STORYLINE IS TOTALLY ECLIPSED BY OBSCENITIES
Let me make some things perfectly clear right in the beginning. First, prior to this book, I have read 12 novels by H.P. Mallory, including the entire Jolie Wilkins and Dulcie O’Neil series as well as the first Lily Harper book – and loved them all. Secondly, even though I am past middle age, I am neither a prude nor a self-righteous censor of thought, word or action. And thirdly, I am an avid reader of mysteries and thrillers, whether gritty or cozy, contemporary or historical, normal or paranormal.
Thus, profanity, explicit sexual situations and far worse are part and parcel of my average daily reading experience. But in this novel, the quantity and crassness of the profanity and sexual connotations went beyond the pale. For five and one-half chapters, 30% of my Kindle book, Mallory bombarded the reader with constant profanity, constant references to body parts and bodily functions, and continual gangsta/hood syntax. The vast majority of this onslaught comes from the character of Bill, Lily’s guardian angel. And since he must be with Lily at all times, the reader cannot get away from his characterized stupidity or his verbally profane overload. On top of that, the non-Bill passages are peppered with a vocabulary that make it seem as if Mallory was given a Word-of-the-Day calendar for Christmas with no instruction on how to use the new words properly in context.
So for one-third of the book, there was barely a discernable storyline. We do find out that it has been less than two weeks since the events that concluded the first novel in the series. We do get a recap of how Lily got into the position of Soul Retriever. And we do get one action scene in real time. The remainder of that section is a verbal summary of the theory behind Lily’s current training with Tallis.
Then Lily gets her next assignment, and the soul they must retrieve is located within – Wait for it! – the sewer system of the Underground City. So now, Mallory writes in a scenario that allows for a whole new conga line of obscene references and visuals as Lily, Tallis and Bill are crawling nose to tail through sludge. When Lily and her team reach the main sewage pit of souls, they are commanded to meet with Alaire, the Keeper of the Underground City.
And at this point, Mallory just seems to flip a switch. The Word-a-Day vocabulary inserts disappear. The obscenities and profanities are dialed back to the level of Mallory’s previous books. The sexually related scenarios are now appropriately placed and realistic. The action scenes and Lily’s internal monologues are balanced. There is significant character growth and independence for Lily. And a pair of betrayals sets the hook for the next novel.
Even though the book eventually returned to the caliber that I would expect from Mallory, that return did not happen soon enough. Were I a less jaded personality and were I less pragmatic fiscally, I would have probably deleted the book from my e-reader by the end of the 3rd chapter and gone to wash out my mind with soap.
Cover Art from Goodreads