Book Review – ‘Shadow Land’ (#5 Harbinger P.I.) by Adam Wright

Delectable Detective and Punchy Paranormals but some Morbid Machismo….

Shadow Land (#5 Harbinger PI) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlilseGenre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Detective

No. of pages: 200

From Goodreads:

When a child goes missing, his mother asks me to help. After all, she believes he was taken by a monster and that’s my field of expertise. The search leads to the storm drains of Dearmont; not a good place to be when you’ve seen as many horror movies as I have. 

Turns out the monstrous kidnapper is also responsible for the mysterious disappearance of a patient from a psychiatric hospital nearby. And as I investigate further, I’m pushed into the waiting arms of an old nemesis. 

Missing children, fishy creatures, and icy curses are all in a day’s work for Harbinger P.I. But when Mister Scary shows up, the hardest job is staying alive.

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 I’m loving Adam Wright’s take on the paranormal, or preternatural as referred to in this series. There is always so much going on that I’m hooked and addicted to finding out what is going on. There is always more than one mystery to solve, an antagonist or two to fight or run away from. Wright’s concepts are fun and engaging.

However there is still one of the biggest gripes in ‘Shadow Land’ that I have had with this series front and centre – again with our protagonist Preternatural Detective, Alec having things fall into his lap, or his assistant Felicity doing them for him. I know a lot of detective work is boring and something we don’t necessarily want to read, but coming up with ideas and uncovering clues are prime aspects to test the protagonist and drive the story forward – watch any detective show on television for numerous engaging examples. This was a big miss for me.

I’m still getting a sexist vibe, and a little of that ‘things conveniently happening’ around Alec’s treatment of the cast, in addition to secondary characters popping into the story when relevant to the plot, but otherwise ignored… it feels like they’re being used but not developed, not allowed to become complex. It feels like lazy writing… so many missed opportunities.

But the narrative improved after the half way mark.

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We re-visit the on-again, off-again thing with Alec and Felicity… its feeling tired. Was it done to drag their relationship out over a few more books? Something was missing in the tension between these two with ‘Shadow Land.’ And it was awkward – not between the characters Alec and Felicity, but in the writing. As much as I enjoy this world and the characters, I question whether Wright is rushing through the writing-publishing process to keep the momentum of sales for the Harbinger P.I. series instead of taking a little extra time to polish the manuscript.

Upon reaching the end of the book I wasn’t totally satisfied – there were so many new clues and elements introduced in ‘Shadow Land,’ and less than half were resolved. Great for getting me to continue with the series, but reflects badly on this novel alone. Plus, we end on a cliff hanger which was incentive enough for me to want to pick up ‘Midnight Blood’ – but some more resolution to the Mr Scary storyline would have been good – or the Cabal… just saying.

I was a little perturbed by the death of a paranormal towards the end as well – though it was explained – it felt unjustified, and frankly, rushed.

But the writing style is pleasant, and I like the folklore references. I wish we would delve more into the mythology of things. We are starting to get there as Alec was more involved in the research with Felicity. It’s nice to see he can actually do some detective work for himself because he tends to outsource a lot and spend much of the time wandering around thinking.

The pacing is good and the plot jumps all over the place as well. The point of view briefly switches to Sheriff Cantrell and then is daughter Amy (a deputy) interrupting the flow of a narrative and follow a story arc. It was interesting, and in the past few novels Wright has started to add in different characters perspectives… it doesn’t feel as cohesive as it should be though. And we jump from first person to third person narrative.

I did guess the puzzle to the main case solved in ‘Shadow Land’ in the first couple of chapters. I don’t know how, or why, maybe I’m getting tuned into Wright’s mind. So I guess that’s also why this wasn’t such an impactful novel for me.

Still, this is a guilty pleasure of mine. I love the supernatural elements and Wright’s take on the world of things that go bump in the night. Also, where has all the thing about Felicity becoming a fully-fledged P.I. gone? She’s back to acting like a glorified secretary again, and the sizzle between these two has left the pages. And it might be the feminist in me, but I’d really like to see Felicity play the hero apart from Alec, and not constantly running around providing answers before Alec even knew he needed them… how about he do it for himself and let her get into the action!

Still a really fun and interesting world. Wright puts his little twists on the preternatural that I find engaging and fascinating.

