Series: Cainsville #1
Genre: Adult, Mystery, Paranormal
Publication date: August 20th 2013
by Random House Canada
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.
-A copy was provided by Random House of Canada for review-
Omen is very much the first in its series, it is also very much a Kelley Armstrong book. Not to say it’s anything like her other work as it’s actually quite different, but in terms of wonderfully crafted characters, a world you can see yourself walk the grounds of, and an all-around compelling story, its got the Kelley signature on every page. This is what I’ve come to expect of her novels, and Omens was not an exception.
Omens tells the story of a young woman with a seemingly perfect life; wealthy, career-driven, intelligent, about to marry a man with an important political career ahead. She had an incredible life ahead of her. Then she – along with the whole world – finds out who her real parents are: two of the most notorious serial killers. Let’s just say this changes things. Running from greedy, violent media, she tries to start a new minimalistic life in a very small and quaint town called Cainsville. Don’t get into this book thinking it’s your average urban fantasy or paranormal romance novel. While there are hints of this story having a bigger paranormal aspect that there is so far, this first installment is made up mostly of a murder mystery where Olivia is trying to find out if her parents really are guilty of the crimes they say they never committed. As for the romance side of things, don’t expect a lot of this on your plate either. Some may be disappointed, but I found it was rather refreshing to not have a romantic subplot take over the spotlight. Although, it’s not completely free of romance: When our protagonist starts working with an obstinate lawyer with a rumor-filled reputation, the two merely endure each other for their own benefit, but soon enough Olivia’s sexual frustration is starting to show its head.
On that note I loved how certain and confident this woman is, on top of being determined and capable. Olivia is an incredibly easy character to root for. One who thinks for herself and doesn’t take any bullshit. Told steadily in a natural, though not uneventful, pace, Kelley takes special care in developing every single character; from her protagonist to the the townsfolk and the smallest of secondary roles – even a darn cat who’s especially quirky – everyone leaves a lasting impression with their genuine and distinct personalities.
Meanwhile, puzzle pieces are dropped along with hints of paranormal that keeps us on our toes. The mystery is what takes center stage in Omens. We have the obvious: the murders. But we also have hidden secrets surrounding the town, their residents, the gargoyles, even this damn cat again. Then there’s Olivia’s strange ability to see and interpret omens, her lawyer’s past, the several small but obviously important side characters who give us a glimpse at their perspectives. Everything interconnects into this vastly intriguing puzzle. Like I said at the beginning, though, Omens is very much the first book in a series. We do get some answers as a small part of the murder mystery is resolved, but for every answer we get, more questions arise. We also don’t go very deep into the paranormal aspect of the mystery. I was bummed to not learn more about Cainsville in particular, but I know that it will be worth the wait a Kelley has not disappointed me yet!
Original, full of personality, and vividly descriptive, Omens reinforces my fondness of Kelley Armstrong’s stories. It’s a slow building mystery that leaves you questioning everybody and everything, with a relentless sense of unease throughout.