Evelyn Vaughn has quickly become my favorite Bombshell author, and Contact offers ample proof why that is. The premise is a familiar one that’s been done a lot recently – usually quite poorly. I’ve been burned so much lately by similar books that I probably wouldn’t have bothered with this one if it had been written by another author. But Vaughn makes the material her own, delivering an excellent read that caught me up in its vivid characters and compelling storyline.
By day, Faith Corbett works in the evidence department of the New Orleans police force. By night, she calls in anonymous tips to the police detectives, claiming to be a psychic named Cassandra. Faith isn’t psychic herself, though several of her roommates are and she’s familiar with the occult community in the city, which is where she gets most of her tips. Faith does have extrasensory abilities, which she’s always been careful not to reveal to the world, but they’re different from those of her clairvoyant friends. She can hear the slightest sound from long distances, sense people’s emotions just by being near them, and one touch of someone’s bare skin can reveal all their secrets to her. Her abilities have made her wary of getting close to anyone in any way, something she’s slowly trying to get past.
Then one of her roommates is murdered in a nightclub, bringing Faith into contact with two of the homicide detectives she’s often provided with tips. Butch Jefferson is the quintessential good cop, the one who’s always listened to what she had to say. Roy Chopin is his skeptical partner, the good-looking bad boy who doesn’t trust any information when he doesn’t know who it’s coming from. There’s an immediate attraction between them, one Faith isn’t sure she wants to pursue since she knows how Roy feels about “Cassandra.” Then she learns that the murder was no isolated incident. A serial killer is targeting psychics, and the mysterious “Cassandra” is next on his list.
I know, I know. It sounds like the same old thing. Heroine with paranormal abilities. Skeptical cop hero. Serial killer who turns his sights on the heroine. But even though the pieces are familiar, they feel fresh in this fast, involving page turner. The story’s strongest element, in more ways than one, is the heroine. Faith is no mere damsel in distress, but a strong, resourceful woman possessing both smarts and physical skills. I will admit to some initial concerns. Contact is the latest installment in the Athena Force continuity series, and Faith’s role in the series requires her to be young (22) and emotionally vulnerable. As a result, she’s not as confident and secure in herself early on as I might have hoped in a kick-butt Bombshell heroine.
This book succeeds where the last Athena Force book failed, turning what could have been a weak, fragile character into a strong one. Vaughn develops Faith in ways that balance the vulnerable side of her with a great deal of strength and guts. She’s a complex character, one who I liked more and more as the book went on. When she discovers her friend’s body and figures out that the killer escaped through a vent in the ceiling, she climbs up there and goes after him. When a group of street toughs attack her male roommate, she takes them on single-handedly–and beats them all. Facing a roomful of angry cops, she turns the tables on them with her smarts and ingenuity in a very nicely played scene. She’s so tough and resilient that by the end, it’s hard to view her as anything but a true kick-butt heroine.
The cast of secondary characters is varied and interesting, and the rough, jaded Roy is an appealing hero. I liked the way his romance with Faith unfolded. It moves a little slowly at first, with the two of them gradually feeling each other out. It feels less forced than a traditional romance novel, perhaps because it doesn’t have to get to a mandatory “I do” at the end. Their relationship is left somewhat open-ended at the close of the book, but it’s just as romantic, if not more so, than most true romance novels and the resolution is satisfying.
The New Orleans setting is atmospheric and well-utilized throughout. This is a fast-paced story, with exciting scenes, great character interaction, and a number of unexpected moments. For most of the book, the story is nicely unpredictable, with some good twists along the way. That is until the end. There’s a very obvious development that, for much of the book, it looked like the author was going to avoid, and I really hoped she would do so. But in the end, the predictable revelation arrives. The way the development comes about is well done, but it’s still far too obvious. I enjoyed reading this book so much I flirted with giving it keeper status, but that particular development knocked it down a peg.
Contact is still a very good book, proving that even the most familiar storyline can be done well in the hands of a good writer. While it’s part of a larger series, it stands on its own. Whether or not you’ve read any of the other books, this one deserves to be checked out. Strong characters, a fast pace, and a suspenseful storyline make it a great read.