doesn’t like it — not one bit. And now all sorts of paranormal beings are coming to her, since they know she can see them and help them with their problems. Can she make it go away? Barring that, can she help the people (vampires and ghosts) who are asking her for help, and what’s with this parlor organ?
Harper was, rather like the main character in this novel, a former athletic type who bordered on the unbelievable with her body type (five foot ten and her mother wanted her to be a professional dancer? Not likely!), but unlike That Book (which I very much disliked), I liked Harper a lot. I found her to be a lot more interesting than other characters in her genre, and part of this was her outright resistance to anything paranormal. So often we get heroines who have been paranormal since birth or slightly thereafter (Mercy, from Patricia Briggs’s Mercy Thomspon books, a skinwalker; Rachel Morgan, a witch; Anita Blake, an animator/necromancer), but Harper didn’t actually get any powers until she was fairly set in her ways. I thought her struggle played out very well over the course of this book; she is by no means done with it, but I very much liked watching it happen.
I also liked the minor characters in the book. Quinton is probably my favorite; he almost steals the show. He’s a computer nerd who hates working for people and does cash-only contract work; he’s sort of mysterious, and also downright weird. I couldn’t exactly tell if he was actually interested in Harper herself; he may have just been subtle about it. Will, an antiques guy and auctioneer, is almost too good to be true; he’s apparently very attractive to Harper, and he has many similar interests. He’s also a gentleman, and very close to his younger brother (also a minor character). The vampires that she meets are also quite interesting; one is named Alice Liddell (it’s presumably a name she took at some point) and she’s more scary than, well, an angelic blonde.
I guess that overall a novel in which there are vampires and necromancers and a heroine with strange powers she doesn’t really want doesn’t sound all that original. People have been blending spec-fic and mysteries for some time now; I’m sure Anita Blake wasn’t the first, but Guilty Pleasures came out in, what, the early ’90s? In any case, this book wasn’t incredibly novel, but like the Mercy Thompson books, it sure felt that way. Overall, yes, a bit less startlingly refreshing than Patricia Briggs’s work, but Ms. Richardson has definitely hit on a good combination of elements to make her novel very interesting. Also, who can resist a book where one of the major elements is a parlor organ? 4/5 stars.