Author L.J.K. Olivia had me at Black Magic Lounge
"Inside, the lounge was nearly empty. Violet cushioned banquets lined the walls opposite a long, dark wood bar. Behind it, shelves of exotic looking bottles extended to the ceiling. Vivid blue backlights turned them various shades of purple."
This book was well-plotted and well-written and I was particularly impressed with the author’s rich and stellar description which enabled me to "see" Lena’s paranormal world.
Being a writer, I know the challenge of putting words together—the right words in the right way—so a story can come alive in the readers’ imagination and it is a lot harder than most people think.
The story opens in a small concrete chamber in the mind of a sadistic monster reminiscing the smells of liquid garbage, roasted meat and the screams of his victims. A picture so vivid, the author might have painted it onto my eyelids. From there we meet Private investigator Jesper MacMillian and Lena Alan and we enter a world where monsters aren’t just real, they’re hiding in plain sight. Suddenly, everything Jesper knows is suspect, starting with his current case. For Lena, a medium since childhood, it’s just another day at the office.
A World Apart is a solid paranormal detective mystery and a nicely creepy ghost story with moments I found somehow reminiscent of the old 1940’s detective stories. Enhancing that plot is the author’s ability to take popular tropes like hoodoo, necromancy and gypsy legend and lore and twist them just enough to make them seem new and more intriguing. I highly recommend this book!
Genre: Urban fantasy
"There are things that go bump in the night, Mr. MacMillian. It's my job to bump back."
Private investigator Jesper MacMillian was sure he'd seen it all. After all, in a city like San Francisco, strange is what's for breakfast. Following a long recovery after a horrific accident, his life is finally the way he wants it- or at least, close enough. The only monsters on his radar are the ones that keep him awake at night.
All that changes the day he meets Lena Alan.
Before MacMillian has a chance to brace for impact, Lena drags him into a world where monsters aren't just real, they're hiding in plain sight. Suddenly, everything he knows is suspect, starting with his current case. For Lena, a medium since childhood, it's just another day at the office.
For MacMillian, it's the beginning of the end of everything he thinks he knows.
"I should hex the IRS."
Lena set down the receipt she was scrutinizing, and stared at the woman across the table from her. "You're not serious."
The woman blew a wisp of dark brown hair out of her face, tugged off her plastic-frame reading glasses, and stretched. The movement made her deep violet lowlights shimmer. "Why not? It might distract them for a while, and we could take a break from sifting through all this bullshit."
Lena snorted. "Hey, I said you didn't have to help me. My business, my-"
"Responsibility. Whatever." The woman rolled her eyes. "We both know you're shit with numbers. Hand me that calculator."
Lena bit back a grin, and obediently passed it over. "Have I ever told you you're like some kind of occult superhero? Georgia Clare: bookkeeper by day, badass biker witch by night. Seriously, you should put that on your business cards."
Georgia scowled, but her sharp green eyes twinkled. "Well, as your bookkeeper, I'm hereby suggesting you set up a network for this place. Are you kidding me with all this paper? If I didn't know your family, I'd swear you were Amish."
Lena shrugged. "I'll get to it."
The bell above the door jingled, and a small posse of women trekked inside. Lena flashed them a smile. "Welcome! Take a seat anywhere. I'll have someone right with you." She set down the receipt she was holding and stood. "I need to go find Connie. Thanks again, Georgia."
Georgia was already tapping away at the calculator. She waved without looking up.
Lena left their table in the corner, wove around the other tables and scooted behind the counter. The women were ogling the scones and tiny cakes in the pastry case. Lena nodded to them, pride warm in her chest. She pushed open the swinging doors and stuck her head into the kitchen. "Hey, Tiburcio! You seen Connie back here?"
Her head chef popped up from behind one of the stainless steel counters. "No, señora, not yet. Do you know when Jimmy is coming in? He was supposed to take a look at the stand mixer."
Lena's good mood immediately deflated. "I'm afraid we won't be seeing Jimmy around anymore."
Tiburcio's eyebrows went up, and she prayed he wouldn't press her for answers. Mercifully, he merely gave a single, short nod. "Qué pena. Nice guy."
She swallowed hard. "Yeah. Yeah, he was."
With Connie nowhere in sight, Lena backed out of the kitchen again, and turned to the group at the counter. This time, her smile felt tight. "Sorry about the wait, guys. Just pastries today?"
She forced herself through the motions, and heaved a sigh of relief when they finally headed out the door, already picking bits of scone from their crisp white paper bags. Lena allowed her gaze to wander to the park across the street. Maybe she'd head over there for lunch. For some reason, the shop felt smaller than usual. Some fresh air would be nice.
Maybe it would help dislodge the painful knot from her throat.
