August 21, 2008
What’s a Ghoul to Do? is a paranormal mystery about M.J. Holliday, a medium who works as a ghostbuster. Her latest client is Dr. Steven Sable, a man who has seen his grandfather’s ghost. Steven hopes that M.J. can clear up his questions about the old man’s alleged suicide before helping the spirit cross to the other side. When Dr. Delicious (as M.J.’s parrot calls him) insists on helping with the investigation, M.J. is forced to make an exception to her usual rule about only working with her professional partner. As she and Steven learn the secrets of his grandfather’s past, they find out that someone is willing to kill them before they put all the pieces together. Along the way M.J. is tempted to break her other big rule, the one about not dating clients.
This is a light read that’s pretty much what you’d expect. The romance plot gets almost as much attention as the mystery, but there’s a little action thrown in to keep the story moving. The mystery plot could have been better, but my only major complaint was a twist at the end that felt like a bit of a copout. This is not one of those mysteries where you have any hope of figuring out the full story before it’s revealed.
I could see the two main characters growing on me, but they each have some issues. M.J. is sometimes brutal about using her abilities, she kept asking strangers if they knew the ghosts she saw hovering around. Stephen is still learning English, so he’s always making funny little mistakes. And I do mean always. Once I counted three mangled phrases on a page. Yes, I get it, he’s cute and foreign. The only other character I had much of a response to was M.J.’s partner, Gilley. All I have to say about him is that I hope he gets shipped of to the Island of Misfit Stereotypes.
This book is pure fluff, but sometimes that’s what I’m in the mood for. I’ll try at least one more of these, and hopefully at least some of the character-related kinks will get worked out. Or hey, maybe Gilley will be murdered. He’d probably be a lot more bearable as a ghost.
July 11, 2007
I have to admit that I wasn’t thrilled when I heard that Kelley Armstrong’s next book was going to be about Jamie Vegas. The celebrity spiritualist/necromancer was entertaining at times as a supporting character, but I didn’t think she could carry a novel – at least not without being annoying.
So I was pleasantly surprised to find that No Humans Involved worked for me. I should have remembered that Armstrong’s characters often seem different (and more sympathetic) in their own books.
In the story, Jamie is hired to work with other spiritualists on a television special about Hollywood ghosts. She has to keep up her performance while using her real powers to investigate a mystery, and of course the drama comes up during a highly anticipated visit from werewolf alpha Jeremy.
The plot was good and fast-paced, but the setup was what really made this book stand out. I enjoyed the television show angle, the other spiritualist characters, and all of Jamie’s professional interactions. I also loved Armstrong’s insight into the techniques of television psychics, and was glad that Jamie’s act was focused on entertainment instead of using either cold reading tricks or her abilities to exploit people.
It was nice for a change to have a heroine that wasn’t super strong or didn’t have really versatile powers. Jamie is the best at what she does, but her specialty is a narrow one. That makes even slight supernatural trouble more dangerous for her than for most of the other characters. Her struggle to prove herself despite her limitations led to some questionable decisions, but also made the story more interesting.
It was nice to see Jeremy outside of his alpha role. I’ve read some reviews by people who thought he was out of character in this book, but I can’t say I agree with them. The book repeatedly emphasized the idea that his life was usually dominated by his responsibilities, so I don’t think it’s strange at all that he’d be different as Jeremy than as the Werewolf Alpha.
There wasn’t anything I disliked about this book enough to bother bringing up. I’d recommend it to anyone intrigued by the idea of a lower-powered character or a television psychic with real powers. Those who have read the rest of the series will obviously get more out of No Humans Involved, but I don’t think it’s really necessary to enjoy the book. Those who have been through the complete series and want to read things in order may want to try Armstrong’s story in the Dates From Hell anthology first, it introduces a new character who appears in No Humans Involved.