““What a ridiculous question. Do I look like I have a book on how to reanimate a cadaver? I have enough problems with the living customers without adding dead ones. Go next door.””
— The Sceptic by Lily Morton
That’s a terrific start to a new paranormal series by Lily Morton. And it dives immediately into what is sure to be one of my favorite elements as well as series center, Arcana Books. One of two adjacent bookstores, only this one is full of the weirdness, the magical, the lore or whatever supernatural or paranormal literature you’re searching for has lured a customer there.
It also has , as an occult bookshop would, a Madame Hecate reading tarot cards, if her morning gins haven’t kicked in too much, or the lure of the nearby pub hasn’t been ignored. It’s vastly intriguing, full of wildly imaginative clients and it’s employees, include Will, who’s The Skeptic of this novel.
Tarquin, the Viscount Ingram, who owns the occult bookstore, Tom, the owner of the other more mundane one( a mentor to the psychic Blue) are characters that are pulled from a previous series.
That would be the Black and Blue two-book series, introducing characters such as cartoonist Levi Black, Blue Billings, a psychic, his boyfriend, in two stories of paranormal mystery and horror.
Blue’s background and found family includes Will Buchanan, a gentle giant with whom Blue spent early years that left both with damage they are still dealing with.
Part of this connecting group is Jem Dawson, a well known photographer, who’s also a best friend to Levi Black.
So as you can tell, if you’re like me, and came into this novel not having read those books, you’re missing a substantial amount of important background information.
Morton tries to fill in background for the new reader as best she can, but there’s really no replacement for the foundation those books supply in terms of relationships and events that occurred. Take it from me, read those stories first.
Now having said that, this is still a very good ghost story.
The investigation into what is causing all the issues at the family’s house and the chilling occurrences that help to ramp up the suspense are spread out just enough to give us a lull before smacking us with something to make the goosebumps appear.
And while the paranormal activity is being investigated, there’s a relationship and tentative romance building between two commitment phobic men. That’s something that’s both frustrating and fascinating, because it’s where the missing history is most needed.
Will’s that is. The hints to his lack of trust, the map to the emotional location to his trauma is there but not the details. I expect that’s in Black and Blue.
But there’s enough heft to the men’s internal dialogues with themselves about their feelings, trust issues, as well as the current dangers they were facing to give the reader a excellent window into the men’s personalities and how things were developing between them.
There’s secondary characters in the “ghostbusters “ group that I wasn’t quite as fond of. Not sure if that’s because I think they weren’t as layered or with everything going on with the ghostly elements, just didn’t get as much development as possible.
The main characters, and Blue , who made an appearance towards the end supply the weight for the book and plot. They make it work.
As the first in a series, I wonder how it will go forward. If it derives from customers from the occult bookstore, then I can’t wait!
Until then, read Black and Blue before arriving here at The Skeptic.
If paranormal romances and ghostly horrors are you thing, then this is the book for you. I’m definitely recommending it!
The Skeptic #1
As the best friend of a psychic, Will Buchanan can’t help but believe in the dead. It’s the living that he finds to be problematic. However, after a spate of betrayals, he finally has the chance of a new life within his grasp, and he’s not going to risk it for anyone or anything. Staying safe is the name of Will’s game.
Jem Dawson defines the word temporary. A talented cameraman, he’s here today and will undoubtedly be gone tomorrow chasing adventure and danger. But, while he’s in York, he’s made it clear he wants Will, and Will can’t help liking the charming daredevil.
This inconvenient attraction results in Will accompanying Jem to the site of a notorious poltergeist outbreak. A malevolent spirit has targeted a family, and now the ghost hunting team for whom Jem does camerawork are going to be locked down in the house for three days.
The house is strange and filled with sinister and violent undercurrents. One by one, the group experiences threatening incidents, and as events escalate, Will has to ask himself if he’s risking not just his heart but also his life with this impulsive gesture.
This is the first book in the Arcana Books series featuring characters from the bestselling Black and Blue series