No Humans Involved
No Humans Involved is the seventh book in the Women of the Otherworld series, a series that has maintained a readable quality, but not managed to exceed – or really match – the quality of its first couple of books. This book fits into that pattern very neatly.
This time around our Otherworld Woman is Jaime Vegas, necromancer and medium. After a good career on the circuit giving live audiences most faked communications with their loved ones, Jaime is ready for the big time: Hollywood. She has lined up a spot on a reality TV show, one set in Brentwood with several other mediums, one that will feature conferences with famous dead and culminate in the audience of all audiences: Marilyn Monroe. Jaime and the other two mediums will reveal to the world, finally, how Marilyn really crossed over. But the excitement doesn’t stop there for Jaime. After years of crushing on Jeremy Danvers, the American werewolf pack leader, she’s finally going to be spending time with him. He’s flying to L.A. for what she hopes will be a more romantic and less friendly rendezvous.
Before the cameras can capture anything really interesting, however, Jaime finds that she is not alone in the house. It and the neighborhood are filled to the brim with ghosts, and some of them aren’t paranormally normal. They seem to be fragmented spirits, unable to communicate in anything except nudges and pets. Jaime worries very much that they are children and that they came to a very bad end in this very beautiful spot. Fortunately, she has a number of friends, and Jeremy, to call on for help in solving their murders.
It’s apparent right away that this book is part of a series. Not only is Jeremy Danvers there, all of the other main characters from the previous books make appearances and manage to help Jaime in some way, however small. For Jaime this is good, because she doesn’t have the chops to crack this alone, but for the reader, well, all of these powers presented together make each of them seem less potent singly. Witches can cast spells, but they have to choose correctly and have the juice to make them work, ghosts can’t intervene much in the physical realm, but they can go ask the Higher Ups what’s going on. And werewolves, they’re mainly muscle. In comparison, Jaime’s necromancy often seems like a bit of a parlor trick. The downside of an ensemble piece is that if you’re not fond of some of the previous superwomen of the series, you’re stuck with them anyway.
Another downside is that with everything that’s going on and all of the secondary (previously primary) characters flitting in and out, Jaime doesn’t get very much development as a character. The reader learns about her powers and how they can be used, but little else about her except that she’s sexually experienced and had a crappy childhood. Jeremy we know a little better from his appearances in previous books, but Armstrong shrifts him in character development too. Their romance together seems a bit forced (although Armstrong does write some torchy tension between them), and by the end of the book none of the things standing in the way of their being a couple have been resolved. And, is it just me, but does Jeremy seem a little pensive and fatherly for the role of love interest?
There are some good points too. The reality TV angle here is interesting. It’s fun to watch Jaime try to manipulate the system to her advantage given what she knows about performers and performances. The particulars of ghosts and how they can operate was fun too. There is a memorable scene where Jaime gets harassed by ghosts who are dying for attention. And the nature of the crime here, its involving children, adds some emotional dimension to this mystery. The reader wants those children avenged and avenged in bloody fashion.
No Humans Involved was a pretty decent read, although it lagged a bit in the middle. Had it focused more on Jaime and not the Otherworld as a whole, it would have been more solid, but overall, I didn’t mind spending several evenings with these characters.