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Romance and other things

P.S. I Spook you by S.E. Harmon

SSA Rain Christiansen used to be the agency’s golden boy. It just takes one moment of weakness, one slight, tiny, itty-bitty paranormal sighting, and all of a sudden he’s the agency’s embarrassment. His boss gives him one last chance to redeem himself—go down to Brickell Bay, play nice with the local police, and leave the ghost sightings behind. Rain is determined to do exactly that, even if it kills him. Cold-case detective Daniel McKenna’s latest investigation is going nowhere fast. Five years earlier, high school student Amy Greene went missing after leaving her part-time job and was never seen again. Daniel is glad to finally have the FBI help that his department requested, even if it does come in the form of his ex. It doesn’t help that Rain is pretty sure he’s falling in love with Danny all over again—if he ever stopped. Add to that the frustration of seeing ghosts at every turn while he works a case that’s stalled in its tracks, and Rain is starting to wonder if second chances and happy endings are just for fairy tales.

 

Review:

Dear S.E. Harmon,

I have read your “PI guys duology” and liked it well enough, but this book would probably become a reread for me, so much I liked Rain’s voice and since this is another story written in the first person POV being in Rain’s head all the time suited me very well. I think it is easy to overdo things when you want to write snarky and sarcastic, but this is a good example of “not overdoing things” for me. Rain made me smile, even giggle sometimes, but somehow the writer managed (IMO) to keep just the right balance between fun and serious.

Rain has a problem, had been having a problem for a long time. He sees ghosts, many of them and in many different places.

"I CAN’T pinpoint when, exactly, I’d begun to see ghosts, but I’d certainly seen my fair share. I generally did a good job of ignoring them, but in terms of annoying me to death, the one in Graycie’s office was an unexpected front-runner."

As you can guess seeing ghosts does not really mix well with FBI work – it could be very helpful if somebody actually believed Rain. Instead Rain’s caving in to a ghost begging to let her parents know that she is in peace became a straw that broke a camel’s back where Rain’s boss, Graycie, was concerned.

"It was a demanding job and one that required that you trusted everyone on your team. Apparently that was no longer the case. I was trying not to be bitter, but I’m genetically wired that way. It’s in my DNA, right next to punctuality and a love of chocolate. “If you’re going to fire me, you could’ve done it over the phone. I was getting a good deal on some blood oranges.” “I’m not firing anyone,” Graycie said, clearly exasperated. “But I do have something different in mind for you.” “Yeah? I have no desire to fold shirts at the Gap.”"

Rain is told that his regular team already left to investigate some high profile murders and he should choose for himself which request for FBI help in “cold cases” he prefers and go help out police department which requested FBI’s help.

Rain for all his snarky commentary is a decent guy who really did go into FBI because he wanted to help people and he does not object much to being used as a helper in the cold cases. He chooses a case of Amy Green from his home town and off he goes. Of course going back home also means that Rain would have to face and work again with Daniel McKenna mentioned in the blurb, but I got an impression that Rain didn’t mind that at all, Daniel being his ex-lover notwithstanding. Going home for Rain also means that he has to face his eccentric parents and sister, whom he didn’t see for more than a year,

I really liked how investigation was portrayed in this book. It felt believable to me that the guys talked to people, kept going back to the lines of inquiry which may not have given anything the first time around, but they still felt it was something worth pursuing. It moved fast but not all the time so I could catch the breath.

As a bit of the related point I really liked Rain’s portrayal of FBI agent and his thoughts below on FBI role in the investigation. Once again it felt very believable that the agent who is very smart and has PhD will like solving puzzles the best, but also can use the gun if he had no choice.

"It was times like that I realized what it meant to be an FBI agent. Despite how various popular shows made us out to be 30 percent Rambo, 30 percent Bruce Willis in any Die Hard movie, and 40 percent Rainman, I always thought of myself as more of a scholar. We didn’t ride in on our white horses and solve the case from the bumbling, know-nothing police of Mayberry. We worked together, and each branch of law enforcement played a role. We were just one cog in a great working machine, and when it worked, it was fucking beautiful. My part of that machine usually involved puzzling out clues in a well-air-conditioned room in DC. Sometimes it was in a room that local law enforcement requisitioned for our team. Also air-conditioned. My part generally did not involve donning my FBI flak gear to raid a house. Despite what Criminal Minds said. Whenever I balked, Graycie loved to remind me that I had, in fact, had many years of tactical training. I’d passed the physicals and earned my stripes. And apparently someone had decided that qualified me to crouch in scratchy shrubbery and get Kevin’s “six,” as he put it. God. It took me a good five minutes to realize that Rambo Jr. meant his back."

I believed in Rain’s portrayal in this book – heroic but not flashy, I also thought that the paragraph above sounded believable to me – law enforcement agency which does good work, but which does not barge in without the requests for help from the local law enforcement and where some agents prefer to use their brains more often than guns but certainly know how to use guns if need arises.

I also thought it was a good decision to do it that way because very often when we have one paranormal element in the story which was otherwise grounded in real world; very often I have ‘suspension of disbelief “problem because I find the paranormal element to be jarring.  I cannot explain it well enough, but because overall  Rain is not portrayed as a superman running to the rescue with the gun, it was easier to accept him seeing ghosts as just something factual that was happening to him, just one more talent of his.

You will ask me, but what about the relationship? I thought it was nicely done too! I was not too impressed by sex scenes, but I am hard to please where sex scenes are concerned. They were not horrible, just nothing to write home about. But everything else I liked a lot! I thought the author did another smart thing here – Danny and Rain broke up three or four years ago and they still having strong feelings for each other made sense to me. I often have trouble buying the reunited lovers trope when ten or fifteen years passed after the guys broke up.  And when they meet again, I once again liked what I read a lot. Sure they have unresolved issues and they are initially not too happy with each other, but they are both adults and both know that they have to work together and try their best.  And since they do love each other, they find their way back to each other eventually.

Grade: B+