Review: Pack of Lies by Laura Anne Gilman

Pack of Lies

PSI #2

Written: Laura Anne Gilman [website]

Published: Luna

When: February 1, 2011 (Although some stores may have it out now.)

ISBN: 0373803249

Obtained Via: NetGalley

Cover Blurb:

FUNNY HOW LIFE CAN TURN YOU UPSIDE DOWN…

My name is Bonita Torres, and eight months ago I was an unemployed college graduate without a plan. Now I’m an investigator with the Private Unaffiliated Paranormal Investigations team of New York. Pretty awesome, right?

The Cosa Nostradamus, the magical community, isn’t quick to give up its secrets, though. Not even to fellow members. Not even when it’s in their best interests. So we’ve been busting our tails, perfecting our forensic skills, working to gain acceptance. The team’s tight… but we have our quirks, too. And our Big Dog, Benjamin Venec…well, he’s a special case, all right.

But we can’t give up. We’re needed, especially when a case comes along that threatens to pit human against fatae. But one wrong move could cost us everything we’ve worked for…

My Review:

Making the focus of your mystery a sexual assault is either a very brave or a very stupid thing for a writer to do. Readers are way more uncomfortable with rape than they are with murder or other violent crimes. The success or failure of the story depends on whether you’re a good enough writer to pull it off. Laura Anne Gilman carries the sensitive subject well, resolving it in probably the only way that it could have been.

When Bonita Torres and her fellow PUPIs (I’m still not sure whether to love or roll my eyes at that acronym) are brought in on the case of an attempted rape, they believe it’s an open and shut case.The female companion of a ki-rin is assaulted by two Talented males, and one of them is killed when the ki-rin retaliates. Since the ki-rin is a unicorn-like fatae, complete with the unicorn’s requirements for virginity in its companions, nearly everyone involved assumes the ki-rin’s attack is justified. Open. Shut. Done.

Except heightened tension between the human Talents and the non-human fatae community means the city is ready to erupt into violence and war, and this attack could be the match that lights the inferno. Once the surviving male from the assault swears that the whole thing was a setup, that the girl had asked to meet the pair and that it hadn’t been rape, it becomes essential for the team to discover the truth – and fast. The case devolves into a he-said/she-said nightmare with no evidence that can prove either side.

This is where the whole thing could’ve broken down into a tangle that would have caused the story to fail. It didn’t. Gilman handles the twisty situation with a dignity that a lot of authors couldn’t have done. We don’t get to meet the surviving attacker “on-camera” but it would have been difficult, I think, to make all sides look sympathetic, even with the situation that’s been set up here. In the end, I think the reader is shown a fundamental truth: nobody wins when violence is done, not the attacker and certainly not the victim.

Since this is the second series Gilman has set in this version of NYC, the world is fully realized and extensively built. Something about the main characters didn’t grab me, though. Maybe it’s because I didn’t have the benefit of starting with the first in the series. I don’t know. Bonnie’s emotional reactions seemed just the slightest bit off. Then again, her emotions are being manipulated without her knowledge for the first half of the book, and this is a character who is very different mentally than I am, so maybe that’s all it is. She’s not written badly, she just doesn’t make me love her the way other characters have in the past.

I’m still reading through the first set of Cosa Nostradamus books. (I’m on book three. Maybe I’ll tell the story sometime of why I’m coming so late to that series.) So it’s possible there are bits of history missing that would better flesh out the characters. We’ll see.

Pack of Lies is certainly a solid story for the series, handling a delicate subject with grace, and I’ll definitely be giving the characters another go at reeling me in. I’m going to give this book a hopeful three and a half stars, with a look toward going back to Hard Magic for another go-round.

[xrr rating=3.5/5 imageset=default]

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