4 stars out of 5
Okay, I admit it: I'm a sucker for a free book. But even when that opportunity gets dumped in my lap (or more appropriately, my inbox), I'm careful what I pick because I hate wasting my precious time on a loser. Well, I'm delighted to report that this one's a gem. Better yet, it's the first in what is billed as a three-book series, so now I can look forward to reading two more.
Featured is a mid-20s private investigator named Shaye Archer, who lives and works in New Orleans. She's a mystery herself; found beaten and horribly abused around the age of 15, she was adopted by a wealthy woman and counseled by that woman's close friend, an ultra-competent psychiatrist. Still, she has no memory at all of her life up to the time she apparently escaped from her unknown captor. Heck, she doesn't even know her real name, so she chose one for herself (though where on the planet she came up with Shaye is a total mystery to me; hey, maybe it will turn out she's related to Frank Zappa or Gwyneth Paltrow).
Even before she's got furniture in her small office, she gets a client. Emma Frederick, a hospital nurse, is sure she's got a malicious stalker - but since she's got no proof, the police aren't taking her complaints seriously. Worse, the stalker looks exactly like her former husband, even though it can't be him; when he turned violent and tried to kill her, she beat him to it - killing him in what the police determined to be self-defense.
In part because of Shaye's own experiences, she believes that Emma really is in danger, even though they both know it can't be her dead husband. But who could it be? When Shaye begins to dig into her investigation, the stalker clearly isn't pleased; suddenly, as those close to Shaye (and Shaye herself) become targets, the race is on to get to him before he gets to them. Along the way, Shaye manages to get on the good side of a "good" cop - one who believes Emma really is in danger but can't do much because he's stuck with a near-retirement partner who doesn't have the slightest interest in rocking the boat - or for that matter, doing any real work. And here's a big surprise: The good guy also is good-looking, single and not too far from Shaye's age.
The action moves along quickly - and, for those who are sensitive to such things, sometimes in rather gory detail - all the way to the end. Well, almost; I probably could have done without the last chapter, which seemed to be tacked on as an afterthought. It did, however, set the stage for the next book in the series, and I'm certainly ready to pick up where this one left off. All in all, an impressive start!
Malevolent by Jana DeLeon (Jana DeLeon, July 2015); 243 pp.