LK Books, $3.99
Paranormal Romantic Suspense, 2017
Cold Memory is part of the Extrasensory Agents series, the previous two published a while back by Signet Eclipse under the name Leslie Parrish. That series didn’t do well enough for that publisher to retain the series in its catalogue, so it took awhile for this one to come out. This one and the previous books in the series are currently issued by the author herself under the Leslie A Kelly name.
This one takes place amidst a carnival background – just my kind of thing. Gypsy Rose Bell comes from a carnie family – which explains her name – and she’s now the Chief of Police of Ocean Whispers, a town in Florida. Recently her grandfather Franklin Bell obtained a piece of land for cheap, which he then used to establish the D’Onofrio Brothers Winter Carnival. This is a carnival staffed by carnie folks in their golden years, and Gypsy is glad because her grandfather’s health isn’t the best these days. The Winter Carnival is also becoming a popular tourist draw. And then, it happens – one of the Winter Carnival folks is brutally murdered.
In addition to having to solve the murder, Gypsy is also worried because there has always been resistance from certain quarters against the existence of the Winter Carnival, and the last she needs is to be caught in between a political turf war. She decides to approach our hero, Mick Tanner, whom she knows from way back. Mick has a carnie background too – his uncle, who eventually became his legal guardian after a bitter custody battle, is a carnie, and Mick spent some time doing carnie stuff too with his gifts. Oh yes, his gift. He is an extrasensory agent, after all, although he’s not sure whether he’d call his ability a “gift”.
You see, Mick can touch things and deduce things about it – the thoughts and feelings of people who had touched it prior to him, that kind of thing. His grandfather did some heinous things to him as a means to exorcise what the man considered evil from the boy, and now, even though he’s somewhat well adjusted in the company of folks who are blessed – or cursed – like him, he has problems establishing relationships with other people. Think about it: do you want your lover to be able to touch your dress or your hairbrush and immediately know everything – and I do mean everything – about you? Even if you do, he may not want to, and some of the things he learns about you may make the relationship awkward. That’s the problem Mick faces.
Mind you, I immediately come across a halfway-workable solution to his dilemma, and it’s one that Gypsy eventually puts into practice for the happy ending, so I’m not sure why he’s making such a big fuss. Especially since he’s loaded enough to make it happen. And I say “halfway” because I’m not sure how his gift really works, so there may be a possibility that this solution is only a band aid measure. Of course, he could always keep his gloves on at all times, so at the end of the day, this dilemma is not as bad as it could have been. Not ideal, yes, but not impossible either.
At any rate, I bring this romance thing up first just to get it out of the way. It’s the least interesting aspect of Cold Memory, I’m afraid, not because it is badly written but because it is completely overshadowed by the more interesting mystery and suspense arc. I find myself fidgeting impatiently each time Mick and Gypsy go all dopey and mournful about feelings, wondering when the author would go back to the suspense because I can’t wait to find out what will happen next.
Indeed, while the author may be better known for her sexy category romances, I wonder whether she’s actually a sleeper suspense author in the making. Her romantic suspenses have all been hits for me, and this one is no different. The author seems to have no problems getting me hooked into the story from page one, and I am at the edge of my seat most of the time. My rear end inches back from the edge during the lovey-dovey moments, but the suspense part is top notch. It doesn’t help that the author has no compunctions in not giving her secondary characters plot armor – seriously, I could have given the author the most evil of all evil eyes for what she did to THAT POOR GIRL – making the suspense all the most suspenseful and even terrifying to follow. The violence here is toned down compared to the author’s earlier Leslie Parrish books, but that is due more to the fewer body counts in this one. How the victims die isn’t pretty or tame, let’s just say.
There are times when I wonder whether the Extrasensory Agents aren’t a bit too overpowered for their own good, as there is no real reason why their powers combined can’t solve the mystery within one chapter. Still, it is a testament to the author’s ability that I rarely pause to spot for contrivances in this one. Even when I feel that the story loses a bit of steam towards the end – the revelation of the killer is revealed when people finally begin to talk, not due to any successful procedural investigations by our leads – the confrontation with the villain has a bittersweet edge to it. It’s hard to forgive that person’s sins, but at the same time, the person is not exactly up there in the head and it is also easy to see why this person goes on to kill those people.
The author’s afterword is a nice addition – it explains why she did what she did in the story, and while I don’t agree with every decision she took, I can see where she is coming from and hence I can’t help softening a bit about this one. Hmm, that’s actually quite sneaky on the author’s part.
Anyway, while the romance could have been a bit more interesting, this one is still a very solid entry into the Extrasensory Agents series. I can’t stop reading this one in a single sitting; I downloaded it onto my phone when I had to go out, so that I could read along the journey – that’s how this book got to me. And it got to me good, very good indeed.