Author ~ Reesa Herberth & Michelle Moore
Publisher ~ Riptide Publishing
Published ~ 11th May 2015
Genre ~ Science Fiction, Murder Mystery M/M Romance
Corwin Menivie and Nika Santivan are decorated veterans of the Imperial Enforcement Coalition, and are perfectly capable of solving cases the old-fashioned way. When they’re paired with Westley Tavera and Gavin Hale, the most powerful Reader/Ground team to emerge from the Psionics Academy, it could either be the best thing that’s ever happened to crime fighting, or the makings of a quadruple homicide.
During a routine investigation, West’s talent puts them on the trail of a brutal serial killer who traps his prey in a deadly mental playground. Then the killer starts baiting the team, laying psychic landmines at crime scenes and exposing IEC secrets. The strain of the case binds the agents closer together—so close that Nika and Gavin start sharing a room, and even the curmudgeonly Corwin finds himself as occupied with West as he is with the murders.
But as West’s visions of death grow more violent, the only way out for all of them may be straight through the mind of a monster. If they’re not careful, they may forget which side of the hunt they’re on.
There are very few things I like more than a good solid science fiction story, unless it’s an absorbing murder mystery, and in this co-written title one gets both. Mind you, part way through the book it segues from a standard who dunnit mystery into a ‘we know the bastard did it but how on earth are we going to prove it?” mystery. In space!! Which is always fun.
The story begins with a possible murder scene and all the trappings of a police procedural as Corwin Menivie, a tough stoic cold-as-ice detective, arrives to check out the scene with his far more empathic partner Nika Santivan. Investigation ensues – a scene we have all watched many times on the TV or read in fiction. But then Westley Tavera and Gavin Hale arrive and a whole new element is added to the mix. West is a Reader. He is telepathic and also has a natural talent to pick up psychic traces left by murder victims and their killers, can even communicate with the departed to a limited extent. He feels what they felt, a hugely traumatic experience that could damage him badly unless his Ground, Gavin, is present. Gavin acts almost like an earth cable, drawing out all the anguish and providing a safe and comforting bubble of silence from the constant babble of thoughts from the living and the horrific experiences that have left stains on the atmosphere. Corwin has the reputation of being unable to work with Readers. His contempt for them is obvious. After all, they may be able to tell him what happened but he’s still left with the task of finding some kind of physical proof of it. A Reader’s testimony is not enough to make a conviction. His attitude is enough to put most Readers off their stride but West isn’t a normal Reader. He and Gavin have a reputation of their own – for success – and West’s mental strength and pride in his achievements provides an armour that cause Corwin’s jibes to slide off.
That first scene establishes West’s credentials – it wasn’t a murder, just a tragic accident – but in the process they discover another crime, something utterly horrifying. A young woman has been murdered psychically, her mind torn apart, and placed there amongst the debris is a clear indication that this is just the latest of many murders.
Corwin, Nita, West and Gavin have to hunt across the galaxy for a telepathic serial killer who preys on the peripheral people of the title – the down and outs, druggies and orphans – for whom nobody cares and nobody will miss.
This was a fun read, more mystery than romance and over all I enjoyed it. However it took me a while to get into the rhythm of it. The first chapter in particular had so much going on that I had to back track a couple of times to get my bearings. I think I could have done with a bit more information about the world – universe – they were inhabiting, though I understand why the authors would want to avoid the dreaded info dump. Also, by the time they had solved the first not-murder I’d forgotten the book was sci fi so was very surprised when they embarked on their space ship.
However, once I’d got into my stride and had suspended my disbelief I found it a terrific read, filled with amusing incident, secrets revealed, nice points of characterisation [I loved Nita] and the sorts of antagonists you can loathe and sort of sympathise with. In fact I enjoyed it so much I bought another of the Ylendrian standalones and am looking forward to reading it when it swims to the top of my TBR pile.