GOOD PREMISE, ROUGH EXECUTION
This is T. K. Lasser’s debut novel. Unfortunately, it reads like the typical first novel because of its overly ambitious plot line. First, Lasser attempts to write a paranormal story line with two distinctly different paranormal abilities involved – one mortal, one immortal. Secondly, she creates not two, but three main protagonists – one female, two male. Thirdly, she makes the two male protagonists identical twins.
Next, she makes the two paranormal abilities psychologically incompatible. Jane, our 20-year-old mortal art student, has the unexplained and un-researched ability to detect lies, either spoken or in physical forms such as art forgeries. Lucien and Cicero, our twins, are 700 years old due to a genetic anomaly that has made them immortal, yet kills every other genetically related male by the age of three. They heal immediately from inflicted wounds or illnesses, but have no special bodily strength. And they are art thieves, running an international art restoration conglomerate whose employees also forge multiple art forms, securely vaulting away the originals and using the profits to fund genetic research. So, we have one protagonist who is a lie detector and two protagonists who are consummate liars, and opposites really do not attract regardless of pheromones.
Finally, Lasser creates not one, but two unrelated murderous psychopaths. And, as if this were not enough in the villain department, she creates a saboteur within the art forgery business.
Now, add in Jane’s meddling best friend and Jane’s mother who has advanced Alzheimer’s and the plot thickens beyond palatability. There is no doubt in my mind that a paranormal genre author like Kim Harrison or Jeaniene Frost could pull this complicated mess off. However, I feel that Lasser bit off more than her level of experience could possibly masticate successfully.
In actuality, the first five chapters are quite good. The major protagonists and their abilities have been introduced slowly but naturally. By the sixth chapter, the first murderous psychopath has entered Jane’s life because of Lucien. And then it all starts to fall apart.
By the time the sixth chapter is complete, we have been exposed to several aberrations in the time line and these time-related ambiguities continue for the remainder of the book. Then, Jane and Lucien have a public argument in a museum that prompts our first psychopath, Raleigh Harris, to believe they are romantically involved. However, as the story progresses, we realize that this argument was just an artistic device inserted by the author in order to introduce the thriller part of the novel. As the author expands on Lucien’s personality later in the book, she creates a character in Lucien who would never behave that way in public.
Once Raleigh Harris is introduced, Lasser shifts Jane’s character also. Jane goes from being a jaded individual who suffers from the ramifications of all the lies to which she is exposed to a naïve little twit who thinks that presenting the truth, without proof, to the cops will solve all her problems. Lasser even shifts Lucien from his 700-year-old perspective into human nature into a person who thinks that Harris, who kills people just for breathing wrong, will simply walk away satisfied after Lucien compensates him for his forgery. These inconsistencies in character development significantly detract and cause more than one “Huh?” moment.
Near the middle of the book, one situation created by the author totally ruined the credibility of the storyline for me. In that situation, Jane encounters Cicero without knowing that Lucien has a twin. Cicero treats Jane like the hooker he thinks she is and Jane flees, thinking that those horrible words have come from Lucien. Lucien, knowing what Cicero has done, then sends her flowers with a card that in no way acknowledges the mistake and the card is definitely not an apology. The next day, they are back to dealing with Harris but do not ever discuss the hooker bit – not one word, not one question, not even the slightest explanation about there being a twin. It is clear from the internal monologues expressed by the twins that secrecy is paramount to the success of their business ventures, but this set of scenes just jumped the shark. Really, just how many women do you think would let themselves be called a whore and then not have a few questions and a few remarks to say about it when no apology is forthcoming?
By the end of the novel, you do not know if this is a paranormal romantic suspense or a paranormal psychological thriller. Not one single plot thread is resolved. But neither is there a cliffhanger. The book just stops. Frankly, it feels as if you have been watching a television daytime drama that breaks for a commercial and just doesn’t come back on.
I received a free electronic copy of this book from the publisher. That fact in no way affected my opinion of the book.
Cover Art from Goodreads