Omens (Cainsville #1)
By: Kelley Armstrong
Format/Source: eBook; my purchase
Twenty-four-year-old Olivia Taylor Jones has the perfect life. The only daughter of a wealthy, prominent Chicago family, she has an Ivy League education, pursues volunteerism and philanthropy, and is engaged to a handsome young tech firm CEO with political ambitions.
But Olivia’s world is shattered when she learns that she’s adopted. Her real parents? Todd and Pamela Larsen, notorious serial killers serving a life sentence. When the news brings a maelstrom of unwanted publicity to her adopted family and fiancé, Olivia decides to find out the truth about the Larsens.
Olivia ends up in the small town of Cainsville, Illinois, an old and cloistered community that takes a particular interest in both Olivia and her efforts to uncover her birth parents’ past.
Aided by her mother’s former lawyer, Gabriel Walsh, Olivia focuses on the Larsens’ last crime, the one her birth mother swears will prove their innocence. But as she and Gabriel start investigating the case, Olivia finds herself drawing on abilities that have remained hidden since her childhood, gifts that make her both a valuable addition to Cainsville and deeply vulnerable to unknown enemies. Because there are darker secrets behind her new home, and powers lurking in the shadows that have their own plans for her.
You may have seen me list this book time and time again at the seasonal Top Ten Tuesdays lists. Well, it took me starting a new job to finally read it! I had brought my eReader to read whilst on break because I couldn’t figure out which paperback to bring. Took a few dry titles at first but I finally settled to reading this book (at long last) 😛
I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised by this novel. I was a little unsure for the first several chapters, perhaps because I was getting used to the narrative (first person) and the way it was written. But I went into this novel thinking it was straight-up urban fantasy–and there were elements of the paranormal lurking at the sides (of the occult, of the second sight, of omens and fantastical creatures of lore) but otherwise Omens reads like a straight-up murder mystery and Olivia finds herself finding out the truth about the Larsens’ crimes (particularly the last case that got the Larsens’ arrested and convicted) and uncover her own past in the process. I really enjoyed how her relationship evolved with Gabriel Walsh from wary contenders to partners working on a case together and just reading as they pieced together what happened to Jan and Peter and whether Olivia’s parents were involved in any way. I was also surprised at how much deeper the mystery was; things are not what they seem, and by the time new revelations came up in the final act of the novel, I started wondering if I entered an episode of The X-Files or something 😛
Olivia is an interesting lead character for this novel. At first I wasn’t sure what to make of her, but over the course of the novel we learn that she’s more than just a pretty girl with a trust fund, that she has her own strength and survival skills that enables her to keep on going even as life keeps crapping things her way and she ends up in a rather bad situation at the start of the novel. She has her pride and her flaws, which makes her an intriguing character, but there’s also her memory of superstitious rhymes and her uncanny ability to see things that aren’t there. I wish that was fleshed out further as the book blurb to the second installment makes it sound like she’s in control of what she is capable of and is aware of her abilities when really she hasn’t really scratched the surface of what she sees, let alone if she can use it to her own advantage. Time will tell if her characterisation gets a little out of hand as it seems she has almost all of the skills and characteristics needed for a series like this, but that’s why I’m glad she has this prideful streak to her that keeps her from straight-up asking for help; it keeps her human, if this remark makes any sense.
We don’t get to learn too much about the characters in Cainsville thus far; we’re introduced to the various characters in town and their role in the town but yeah, the only characters we learn a bit more of are Gabriel Walsh and his aunt, Rose. Both are still enigmatic, especially Gabriel and his grim childhood and stark code of conduct with work, but they’re both interesting and great allies to Olivia’s quest into the past and finding out what happened. On a minor note, do I hint a probable love triangle emerging down the road? I’m not sure how I feel about this, I’m quite contented where Olivia is at right now, single and figuring out her past and the present conflict with the news about her biological parents (though admittedly I do see the sparks/pull between Olivia and Gabriel. I enjoyed their scenes together).
Omens is a great start to a new series that’s more mystery-based than paranormal-based, though I suspect the latter will start creeping in as we move along in the series and delve deeper into the mythology around Cainsville and its curious inhabitants. A few loose ends I reckon will carry readers to the next volume of the series, Visions, which is presently sitting on my TBR pile waiting to be read soon 🙂