Monday, March 14, 2016

The Saints of the Lost and Found
I was all in on The Saints of the Lost and Found by T.M. Causey the minute I heard the words Southern and Gothic.  Yes, the back cover blurb pretty much clued me in that I was going to have to wade through paranormal woo-woo but seriously...SOUTHERN and GOTHIC!!!!!  I would have resorted to walking over hot coals to read this book.  Luckily it didn't come to that.

Avery Marie Broussard can see "lost things."  These lost things roll off people that enter into Avery's orbit.  She can tell you innocuous things like where you left car keys, where you misplaced your wedding ring, where your toddler left his pacifier - or, you know, where the bloody knife is you used to murder your unfaithful husband.  She's had this ability since childhood, which came in handy for her con artist parents.  However, for the last several years, Avery has been running.  Running away from her family, running away from the only man she ever loved, and running away after she fails to help the FBI in tracking down the notorious Little Princess Killer, a man who had been kidnapping and killing little blonde girls.

Her parents moved her around a lot, but Louisiana is the closest thing she's got to a home.  Normally she wouldn't set foot across the state line, but her father calls and tells her Latham, her beloved older brother, is in danger.  Daddy can see when and how people will die and apparently Latham is not long for this world.  But being back home also means being back near Jack.  Jack, the only boy she ever loved and the same boy who Daddy says will one day kill her.

What we've got here is classic Gothic.  A heroine torn between her gift and reality, a hero who may or may not be a "nice guy," a serial killer running amok and a boat-load of family secrets that could sink the Titanic.  Avery's "gift" (more like curse) is literally tearing her apart.  She agrees to help the FBI because she can't stand idly by doing nothing - but her gift isn't always detailed or precise.  It's when they're literally a couple hours late from saving the last victim that she snaps.  She can't go into police stations or hospitals because the "losses" pile up in her head.  All those victims, all those lost opportunities, she short-circuits and her in the throes of an epic seizure becomes a YouTube sensation.  So she lies.  She tells them the last epic seizure broke her - that she can no longer find "lost things."  And she heads home to help her brother and does her best to avoid Jack.

The book starts and finishes strong.  Where the cracks begin to show is in the middle when the reader suddenly realizes that the entire conflict hinges on characters who don't talk to each other.  It hit me like a ton of bricks when we're introduced to Jack's Bitter (with a Capital B) ex-wife, Marguerite.  Oh make no mistake, the woman is a bitch in heels - but half the reason she's that way is because Jack and Avery can't get their crap together and TALK TO EACH OTHER and she keeps running and he keeps feeling guilty and blah, blah, blah.  And it's not just Marguerite.  Because Jack and Avery can't get their crap together their Drama Llama sucks in every single secondary character.  Latham, their BFF's Sam and Nate, Jack's and Marguerite's son Brody...

Because Avery won't talk to Jack and Jack won't talk to Avery pretty much the whole blessed town is held hostage by their drama.  And naturally it's the Evil Other Woman that makes Wendy see the light (seriously this is a trope that needs to die a thousand deaths already).  I got so annoyed and so disgusted that what started out as a strong B+ read slid all the way down to a C.  Seriously.  TALK TO EACH OTHER AND STOP HIDING BEHIND MYSTERIOUS WOO-WOO CRAP!!!!

Whew.  There.  I think I feel better.  Anywoodle....

All, however, is not lost. Once the author stops with all the internal angst and shifts her conflict back to the external, namely, the Little Princess Killer and Avery's family drama, the story ends as it started - on a very strong note.  A serial killer running around kidnapping and murdering young girls has a way of diverting your attention away from a romantic couple that JUST NEEDS TO TALK ALREADY, WHY WON'T YOU TALK TO EACH OTHER ALREADY?!?!?!

Oh, wait.  Sorry about that.  Anywoodle....

All the secrets come tumbling out, Jack and Avery actually talk to each other (Praise Jeebus!), we get our final showdown and Wendy's mood starts to improve.  I didn't love it to bits and while I spent the middle chunk of the story wanting to slap Avery and Jack (and Latham to a certain extent) into next week - the Gothic "stuff" is very well done and the ending saves the day.

Final Grade = B-

Note: I struggled with how to classify this one and ultimately settled on Southern Gothic with Romantic Elements.  The romance is actually pretty strong, but you've got a serial killer, bad things happening to kids, and things don't end terribly sunny for a couple of secondary characters so....yeah.


azteclady said...

So, the two main characters don't talk much, huh?

Sorry, couldn't resist.
Kidding aside, it sounds interesting to me, for the same reasons it called to you: Southern Gothic ahoy!

Wendy said...

AL: I have serious "issues" with the Evil Other Woman trope - so I'm not sure if I was just more attuned to it in this instance? I mean characters who don't talk to each other isn't exactly uncommon in romance - but here it seemed amplified. I think because while the Evil Other Woman is suitably vile - I also felt a lot of sympathy for her. I mean, she marries and has a kid with a man she knows isn't in love with her. In the same situation I'd be pretty evil too.

But yeah - Southern Gothic, that's hard to say no to. And it's a pretty good one. I love Gothics but they're harder to write these days (I think) in this age of 24-hour-news-cycle and smart phones and the Internet and yada yada yada. But the author paints good atmosphere and while I'm mostly burnt-out on paranormal, I thought the angles she explored for this story were really interesting and different. Like a fresher spin on the ol' Psychic Heroine trope.

Anonymous said...

ooh - but that cover??? If I was on the fence (which I'm not) that would be a total decider for me - it's both pretty AND off-putting all at the same time - how do they manage that?

Luckily I am huge gothic fan (Holt, Stewart, Gaskin, Kearsley, etc) - then add southern to the mix?? - (Valancy swoons - in both a southern AND gothic style...)

Wendy said...

Valancy: And the cover really ties in well to the story (which, as we know, isn't always the case!).

I'm in the middle of a reading slump that is generated almost entirely by lack of focus and attention - so falling back on sub genres that are my personal jam (like Gothics and historical westerns) seems to have helped.