Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Review: Pack of Lies by Laura Anne Gilman

Title: Pack of Lies
Author: Laura Anne Gilman
Series: Paranormal Scene Investigators, Book 2
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Release Date: 1 February 2011

My name is Bonita Torres, and eight months ago I was an unemployed college graduate without a plan. Now I'm an investigator with the Private Unaffiliated Paranormal Investigations team of New York. Pretty awesome, right?

The Cosa Nostradamus, the magical community, isn't quick to give up its secrets, though. Not even to fellow members. Not even when it's in their best interests. So we've been busting our tails, perfecting our forensic skills, working to gain acceptance. The team's tight...but we have our quirks, too. And our Big Dog, Benjamin Venec...well, he's a special case, all right.

But we can't give up. We're needed, especially when a case comes along that threatens to pit human against fatae. But one wrong move could cost us everything we've worked for...

I read the first book in this series, Hard Magic in August of 2014, and I'm having trouble remembering a lot of the plot and specifics regarding the characters. It was a pleasant enough read, but definitely felt light. In fact, I even recommended it for those looking for lighter Urban Fantasy fare. After reading this book, I'm not sure I'd stick by that recommendation. This book goes to a much darker place.

*Trigger Warning*
This book contains an attempted rape, murder, and related consequences - including emotional from multiple characters, as well as discussion of and scenes involving rape culture, and victim-blamimg.

Rape is a pretty sensitive subject for me. It's not a trigger, per se, of mine, it's just so often handled badly in books with no regards to actual healing and trauma caused by attempted or actual rape; which means that I generally avoid books that have rape. Unfortunately - or perhaps fortunately - I didn't know that it was such a central issue in this book. I may have avoided reading this book had I known, but I would have missed out on one of the best depiction of this subject I've read yet. I can count on one hand the number of books, or series, I've read that handled it with as much consideration and delicacy and care as this one.

To give a bit more description of what's going on with the case, since the blurb is so incredibly vague: PUPI (Private Unaffiliated Paranormal Investigators) is called in by the Council to investigate a scene where an attempted rape took place, and the woman's companion (a magical being called a ki-rin - which I'll talk more about later) killed the attacker. Tensions between fatae, the race of magical beings including the ki-rin, and humans have been escalating and this seems to be tinder on the embers that have already been burning. PUPI needs to verify what happened, and quickly, before things intensify out of control.

This aspect of the story was so well done. As I said earlier, it was handled with care. The trauma wasn't brushed under the rug, the difficulties for our investigators to actually investigate and remain somewhat impartial, the accusations that crop up both for and against victims, it's all there - sometimes it's not pretty, often it's not, but Laura Anne Gilman doesn't shy away from it at all. I will warn that it doesn't end on a particularly upbeat note. My heart broke more than once while I was reading, and even when I finished I had to agree with one of the characters that said "This job sucks." Yes, yes it does. Especially in cases like this. I ... appreciated how things are tied up. My one complaint about this aspect of the novel is that, considering how well the author handles the subject of rape, there's some - very justifiable - doubt about the victims' claims. I'd have liked things a little more clean, I guess, but life isn't usually neat and tidy.

One of the things I was having trouble remembering when I started this book was the characters and the details about them. I recognized their names when I read them, but couldn't remember much about their particular powers within the group. I do think Ms. Gilman did a pretty damn good job of bringing me back up to speed, but I'm still a little in the dark on a couple of characters. There's Ian Stosser and Benjamin Venec - they're the "Big Dogs," the bosses. They formed PUPI and are committed to being a company that finds the truth. Bonnie, whose head we're usually in throughout the book, is a great character. She's a lot more subtle than most heroines these days, and a lot less flashy. I came to really appreciate that in this book - more than I did even in the previous one. Also, she's bisexual and it's such a non-issue. I cannot even tell you how much I love and appreciate that.

The other main characters: Sharon, the truth-seeker; Nick, the hacker; Pietr, the retriever; and then there's Nifty, or Lawrence - I'm not sure what his speciality is. I'm sure he has one, but damned if I know right now. These are all great, individual characters with their own tics and issues. We learn a bit more, slowly, and I'm loving it. Additionally, the apparent romance is heating up nicely. I wasn't sure I was a fan in the first book, but here ... yeah, I think I am.

This book does so many things well, and this review is already getting so long, that I'm going to stop before it gets out of control. But I have to mention that I love the lack of slut-shaming, the fact that Bonnie stands up for herself and her choices and doesn't let anyone make her feel badly for her sexual activity.

Before I started writing this review I wasn't sure what I was going to rate it, but I think it's become clear that this is a solid series that's gaining steam. I'll definitely be picking up the third book to see what's going to happen next.

Grade: B-

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