Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
This starts with a long, detailed first person recap of the past from Scotty’s POV. After he died at age eight, he started seeing ghosts but didn’t tell anyone. This is really the crux of the whole book. By the time he was eighteen, it was overwhelming, unrelenting. The stress of everything made his family implode. Through it all his best friend Tim was always supportive, but it wasn’t enough and Scotty ran away. The farther he got from Milwaukee, the sparser the ghosts became so he lived his life normally for five years in Chicago until a visitation from Tim’s mom.
If you like the idea that there is one person meant to help the main character as they fullfill their destiny, then you might like this. There are parts of this book that remind me of me of Kris Bethke’s Requiem Inc. series (or even Mary Calmes’ Warders), although there are parts that are completely original and there is no organization that helps these ghosts cross over. In fact, the support team is not fully fleshed out. I think this is meant to set up a series, but for me this felt like the complete story.
There are several times when I feel the execution could have been better. Scotty is going home after five years when no one knew if he was even alive and Tim just throws them into a sex scene with power dynamics after a day? It was a hot scene, but the emotional impact could have been greater if they had a chance to build trust first; it doesn’t quite work as angry make-up sex either. Tim’s mood swings are jarring and confusing because this is in Scotty’s first person POV and he doesn’t know Tim is possessed, but the audience already knows from the blurb, so this is not quite successful. There is a scene where it is supposed to be first person, but Sophia talks to Scott, about Scott, as if talking to someone else, which is confusing. I am hoping that gets fixed before publication. Then, Scotty does the most colossally stupid thing, without consulting Tim, which endangers himself and breaks what little trust is left between them. I know these guys are in their twenties, but the bad judgements and lack of honesty between them is what causes all the anguish in the first place, although there is plenty of parental/adult bad judgment that contributes to the circumstances Scotty finds himself in. I think the author is showing everyone trying to do the best they can. Because of these story-framing choices, there are things that just seem to come out of nowhere…at least it’s told through dialogue and not narrative.
The book is at its best as Scotty actually tries to figure out why he sees ghosts and if he can help them. The flashes of the past Scotty sees are good additions to the story. As Scotty and Tim figure out who they are to each other and how they fit into this paranormal role, they also have to take care of themselves emotionally and physically, as well as each other. What they are doing, what is happening, is dangerous. Although this could have been frightening and quite atmospheric, the author doesn’t go this route so if you dislike horror, don’t worry. There are flashes of what the killer sees, but they are short and are only detailed enough to show his character. However, there is some violence that could be upsetting. The flashes of humor and love between Scotty and Tim are a nice counterbalance. Overall, the story is supposed to be about them but their whole lives are told through a recap and in their present Tim is not really Tim; this makes connecting with them a bit of a challenge. We are told they are best friends and in love, but only shown a few days of it when they are hurt, angry, and in danger. I liked so many ideas in this book, but I feel the way it was written constrained the story.
The cover art by Reese Dante captures the dark, tortured, paranormal feel well.
ebook, 210 pages
Published January 15th 2019 by Dreamspinner Press
Edition Language English
Series Lock and Key #1