Monday, September 6, 2010

Review: Dark and Disorderly by Bernita Harris

"I was standing there naked when my dead husband walked into my bathroom..."

Lillie St. Claire is a Talent, one of the rare few who can permanently dispatch the spirits of the dead that walk the earth. Her skills are in demand in a haunted country, where a plague of ghosts is becoming a civic nuisance.
Those skills bring her into conflict with frightened citizens who view Talents as near-demons. Her husband comes to see her as a Freak; so when Nathan dies after a car crash, she is relieved to be free of his increasingly vicious presence. Lillie expects to be haunted by Nathan's ghost, but not to become Suspect #1 for her husband's murder and reanimation.

But what's most surprising of all is the growing attraction between her and psi-crime detective John Thresher. He thinks that Lillie killed Nathan--and Nathan must agree, because his zombie is seeking revenge. Now she and Thresher must work together to solve her husband's murder--before his corpse kills her...

I have some very mixed feelings about this book.  I loved the concept, and the first line is a real attention-getter.  (And the cover is beautiful, but as we've previously established, I'm shallow like that.  Show me a pretty cover and I'm half way to buying the book.)  This one has been on my list of Carina Press titles to read since I spotted it just before it was released, and I was so excited when I was able to grab it for 99 cents from Kobo last week.


The reading experience just didn't live up to my excitement.  There was something a little off about the writing.  It wasn't bad, but it wasn't quite right, either.  In some places the phrasing or expressions used were distracting and left me wondering if the author was British and hadn't quite nailed the Americanisms.  (I checked-- she's Canadian.)  Then, as I was writing this, I started to wonder if it really was set in the US or if that was just my assumption.  I've been skimming the book again, looking for clues, and as of page 75 I'm still not sure.  This may seem like a dumb thing to nit pick about, but clearly it's still bugging me two days after finishing the book.  Where does this story take place?

Also, I wasn't completely in love with the main character, Lillie.  Most of the time I liked her, but there were one or two spots where she came perilously close to TSTL territory.  At one point in the story, she and Johnny are trying to make their way through a riot.  He tells her to run, and she decides to wade into the fight instead, because she doesn't want to be a coward and leave the others to fight.  The idea might be nice, but someone with no training, whom the crowd is actively trying to harm, is a liability not an asset in a situation like that.  If the professionals tell you to run, run baby run.  There was a scene late in the novel that really redeemed her risk taking for me, though.  (I won't give any specifics because I don't want to spoil anything.)  The fact that she took this risk when Johnny didn't want her to, and was able to give reasonable, clear headed reasons for putting herself in danger, really showed that she wasn't reckless.  She cared more about others than her own personal safety, which helped me like her as a character.

There were some things I really liked about the book, too.  The supernatural entities that we meet are interesting and grounded in existing myths.  Harris's concept of Talents and how the general public might accept them, or not, was different from a lot of other books in the genre, and I found that refreshing and probably pretty accurate considering human nature.  And this is a small thing, but I really like Dumbarton the spectral dog!

Johnny Thresher, and his relationship with Lillie, is something else I have some mixed feelings about.  Johnny is an enigma, and I definitely like the fact that there is much more to learn about him.  I love a romance that develops slowly over the course of several books, when well executed, so I had no problem with this plot element still being up in the air at the end of the book.  I didn't quite buy the chemistry between Johnny and Lillie, though.  I really wanted to, but I didn't.  The transitions between the mystery/supernatural storylines and the romance storyline were too abrupt and didn't feel natural.  Johnny seemed to blow hot and cold throughout the book, and Lillie's sometimes overreaction to him got annoying after a while.

That said, I think this book showed potential.  There were storylines that weren't resolved, not enough to be annoying but definitely enough to make you want to see what happens next.  And I'm hopeful that as the series progresses the romance will be worked more seamlessly into the narrative.  Overall, I'd give this a C-.  I didn't enjoy it as much as I'd hoped to, but I'm interested enough to give the next book in the series a try.


  1. Eh. Sounds like you nailed the review which will save me the trouble of trying to read it. Sounds like kind of a mess to me.

  2. Oh, good. Glad it was helpful, Lora. Reviewing is kind of a new thing for me, and I wasn't sure if anyone was getting anything out of them.

    It was a bit of a mess, but the kind of mess where you can see potential. The story has good bones. I hope the author can smooth things out in the next book.

  3. Thank you for reading and reviewing D&D. I'm really sorry it didn't quite work for you. Perhaps I will do better with the next one.

  4. Hi, Bernita! Thanks for stopping by. I meant what I said about good bones. I'm interested to see where the story goes next.