Overall feeling: Trying to ignore the flaws…

Shadow Land (#5 Harbinger PI) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlilse

Shadow Land (#5 Harbinger PI) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlilse

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© Casey Carlisle 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Book Review – ‘Dead Ground’ (#4 Harbinger P.I.) by Adam Wright

The Preternatural Investigator is at it again….

Dead Ground (#4 Harbinger P.I.) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Detective

No. of pages: 200

From Goodreads:

When my old friend Jim Walker asks me to fly up to Canada and take a look at a strange murder case, it sounds like a good excuse for barbecue and brewskis. 

But the party gets crashed by a pit-load of demons and things take a turn for the worse. Throw a faerie queen and a couple of ancient vampires into the mix and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. 

Time to sharpen the stakes and start slaying the undead. 

Because if you gaze long into a vampire’s eyes, the vampire gazes also into you. 

Then it glamors you. And kills you.

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Another instalment in the Harbinger P.I. series sees great twists at the end which redeemed this book in my eyes despite some issues I had in developing the plot and secondary characters. We get a heavy dose of paranormal happenings – witches, fairies, vampires, magical swords and spells.

There’s still more of the machismo that urks me in the narrative, but I am beginning to enjoy this series like b-grade 80’s horror films… there is something camp about it, and find it entertaining despite its faults. There is something addictive and compelling about the Harbinger series.

I wish there was more character development to help me care more about the characters. I’m starting to fall into a speed reading mentality just to find out what is going on because I’m not forming any attachments. This distinct lack of development of characters pulled in to aid protagonist Alex Harbinger in his quest, or in their relationships – they simply came to his aid without question whenever he asked. Even if it meant they could lose their lives. To this end it felt like they were merely a plot device, like Adam Wright couldn’t be bothered taking to time to grow a back story and help the reader develop an emotional attachment to the characters. Overall this was the biggest issue I had with the story.

Dead Ground (#4 Harbinger P.I.) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

To this end, while full of action and fast paced, I felt a little despondent at times. It was feeling a little repetitive. Again not enough is resolved and only little seeds of clues are mentioned for an overarching plot for the series. Much of what stood out to me about the prequels.

The books feel like they’ve been rushed to publish and not given the benefit of a good editor. Nonetheless, I’m becoming a fan and will continue to support the author. I am noticing improvements in his writing with each book in the series. It is starting to become a guilty pleasure with me. I have issues with the writing, but the concept, and potential of Adam Wright keeps me intrigued and coming back for more.

Really interested to see what his next release ‘Midnight Blood’ brings. I know Adam Wright has stated that its publication date has been pushed back because he’s moving house before the final edits, so maybe a fresh set of eyes and experience so far will push this sequel even further.

As much as I enjoy this series, I would only recommend it sparingly, but they are quick, adventurous, fun reads.

Overall feeling: Big on imagination, little on execution

Dead Ground (#4 Harbinger P.I.) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Dead Ground (#4 Harbinger P.I.) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Dark Magic’ (#3 Harbinger P.I.) by Adam Wright

Your Preternatural Investigator is at it again.

Dark Magic (#3 Harbinger PI) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlilseGenre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Detective

No. of pages: 231

From Goodreads:

Zombies on Main Street. Not my finest moment. 

The police aren’t exactly thrilled with me, but when a cold case heats up and starts to stink of the supernatural, suddenly the sheriff is in my office offering me a job. 

When the case hits boiling point, I’m dealing with monsters, black magic, and ritual killings. I even have to call on the two craziest witches in town for help. Things must be bad if the Blackwell sisters are my only hope for survival. 

Maybe I’ve bitten off more than I can chew. After all, those who fight monsters should beware that the monsters aren’t frog-faced, soul-eating demons.

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As campy as the Harbinger P.I. series is, I was still lost and entertained in this paranormal tale. I wish Adam Wright would bust away from the tropes typical to this genre and raise this collection to another level, but nonetheless, the multiple mysteries and collection of cast members are both endearing and captivating.

Harbinger didn’t seem as chauvinistic in ‘Dark Magic‘ and we get many kick ass moments from his female co-stars. We also see plot points introduced in the previous two books resolved – but there are plenty more loose threads leading up to even more mysteries to be solved in future sequels.

The climax was all things apocalyptic, Wright is definitely upping the ante and improving with each installment of this series.

