Publication Date: March 1, 2011
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Sick of wrongful-death lawsuits every time a full moon comes around?
Call the Underworld Detection Agency.As a human immune to magic, Sophie Lawson can help everyone from banshee to zombie transition into normal, everyday San Francisco life. With a handsome werewolf as her UDA boss and a fashionista vampire for a roommate, Sophie knows everything there is to know about the undead, the unseen, and the uncanny. . .
Until a rash of gruesome murders has demons and mortals running for cover, and Sophie finds herself playing sidekick to detective Parker Hayes. Dodging raging bloodsuckers, bad-tempered fairies, and love-struck trolls is one thing. But when Sophie discovers Parker isn’t what he seems, she’s got only one chance to figure out whom to trust. Because an evil hiding in plain sight is closing in. . .and about to make one wisecracking human its means to ultimate power. . .
Trolls, Vampires, Demons and every other paranormal creature you can imagine (except bogeymen – c’mon, those are just a myth) are required to register at the clearinghouse also known as the Underworld Detection Agency. If they want to head topside, don a disguise and blend with humans, then the UDA will help them out with unemployment insurance and all sorts of other benefits. There’s a lot of paperwork to be done and the UDA is a bustling hive of workers, headed by werewolf Pete Sampson. His executive assistant is Sophie Lawson, the daughter of a seer and the only human working there. Sophie’s immune to any sort of magic and can see through spells meant to veil things from regular eyes.
Someone’s killed a couple of people in San Francisco and while normally that wouldn’t rate a visit to the UDA by police, this time is different. It looks like a paranormal is responsible – or someone who wants to make it look like it’s a paranormal. Detective Parker Hayes is sent down and somewhere between tripping over her lolling tongue and wanting to impress her boss and the detective, Sophie finds herself as Hayes’ rather unwanted new topside partner.
One of Sophie’s very important jobs as Sampson’s executive assistant is to chain him up at night and while she’s going to be working topside, her roommate Nina has been charged with the task. Except Nina’s a little…self-centered and ditzy. And she forgets. By the time Sophie races back to the office, the room is destroyed and Sampson is gone. When Parker and Sophie’s next case turns out to look a lot like a werewolf mauling, she knows someone’s setting up the paranormals. The case is very personal now as she’s trying to save her boss, avoid who – or what – is stalking her and decide how much she wants to play with the handsome detective.
If this book were to be graded just on truth in advertising, it’d get a D. I might have given it less, except the blurb actually does follow the storyline for the most part. The cover looks nothing like the story describes Sophie and it absolutely doesn’t convey the tone of the book. This isn’t urban fantasy, really. It’s closer to Stephanie Plum, which isn’t a bad thing but if I wanted to read that sort of story I wouldn’t go looking for it in a book that had a chick dressed in leathers holding a sword with her hair blowing in the wind, glaring at me on the cover.
Sophie is something of a stammering, klutzy nerd. Her physical description of herself is really not that flattering and her wardrobe doesn’t contain a bit of leather except perhaps a pair or two of shoes; her handling of weaponry is frighteningly bad. I wish I could say more about her but frustratingly, the writing seems to be around her rather than about her. I want to say that she’s funny, but it’s the situations that she’s in that are funny and her reactions to them that are funny, not necessarily that she is. She’s a good straight man, I guess. I wish like mad that more had been done with her anti-magic abilities because that really interested me. I can count on one hand the time she used them and may have fingers left over. It was disappointing because it was just another instance that I thought something was promised in the blurb and not delivered.
I didn’t like Parker much. It didn’t help that there wasn’t much “detecting” going on with the detective (or Sophie) beyond running from crime scene to crime scene looking grim or doing other silly “undercover” things, but he seemed a little seedy to me. He was very cute and charming but also a really big tease and he kept a big secret from Sophie for no reason that I could figure out. He bugged me and the ending just confirmed every single thing I thought about him.
The mystery plot was a bit thin. It really didn’t make sense and felt a little tossed together by the time Sophie and Parker figured it out. There were really other things going on in the story that I had more fun reading about so I just didn’t care one way or another why the killer was doing what he was, I was just waiting for the big ending.
So why not a DNF, F or D? The highlights of the book were the supporting characters. They were funny – sometimes to the point of silliness – but they were a nice distraction when Parker and Sophie’s story started to drive me crazy. Sophie’s roommate, the vampire Nina and her nephew Louis (that’s Vlad) were a riot and Sophie had a crazy, stinky lovesick troll named Steve that kept popping up in the weirdest places proclaiming his adoration for her.
My Summary: It probably goes without saying that this should have a sticker on it saying not to judge this book by its cover. I didn’t really see a strong paranormal angle beyond the “race” of the characters and the teaser romantic story didn’t work for me at all, mostly because I found Parker to be manipulative, something that his ending confirmed for me. It’s undoubtedly damning with faint praise, but this really isn’t a bad book. Some of the situations and supporting characters are funny and I think Sophie would work in a different setting. She’s just no UF heroine.
My Rating: C-