Title: Tricks of the Trade (Paranormal Scenes Investigation #3)
Author: Laura Anne Gilman
Format: Trade Paperback & eBook
Publication Date: November 15, 2011
Rating: 4 out of 5
I’m a huge fan of Laura Anne Gilman’s urban fantasy Retrievers series, so I was really excited when she began publishing the spin-off Paranormal Scenes Investigation series featuring Bonnie Torres. If you’re a fan of CSI-type shows and urban fantasy, I think you’ll really enjoy reading about Bonnie and the other PUPIs (Private, Unaffiliated, Paranormal Investigations – pronounced puppies) as they investigate magical crimes. While I think you can follow the third book in the series, Tricks of the Trade, without having read the first two books in the series, you’ll definitely enjoy Bonnie’s interaction with the other investigators more if you start the series from the beginning.
The Paranormal Scenes Investigation series is very similar to an episode of CSI, if CSI were paranormal. Just as the investigators on the television show work on several different cases at once, there are three concurrent storylines in Tricks of the Trade. The PUPIs have to investigate two crimes: one that forces them to deal with the NYPD when a floater is discovered in the river and the other helping the wealthy Mr. Wells recover his stolen objects. The floater turns out to be a dead fatae, a paranormal-type creature unable to use magic, while Mr. Wells is a Null, or a human being who is unable to use magic. In comparison, all the PUPIs are considered Talent: they can manipulate current, a magical cousin to electricity that allows them to investigate crimes committed with magic. Mr. Wells is convinced that a Talent has stolen his trinkets and ransacked his home, although the investigation soon proves more complicated than it initially seems. The appearance of the Roblin, a mischief imp fascinated by Bonnie and her colleagues, is the third narrative thread in the novel and provides some mild amusement for the reader, although it’s troublesome for the investigators.
While Bonnie and her colleagues investigate these crimes, she and her boss, Benjamin Venec, are fighting their attraction for one another. Their situation is more complex than a mere office romance, since their current is starting to merge, allowing them to speak to each other telepathically and sense the other’s feelings. Both Bonnie and Venec resist the Merge, because they resent what they perceive as fate intervening in their lives and forcing them to be with someone not of their choosing.
While the plot comes across here as complex, in truth the mysteries unfold in a natural manner, and the writing is engaging and easy to follow. It may take you a while to fully understand the world-building if you haven’t read the other books in the series, but truthfully you can enjoy the cases investigated by the PUPIs with ease, a big selling point for any novel.
I also like the multiple points of view in this book. Bonnie’s narration is all in the first person, but we see the other characters from the third person POV. I thought this was an interesting choice of narrative style, because you don’t usually see that combination but it was clear at all times who was speaking and we got a little insight into what the other PUPIs were thinking. I really like that we’re able to see a bit of Venec’s feelings towards Bonnie and learn more about his reaction to the Merge. I should point out that in the e-ARC I received there were no spaces to indicate changes in the POVs, so you’d be reading along and all of a sudden realize Bonnie wasn’t the one speaking any longer. However, I fully expect this to be resolved in the final edition of the novel.
I find the paranormal CSI tone of the novel to be a lot of fun, and the concurrent storylines are easy to follow while keeping the action moving. My only real criticism is that early in the book Bonnie has a vision of the future that involves a sense of impending doom and a dragon, but the situation never materializes. I’m sure this is part of an arc that will appear in future books, but it was distracting, since at first it appeared that the vision was warning about the arrival of the mischief imp, the Roblin. However, it soon became clear that the Roblin has nothing to do with Bonnie’s vision and nothing further is revealed. The vision was completely superfluous to the rest of the story, and it didn’t advance any overarching themes in the series either.
That said, this is one of my favorite urban fantasy series, because I find the idea of a paranormal crime scenes investigation unit so much fun. I highly recommend this series to any UF or CSI fans!