I feel I wanted some more development on the ongoing story lines, only because I wanted a bigger hook to have me reaching for the next sequel, ‘Dead Ground.’ Wright’s books are falling into the category of reading I associate with the likes of Clive Cussler : adventurous, entertaining, with a strong masculine sense to the writing style and not to be taken too seriously.

With our protagonist Alec healing from a gunshot wound and straight into hand to hand combat… and even a shower afterward – the author should think a little before writing implausible scenarios to prevent the reader getting pulled from the story with a wtf moment.

Dark Magic (#3 Harbinger PI) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlilse

Still an element of misogyny- kinda like James Bond and Moneypenny- the male swoops in to save the day and solve the mystery where the female companion does all the hard work behind the scenes and fetches coffee. And of course the male lead has any number of attractive females around him, all trying to land him in bed.

Unfortunately I identified some spelling and grammatical errors that could have been solved with a simple read-through from an editor. But this is an entertaining collection and I am able to forgive a few oversights. Plus the cover art has been eye-catching and spooky, really capturing what Alec Harbinger is all about.

Dark Magic’ has great pacing with multiple storylines that kept me hooked. Beginning to love the magical mythology, it is unlike nothing I’ve read before, it’s intricate and we’ll realised. Bring on book four!

Overall feeling: *knowing smirk*

Dark Magic (#3 Harbinger PI) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlilse

Dark Magic (#3 Harbinger PI) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlilse

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© Casey Carlisle 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Buried Memory’ (#2 Harbinger P.I.) by Adam Wright

Paranormal gumshoe strikes again.

Buried Memory (#2 Harbinger PI) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlilseGenre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Detective

No. of pages: 226

From Goodreads:

Whoever said that nothing ever happens in a small town clearly never visited Dearmont, Maine. It’s getting hotter than hell around here. When the dead start crawling out of their graves, you know something’s up. 

If there’s one thing I hate more than zombies, it’s having my memories erased by magic. That’s a real bummer, right? So when I get a chance to break the spell that’s locked away part of my mind, I take it, even if it means dabbling with ancient Egyptian sorcery. 

Big mistake. 

Sometimes you shouldn’t go poking at things that are buried. 

Because you end up having to deal with an army of the dead.

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This only felt like a mild improvement from the first novel. I wasn’t so much into the camp sexist machinations of our protagonist Alec. While I enjoyed the paranormal angle and his solving of mysterious cases, the machismo and constant attractive women swirling around him, eager to do his bidding had the feminist in me grinding my teeth.

The second half of the book was much better – it was so focused on the action, the author had no chance to waste on bravado and cliché. I don’t mind a bit of campy b-grade horror, but I really wanted something a little more original. I was going to say in the review for the debut that it reminded me of Charlene Harris of Sookie Stackhouse fame (but I have not read those novels and feel like it would be an insult) and again, I got that niggle, how there was an interwoven plot of mystical creatures and battles to be won.

Buried Memory (#2 Harbinger PI) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlilse

The arc with Alec’s assistant, Felicity, was cool. As too, the plot twist with his ‘flirtation-friend’ Mallory – both formidable women in their own right, but I feel like the author does not give them the space to really shine. ‘Buried Memory’ is still steeped in that Private Eye 1950’s era of a tough, wisecracking gumshoe who gets all the dames.

One thing did puzzle me though – given it is a detective novel, shouldn’t he solve some cases? He did in the first novel…. but in ‘Buried Memory’ when the Deputy asked him to look into the church that her dead mother had gotten involved with before her demise… well, after he palmed it off (as I find he tends to do a lot) was simply completely forgotten. Where was the plot of this story going? Instead we got an entirely different direction. I got a little steamed actually. There wasn’t even mention of it at the end of the book like it would be continued in the next instalment ‘Dark Magic.’

I’m starting to find, even though I feel the stories a little gauche, they are still engaging and highly entertaining in a ‘Vampire Diaries’ kind of way. I have a morbid fascination to find out what happens next – but I wouldn’t quite call it a guilty pleasure. I really feel if this collection of novels had a good content edit and a more feminine viewpoint inserted into the narrative they would be stellar reads.

Wright can construct a great action scene, build tension and pace, and manage to give you an unpleasant shiver over something unknown in the dark. So he has a lot of elements going for him and this collection of novels. Plus they are all around the 200 page mark in length, so easy to read in half a day. Not a great investment to get a fun, nostalgic kick.

