LK Books, $3.99
Paranormal Romantic Suspense, 2017
We have a boarding school from hell in Georgia – the Fenton Academy for Boys, supposedly an exclusive school that keeps even the most unruly kid in check through strict discipline and military precision. Only, several boys have gone missing – or “have run away”, the school administration folks claim – and our heroine Kate Lincoln is convinced that her missing brother Isaac is dead. Murdered, to be exact. You see, she and Isaac share a telepathic link – there is a reason why this book is considered a paranormal romantic suspense – and she heard Isaac’s panicked cries for help just before he went MIA.
She does what every sensible person would do – she goes straight to the Extrasensory Agents and manages to find an ally in Derek Monaghan, a guy who can “see” what really happened in places where a violent murder took place. Together, they dig deeper into the mystery, even as various secondary characters show up, their lives intertwined with the mysterious, sinister happenings in the Fenton Academy. And of course, Kate and Derek fall for one another.
Cold Image is the fourth book in Leslie A Kelly’s Extrasensory Agents series, and it starts to display a problem with series that I often find silly: there is a cast of capable folks with woo-woo abilities here, but the author has to find ways to ensure that the entire team don’t just charge in and solve the mystery in time for lunch. Here, this guy has to be away, the other fellow wants to go on a trip to propose to that person… well, all this is fine if we are talking about something more trivial. Given that kids’ lives are at stake here, these folks seem horribly callous as a result. While I’m glad that there is no blatant sequel baiting here after the fourth chapter, I can’t help feeling stronger teamwork makes more sense in the context of this story.
However, the suspense is excellent. No, really. You may have noticed that I am a horror fan if you read my movie reviews, and in here, the premise inches closer to horror than old school mystery, thanks to the beautifully drawn atmosphere and descriptive scenes meant to evoke a sense of pure terror. Despite the fact that haunted schools built on lunatic asylums and what not are pretty standard tropes in horror, everything here feels genuinely frightening than derivative. I really must keep turning the page to find out…
… And so I come upon an unfortunate issue: I have little patience for the mental lusting of Kate and Derek, because I need to know what is happening in that blasted school. There is something that feels contrived about how Kate and Derek fall into instant lust when, on her part, she’s supposed to be stressed out about Isaac. Or maybe it’s just me, I’m just impatient for these two to stop that icky lust-love thing and resume the investigation. It gets to the point where I’m wishing that they’d just go have sex for a paragraph or two and then focus on the mystery. Also, I find it rather odd that Kate often plays the comforter and confidant when Derek has to do his admittedly traumatic woo-woo thing, when she’s not exactly without her own damage as well. The romance and the suspense aren’t well-balanced here; I find the romance intruding into the more interesting suspense, and there are many moments when I wish that the author had written a straight suspense here.
The story picks up steam once these two finally do their thing and decide to focus on the mystery, so things aren’t so bad after all.
In the end, Cold Image feels slower than the author’s previous effort, mostly because the romantic moments drag on forever when all I want is for them to get back to work. The entire story is a good kind of sensory overload when it comes to fear and thrills, however, so it is still a satisfying read in the end. It’s worth a look for folks who like this kind of stories, but they should also check out the author’s better books in this series as well.