She was still staring into the park when a dark green, classic-looking car rolled up to the curb. The throaty engine rattled the shop's windows, then shut off. A tall, dark-haired man climbed out. He paused, turned, and looked directly at her. The bottom plummeted out of her stomach. Lena shook herself. Of course he wasn't looking at her.
He was looking at the shop.
Sure enough, he squinted at the sign, slammed the car door and started across the street. He walked with a barely noticeable swagger, his well-built body encased in a dark gray suit. She looked closer. No, not quite a suit: instead of a blazer, he wore some sort of belted military jacket.
She braced herself. The bell above the door chafed her already strained nerves. The man filled the narrow doorway. Lena swallowed hard.
She knew a wolf when she saw one, and this man was definitely a wolf. He stayed in the doorway for a moment, then started towards the counter. His gait swayed, and she realized what she'd thought was a swagger was actually an injury. An old injury, judging by the practiced grace with which he wielded his curved black cane.
Lena relaxed slightly. A wolf was bad news, but a wounded wolf? That, maybe, she could deal with.
He reached the counter, and leaned against the glass. Lena frowned. "Can I help you?"
His eyes took a quick tour of her body, then he straightened. "Maybe. I'm looking for the owner of this place."
"You found her. I'm Powonia Alan." Lena crossed her arms. "If you're looking for a job, I'm afraid we're not hiring at the moment."
The man blinked. "I'm not here for a job. I'm looking for a friend of mine. His parents told me he'd been working here."
Something started to ache in the pit of her stomach. "Is that so?"
The man arched an eyebrow. "Jimmy Vaspurkan. You know him?"
She didn't know what made her open her mouth. Maybe it was the man's eyes, too heavy on her face. Maybe it was the way his voice reached deep into her gut and made her insides quake. Maybe she just needed to talk to someone.
Whatever the reason, she was answering before she could stop herself. "You're a little late. He's dead."
The elevator came to a stop. The doors started to open. MacMillian backed away and shook his head. "Do me a favor. Leave now. Don't come here again."
He stepped into the hallway, then froze. Clustered outside the door to the office was a horde of people, the widest slice of humanity he'd ever seen crammed into one place. There were cowboys, businessmen, soldiers. Native Americans, what looked to be early Chinese, and more than a few women resembling the one from the side street.
The woman stepped out of the elevator behind him. She hissed. "Jesus. Is it always like this here?"
MacMillian stared down at her. "What are you- you can see them?"
She rolled her eyes. "Well, obviously. I'm a medium, remember?" She started down the hallway, paused, and glanced over her shoulder. "Are you coming?"
MacMillian hung back. She shrugged. "Suit yourself."
She walked up to the edge of the crowd and cleared her throat. "Okay, someone want to tell me what you're all doing here?"
Multiple heads swung towards her. An elderly man in a suit that would have been the height of fashion in the late eighteen-hundreds stepped forward. MacMillian strained his ears, but he couldn't hear what the man said. The woman listened closely, made a curious sound in the back of her throat and turned back to him. "He says there's a medium here. Are you sure you're not sensitive?"
He was feeling rather sensitive, but he shook his head. "I don't even know what that means."
The woman humphed. "That's what I thought." She turned back to the man. "So you're all here to be moved on?"
The man nodded.
Her shoulders relaxed. She reached out and took the man's hand in hers. His eyes widened, then a peaceful look came over his face. His lips turned up. White light appeared in the center of his chest, expanded outward until his entire body glowed. With what looked like a sigh of relief, he evaporated.
MacMillian's jaw dropped.
The woman moved slowly through the crowd. Hand after hand reached out for her. She took each one, held on until its owner flashed white and disappeared. By the time she reached the office door, the hallway was empty. She leaned back hard against the wall and closed her eyes.
MacMillian didn't remember moving, but somehow he was standing in front of her. He closed his free hand around her arm and towed her inside, not stopping until they reached his office.
He slammed the door. "What the... what was..." He dragged a sleeve across his brow. It was drenched in sweat, but his skin felt freezing.
The woman watched him, her eyes sympathetic. "Rough day, Magnum?"
She sighed and rubbed her forehead. "That, my dear detective, was the other San Francisco. You've probably seen it before, just out of the corner of your eye. You've probably dismissed it all your life. Maybe you always told yourself you'd just had too much to drink." She paused, her gaze heavy on his face. MacMillian squirmed. "But I'm guessing you always knew better."
His head was throbbing. He shook it once, twice, but it didn't clear. "I don't get it, Miss..."
"Alan," she supplied.
He nodded. "Ms. Alan. Why are you here?"
Her eyes darkened. "Because there are things that go bump in the night, Mr. MacMillian. It's my job to bump back."
About the Author:
L.J.K Oliva is the devil-may-care alter-ego of noir romance novelist Laura Oliva. She likes her whiskey strong, her chocolate dark, and her steak bloody. L.J.K. likes monsters... and knows the darkest ones don't live in closets.
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