So, I’d only recommend to those who love paranormal detective novels with plenty of machismo and campy fun. It’s totally like a b-grade horror noir film on the pages, and not to be taken too seriously. With all the nit-picking I’ve done to this series, the books are engaging, entertaining and highly addictive.

Here’s to seeing what kind of trouble Alec Harbinger P.I. gets into next…

Overall feeling: Things that go bump in the night…

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© Casey Carlisle 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Lost Soul’ (#1 Harbinger P.I.) by Adam Wright

A paranormal detective story with a touch of misogyny and a lot of promise.

Lost Soul (#1 Harbinger PI) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlilseGenre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Detective

No. of pages: 226

From Goodreads:

Alec Harbinger is a preternatural investigator, a hunter of things that go bump in the night. When his employers, the Society of Shadows, banish him from his Chicago office to a small town in Maine, Alec thinks his career and life are over. How is a preternatural investigator supposed to find work in a sleepy town in the middle of nowhere? But when a local teenager comes back from a weekend at the lake with an altered personality, Alec is hired to investigate a possible demon possession. A young man turning up at Alec’s office insisting he’s been bitten by a werewolf adds to the caseload. And just to make his first day at the office perfect, Alec discovers that someone in the Society of Shadows is trying to kill him with ogre assassins. No work for a preternatural investigator in a sleepy Maine town? Yeah, about that…

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A Private Investigating franchise with branches all over the globe that everyone is familiar with – yet everyone is ignorant of, or doesn’t believe (in the preternatural) … um… contradictory much. Not the best premise to start off with. But this debut of the Harbinger P.I. series promises supernatural goodness with a wisecracking gumshoe.

The protagonist, and only detective assigned to backwater town of Dearmont, Maine: Alec feels like some old fashioned sexist sleuth. I chose to read this with some irony to keep it fun, like a satire of old Dick Tracey cartoons… even breaking out an overzealous accent at times when reading dialogue. Whaddya talkin’ bout? See?

He seem to objectify all the women he met – who just happened to be skinny and drop dead gorgeous. Weren’t there any normal women in this novel? And of course the assistant, Felicity Lake, did everything for him, all the menial tasks while Alec went about posturing, ogling and flexing his brain. It was hilariously awful. I can’t decide if this was badly written characters or camp overload. But it was oddly compelling despite these drawbacks.

Alec brokers a lot of deals for later favours. A little too convenient the way he makes friends/builds a team. Everyone seemed very amenable without having to go through the process of building up a friendship – and Alec did not seem nervous or too wary about it. It was all a bit contrived. It was easy to spot the hands of the author pushing the plot in a certain direction, and lost its organic feel.

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When going to investigate a forest by the lake for a case, Alec states he want to go in the morning to avoid stumbling around in the dark… and when he gets there, has to wait until dark to get his enchanted statue-compass-thingy to work. Doh! Chalk up another one in the column of inconsistencies.

Why weren’t these glaringly obvious mistakes picked up by a content editor or beta reader before publishing? The writing and plot felt a bit… well messy and amateur.

It didn’t help things that I identified a few grammatical errors too.

But enough of the negative critiquing – the action scenes were great. I was gripped, but there were small moments that were dropped that had me wondering if -‘d missed something.

The ending was a little trite, some things tied up neatly that sent me into an eye-rolling frenzy, and other elements were set up well to lead into the next book in the series.

Lost Soul’ is interesting. But short on world building. I still have no clue as to why the world in ‘Lost Soul’ is the way it is. There was a lot going on, plenty to keep my interest, so I wasn’t bored. Adam Wright’s writing style is a little dry, a touch sparse… and very… male. But it worked for that condescending tone of an old fashioned private detective‎ that this story was channelling. If you don’t take this seriously, it is fun. But if you’re a stickler for plot, grammar, and context, and not one to laugh at those B-Grade horror movies, ‘Lost Soul’ will feel like torture. This is written to a very certain demographic/niche.

I don’t know what inspired me to but this – it is certainly well out of my wheelhouse of regular reads. And an interesting journey. Maybe it was the gorgeous cover promising a dark paranormal mystery – massive battles against dark forces. Instead, it is more of a campy detective novel set in a world of witches, werewolves, fairies, demons and vampires.

I’m interested to see where the sequels will take us.

Overall feeling: This was… okay. That is all.

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© Casey Carlisle 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.