Thursday, 20 June 2013

Review: Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective

Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective
Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective by Christine Amsden

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm a big urban fantasy fan, and a big indie fiction fan, but it's very seldom that the two meet. There's plenty of paranormal romance in the indie world (too much, I think), but not so much UF for some reason. So I was delighted to find this well-written piece of urban fantasy with a strong and appealing main character published by an indie author.

The cover looks a little YA to me, but (one of the advantages of indie publication: the author gets to decide these things) the female protagonist illustrated on it isn't showing large amounts of tattooed skin. On the YA issue, this book is what is now sometimes called "new adult", meaning that the protagonist is out of high school but still young. Personally, I think the age (and gender) of the protagonist is a silly basis for genre classification, or audience segmentation, for that matter, and as a 45-year-old man I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Further on genre, just to get it out of the way: yes, there is a strong romance subplot. It is a subplot, though, placing this on the urban fantasy side of the UF/PNR line. The main plot is the mystery of the vampire attacks which the protagonist, a self-described "normal detective" working her first independent case, must solve in order to protect her town.

She's "normal" because, unlike the rest of her family and a number of other people in town, she has no sorcerous powers. This is a major plot thread, as you'd imagine. It's tricky to place a non-powered normal human in a setting where just about everyone else is more powerful than she is and have her remain a viable and believable protagonist, but this author pulls it off.

She also pulls off the tricky combination of a confident, capable and independent-minded young woman who is also self-doubting, worried, inexperienced and used to being dependent on her powerful and wealthy family. I felt she kept that balance well, and it didn't break my suspension of disbelief at any point.

At one moment halfway through, I was very much afraid that we were going to get the trope of "young woman protagonist makes stupid, headstrong decision that puts her in harm's way in order to ramp up the plot tension, and has to be rescued by a man to ramp up the romantic tension". It's a trope that occurs again and again in UF/PNR, and, my wife tells me, also in the non-paranormal female forensic investigator genre. I hate that trope with a burning hatred, and was deeply relieved when the author turned out to just be messing with me. I felt that the trope was successfully avoided, or at least softened enough that it fitted with the character's generally sensible and practical demeanour.

I found the minor characters believable as real people and not just cardboard cutouts, too. The plot was sufficiently intricate, and the mystery progressed at a good pace. The setting was a fairly standard UF one, with magic-users and vampires (I think werewolves were alluded to as well, and contact with the dead), but with some nice variation in terms of the "talents" that people exhibited. It put me in mind of [a:Jim Butcher|10746|Jim Butcher|]'s Dresden Files or [a:C.E. Murphy|8695|C.E. Murphy|]'s Walker Papers, and I can't really offer higher praise than that.

There were a couple of dozen mostly minor editing issues. I've connected with the author on Google+ and let her know about them, so they will probably be fixed before too long and I won't detail them here. Otherwise, great stuff, and I'll be getting the next one.

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