"Waking Evil," Kylie Brant

Pros: Wonderful characters & mystery; fascinating legendry
Cons: Identity of killer insufficiently foreshadowed; too many similarities between heroine of this book and heroine of last one
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Review book courtesy of Penguin Group.

 

Ramsey Clark is a forensic investigator working with the infamous group dubbed the “mindhunters” by the media. She’s called in to help when a woman is found dead in Buffalo Springs, Tennessee. It seems the locals believe in a legend involving red mist and a curse, and the authorities are anxious to solve the brutal crime quickly before it becomes more of a media circus than it already has.

Ramsey has no interest whatsoever in paranormal explanations, and is nothing but irritated by handsome Devlin Stryker, a writer and parapsychologist determined to follow along as she conducts her investigation. It hardly helps her irritation that the locals don’t like talking to outsiders, and she ends up needing Devlin’s help to get them to open up to her. And she’d better hurry—historically the deaths have always come in threes, and another girl is about to disappear!

 

There’s one thing about Kylie Brant’s Waking Evil that wouldn’t bother me if I read it as a stand-alone book, but that struck me as unfortunate since I read it as a follow-on to her Waking Nightmare. While the personalities and backgrounds of Ramsey Clark and Abbie Philips have many differences, the similarities are so broad, obvious, and unlikely that when presented in sequels, it stretches belief. It’s hard to buy into the idea that Raiker happened to hire two women for his company who just happen to have deep-seated phobias based in childhood traumas that will be conveniently brought into play while they work a case with a handsome man. As much as I love the stories and characters as individual entities, I really hope Brant does something a bit different with the next one, because the more such “coincidences” she strings into a line, the less believable it feels.

Once again Brant presents us with complex, three-dimensional, fascinating characters. Dev usually spends his time debunking parapsychology incidents, but believes there are some truly inexplicable things in the world. Ramsey struggles to be the consummate cool professional, to leave behind as much of her trailer trash background as possible. Neither of them is interested in starting up a relationship, but they can’t help finding each other attractive, and they slowly wear down each other’s defenses, albeit somewhat unwillingly.

The background on the legend and the cyclical deaths is fascinating and imaginative, and it unfurls nicely throughout the book. My only problem with it was that, once again, the actual identity of the killer seems to lack adequate foreshadowing. I hate getting to that point in a novel and finding myself saying, “huh?” (I don’t mind as long as I can look back and see, “oh, yeah, it really WAS him,” but I don’t like feeling that there weren’t enough clues.) Once again I can sort of see where the author probably felt she was putting clues in, but they don’t feel adequate to the task. Again, however, take this with a grain of salt, just as I said last time: after all, this is a hard line to draw and it’ll fall to a different place with each reader.

Some might be put off by the fact that Waking Nightmare was entirely non-paranormal, whereas that doesn’t appear to be the case here. However, personally I found that the paranormal aspects of Waking Evil were equivocal enough and minor enough that they weren’t jarring.

There are a couple of minor aspects of Brant’s sex scenes that I find awkward (“tongues and teeth clashing” gives me an image of lovers painfully bumping their teeth together!) or a bit over the top, but everyone’s taste is a bit different, and her characters are certainly enthusiastic!

The mystery itself and the tense race to save lives is the true high of the book, in my opinion. Brant does a great job with pacing and tension!

 

[Standard adult material disclaimer: explicit sex between romantic leads; explicit dark subject matter.]

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