Tuesday, October 18, 2011
When I saw this title listed among the books on order at my library (I'm still loving the Wowbrary newsletter!), I knew right away that this would be a fun read for the R.I.P. Challenge, so I put it on hold. It is the first in a new series called the F.R.E.A.K. Squad Investigations, about a group of people with paranormal and supernatural abilities who are recruited to be a sort of Mission-Impossible type team that fights against supernatural baddies.
Our heroine is Beatrice Alexander, an elementary school teacher whose telekinetic ability is revealed when she saves a student from being squashed by a Humvee in a dramatic maneuver that involved lifting the vehicle up into the air with her mind. She is visited by a paranormal expert and, following an accidental use of her powers that injures her brother, Bea is convinced to at least give the squad a try. They will train her, so that she will have more control and be less likely to injure someone accidentally. She is not convinced this is the right thing for her - she'd much rather be teaching third graders, but she is shaken by the injury she's caused her brother, so she packs up, makes up an convenient excuse, and gives the squad a try.
Her first case involves a series of grisly, graphically-described murders that have taken place in cemeteries in a small town. People have been literally ripped apart, and the deaths blamed on animal attacks. Beatrice and her team quickly realize that the attacks can only have been from zombies, but the challenge of their investigation is finding out which of the people in the small town has been raising the dead, and without alerting the local authorities to the true nature of the problem.
This was a fun and often funny read, fast-pace and with an interesting, if a bit predictable, mystery to it. I enjoyed the interplay among the characters, and of course I always find spooky combined with humor to be particularly appealing. My main issue with this book was with the main character. I felt she never really became a fully fleshed-out person to me. One moment she's reluctant to be there, to be part of the team, the next minute she's having the time of her life whacking zombies with a machete, but then later she's packing up to go home because she can't handle it. She's needy and vulnerable, and then she's annoyed that people aren't taking her seriously, despite the fact that she's the newest member of the team and very inexperienced. She was kind of wishy-washy, and I couldn't believe in her because her motivation simply wasn't clear. I am also growing tired of the whole love triangle thing that seems to be a prerequisite for modern paranormal fiction these days. I found myself comparing the book to the Jaz Parks series by Jennifer Rardin, which hardly seems fair, as this is a first novel and that is one of my hands-down favorite series. I also couldn't help but wonder why one of the team members, who can ignite fires with her thoughts, wasn't just picking off zombies by setting them on fire - and why she didn't simply target the necromancer in the first place.
Still, I like the premise, and the characters are interesting, and this is a promising start to a new series. Plus it has zombies. Zombies, people! And they are not nice. Except maybe for one. I do plan to give the second F.R.E.A.K. Squad novel a try - and this one was certainly a fun read for R.I.P.
Mind Over Monsters (#1 in the F.R.E.A.K. Squad Investigations series by Jennifer Harlow (Midnight Ink, 2011)
Also reviewed at:
Karissa's Reading Review: "It was a nice diversion, but there wasn't anything here that was super creative or all that different from a number of other authors out there that do this kind of light, fluffy, fun girl-next-door meets paranormal baddies."
Livin' Life Through Books: " The details in this story were absolutely gory and creepy and I couldn't wait to read more. Well written, and fast-paced, Harlow leaves you wanting more."
Smexy Books: "Smooth writing and fast pacing will have you racing to the end to see how Bea handles herself on her first mission with the FREAK squad."