The thing about having an electronic book-readin’ device is that my inherent cheapness is enabled and multiplied. There’s stuff out there I’d never read if I had to pay for it, but faced with a choice between a well-known book for a few bucks and something for free, I’ll take a chance on free. Thus, Loose Ends landed on my device.
The story was pretty good, but as usual I’m going to spend more time talking about the parts that rankled, rather than the parts I particularly enjoyed. You don’t have to thank me, it’s what I do.
The story opens with our heroine being awakened in the night by a shambling headless monster. Yikes! Her reaction is one of annoyance rather than terror; he’s dripping blood all over everything. She tells the shambling apparition in his civil war uniform that he has to go back to the basement. He does. Interesting.
First nit to pick here, and it wouldn’t have rankled so much except her annoyance at the blood is the first thing we ever learn about our protagonist. Turns out the intruder was a ghost, and the blood leaves with him, and she knew that. So our very first impression of Mary is turns sour, smelling of artifice.
That bad taste is short-lived; Mary turns out to be pretty interesting. She’s an Ex-cop, a pretty good one, who had a near-death experience that even now leaves her closer to death than most people. She can see ghosts, sometimes communicate with them, and she tries to help them. They also help her, and based on that Mary has a fairly successful business as a paranormal private detective.
One place this book really succeeds is portraying a small town in changing times. Downtown is dying, overwhelmed by the box stores nearby. People know each other’s business. The newspaper is struggling.
Also, there’s a new Police Chief in town. He’s not so bad to look at, in Mary’s opinion.
The romantic tension is inevitable (and necessary for the genre), and it’s done pretty well here. This is the first in a series, and so Reid is in no hurry to rush Mary and Bradley together. They like each other. They respect each other. None of the “I hate you so much I must love you” nonsense that Jane Austen traded in, instead we have people who like each other who also carry baggage, things they have to get past before they can get together. Sad things. Believable things.
One of the things I like about this book is that people act like people. Except when they don’t. Let’s say, for instance, that by sheer luck you have just avoided a bullet and dove for meager cover. Do you 1) try to figure out where the shot came from, improve your shelter, and call for help, or do you 2) engage in banter with the guy taking cover with you?
By the way, thank you Ms. Reid for not following the “spunky and resourceful female lead must have two legitimate love interests that she can’t choose between” pattern. At least in book one. Two awesome suitors is a fun problem to have, but lately it’s a requirement, and that’s not so good. Sure, I’m not the target audience for most of this, but come on. [Cut to every movie made in Hollywood in which a craggy, graying man ends up with a hottie. Yeah, it works both ways.]
In the end, Mary and Bradley get the bad guy. We know they will. The art of writing a story like this is making us believe that they don’t know they will win, and making victory costly, both short-term (pain) and long-term (baggage). This win definitely had a short-term cost, and that made it worthwhile. This time around, the characters came into focus with enough baggage already so that we didn’t need more. Still, I’d like to see layers of scar tissue build up.
Will I see it? To continue to follow Ms. Reid’s story I’ll have to pony up cash money. I’m tempted. If she has a tip jar out there somewhere, I’ll happily slide her a buck for the pleasure of Loose Ends.