Hidden by Karen E. Olson


by Karen E. Olson
Series: Nicole Jones, #1

Hardcover, 220 pg.
Severn House Publishers, 2015

Read: January 9 – 11, 2016
Nicole Jones, née she-ain’t-tellin’-you, is a fixture on Block Island — especially during tourist season, she’s all over the island, leading bike tours. When she’s not doing that she’s painting (again, mostly for the tourists), or hanging out with some of her friends, relaxing and having a couple of beers. She’s serious, she’s responsible, she’s down-to-earth — the kind of person you want as a neighbor, maybe even as a friend.

She’s apparently pretty cagey about her past, letting her friends make some unfounded guesses about it, rather than just tell them anything. But she’s pretty honest as a narrator — she’s lived on Block Island for about 15 years with no problem,and she’s not looking to make any changes. Nicole lets us know right up front that there’s something dark and possibly shady, maybe even dangerous in her past, but that’s behind her, another life.

And then she sees someone she recognizes. Not a local, not a tourist. Someone from before, and that just can’t be good.

I’m sure you’ve heard the quip, “You’re not paranoid if they really are out to get you.” This may be true — but it sure feels like it. It doesn’t take long before Nicole is looking over her shoulder all the time, before she’s wondering about every phone call, every sound on the street behind her, every face she doesn’t instantly recognize. And Olson drags the reader into that same frame of mind, probably not to the extent as Nicole, but the same idea. The more worried, the more scared, the more freaked out Nicole is? The more the reader is.

As Nicole is forced to confront the things she ran away from, she starts to tell the reader about it, so that by the end of the book, we have a pretty good idea what exactly she did to make her leave it all and become Nicole. It’s a nice counter-balance — as the tension mounts, more is revealed (which sometimes, makes things worse, I grant you). I didn’t lose sleep over this one, but I sure postponed it as long as possible, I didn’t want to put this down until Nicole was safe.

I thoroughly enjoyed Olson’s Annie Seymour books, and my wife insists to this day that I missed out by not reading her Tattoo Shop mysteries (she’s probably right), with Hidden she’s doing something new. This doesn’t feel anything like the Seymour books did, or the others looked — nothing against those, but she kicked it into a new gear here. I’d have been perfectly willing to read more in that other gear (and would be in the future), but wow, am I glad she found this one. I’m counting the days until the sequel.


3.5 Stars

Review Catch-Up: Hidden by Benedict Jacka; The Winter Long by Seanan McGuire

These have been nagging at me for eleven months now. No, I have no explanation for why it took me so long, but I’m glad I took a lot of notes on both. I’m going to get this posted before I start the next Jacka novel (which should be happening today). While I’m at it, the next Toby Day is a couple of weeks away.

Anyway, overdue mini-looks at a couple of the best Urban Fantasies I read in 2014:


by Benedict Jacka
Series: Alex Verus, #5

Mass Market Paperback, 293 pg.
Ace, 2014
Read: September 26 – 30, 2014
. . . man, I have really missed Alex. Everyone’s favorite diviner has really come a long way, lately — shedding the near lone-wolf thing, and is now looking after a passel of magic rookies. Whether they want him to or not.

Anne Walker is definitely in the “or not” category. She’s done all she can to stay away from Alex — but she probably didn’t mean to include being kidnapped as one of those ways. Alex goes to some pretty dark places to help someone who doesn’t want it.

At the same time, Alex (via the Council) is feeling some pressure for the events of the last book. They’re also pressuring him to do some official work for them. Plus the rumors are getting more and more intense that his mentor, Richard, is back. If that’s true, no one is going to be happy. Naturally, everyone thinks that Alex knows what Richard is up to. And every time he says he doesn’t, he convinces them that he does.

So yeah, Alex has his hands full.

I think it was Chekhov who said that if a magic user grabs a focus in the opening chapters, that by the end of the book . . . Anyway, that was a nice use of it.

Not that Alex has had an easy life over the last couple books (or we wouldn’t be reading them) but the one big take away from Hidden is that it’s going to get a lot worse for our friend (I swear I hadn’t read that note when I wrote about Veiled over the weekend). There are other take aways, mostly happier, but I’ll leave that to you to find.

A wholly satisfying read. Get to know Alex Verus.

4 Stars

The Winter LongThe Winter Long

by Seanan McGuire
Series: Toby Daye, #8

Mass Market Paperback, 358 pg.
DAW, 2014
Read: September 13 – 16, 2014

I don’t like parties. Someone always tries to assassinate someone I actually like, and there are never enough of those little stuffed mushroom caps.

A book starts off with a line like that? You’re going to have fun.

Thankfully, one’s appreciation of a book doesn’t depend on how the protagonist acts. When I was on page 46, I wrote , “Granted, this is early, but Toby’s being stupid, foolishly so. She’s not paying attention to anything said during the fight she just had — actually, technically didn’t really have. Instead, she’s reacting to something that happened to a friend, and acting out of fear, prejudice and alarm. That disappoints me. Her saying, ‘that smile, brief as it had been, was all I could have asked for. A smiling Tybalt was a Tybalt who was still capable of stepping back and looking at the situation rationally. I loved him, but even I could find him frightening when he was fixated on vengeance.’ Man, choke me on the irony, McGuire.”

There’s just go much about this novel that I can’t describe without spoiling it. Let me limit myself to a couple of more notes: Toby lost a lot of blood on this one — I mean like The Bride in the Showdown at the House of Blue Leaves kind of a lot. It’s a good thing she has a healing factor to make Logan jealous. While she’s bleeding she’s having her world rocked.

McGuire takes a lot of what Toby’s “known” since we met her (all of which is what we’ve “known,” too) and turns it upside down and shakes the truth out. Every other book in the series has been affected by these revelations — in one fell swoop, she re-wrote previous 7 books — which is just so cool. It’s not that we’ve (we= readers and Toby) been wrong, our understanding is just . . . askew. There’s also some nice warm fuzzies in this book, which isn’t that typical for the series. McGuire’s outdone herself.
5 Stars