Always Look Twice
Always Looks Twice offers a different spin on a familiar premise: the psychic heroine investigating a serial killer. In this case, most of the characters are Native American, and the story goes way past the standard serial killer plotline, venturing deep into paranormal terrain with black magic, shapeshifters and other dark forces at work. While it’s not entirely satisfying, it’s still an interesting read.
A killer known as the Indian Slasher is murdering Native American women in Los Angeles. Psychic Olivia Whirlwind has often worked with the police, and in this case, with women like her and her sister being targeted, she has even more of an interest in seeing the killer caught. Then FBI Agent Ian West joins the case. He’s also Native American and seems to believe in supernatural forces, but is still resistant to her involvement. When she suddenly sees his gray eyes glow strangely, like a witch’s, she begins to wonder who he really is.
On her way home from their first meeting, a wanagi, or ghost, suddenly takes control of Olivia’s car and steers her toward a motel off Sunset Boulevard. It’s a place Olivia knows too well. Her father killed himself there ten years earlier – in the same room where Ian West is now staying. Olivia doesn’t believe this is a coincidence, but something larger must be at work. Her father killed himself after her mother abandoned them, and Olivia soon comes to believe her own family history is connected to the present-day murders. Her mother also had psychic abilities, and was involved with witches practicing black magic, including some powerful Hollywood figures. As Olivia investigates further, she finds herself dealing with evil forces, until she can no longer be sure what’s real and what isn’t or who she can trust.
Needless to say, this isn’t one of those psychic romances where the clairvoyant element is just a dash of the paranormal on top of a storyline otherwise grounded in the real world. The story is very much steeped in the supernatural, something that only increases as it goes along. After a while it started to feel like I was reading a Silhouette Shadows. That’s not a bad thing, since I liked the Shadows line and still miss it. The author offers an interesting and creative spin on Native American mythology and witchcraft. The villains are truly evil and capable of anything. There’s some very dark stuff here, including a disturbing scene thisclose to practically psychic rape that may be too much for some readers. It’s a creepy story, but it’s often fascinating and never boring. The author delivers the unexpected and has some surprises up her sleeve. Early on I figured I knew where the story was going. Happily, I was wrong.
At the same time, the book has a number of weaknesses. The writing isn’t as sharp as it could – or should – be. There are some rough spots and clunky moments, as well as some cheesy dialogue. The story and writing could have been better developed all around. The way the author plays with reality is effective, often heightening the suspense because we don’t know what’s real or an illusion. At other times, though, what’s happening is simply confusing because the author doesn’t explain it very well; I wished that many of the later paranormal scenes were more detailed and sharply written. Those moments needed to be described well to bring them to life for the reader, especially when they’re so “out there.” Instead, they’re so sketchy and the story moves so fast that they don’t make as much of an impression as they could.
The characters are more of a problem. They aren’t developed much – if at all – and what there is to them isn’t particularly likable. Olivia’s physical toughness is admirable, but she’s often just abrasive and there are times when her insistence on acting alone seems more foolish than strong. It didn’t help that the dialogue is full of groaners. When she tells people off by saying things like “Go jump in a lake” and “Go suck a duck,” it’s kind of hard to take her seriously. West is even less of a presence. He’s married to his job and has an attitude. He doesn’t register at all beyond that. Some of their banter falls flat or is just plain lame. This book offers more of a romance than some Bombshells, but it’s not entirely convincing.
Overall, I’d say Always Look Twice is slightly above average tale, if only because it’s so different. It’s a quick and interesting read that earns points for creativity, and loses some for execution. Character isn’t key here, but readers who enjoy dark supernatural elements may find it worth a look.