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WesternSFA
Dead Letter Day
by Eileen Rendahl
Ace, $7.99, 294pp
Release Date: March 5, 2013
A childhood near-death experience has rendered Melina sensitive to the existence of Arcanes, magical creatures that are invisible to Mundanes, and so she has become a Messenger, sort of a UPS delivery girl for the supernatural community. This is on top of her two jobs: co-owner and instructor at a dojo, and emergency room clerk. Plus she has a young apprentice, Messenger-in-Training Sophie. But right now Melina’s number one concern is the mysterious disappearance of her friend, the werewolf Paul. He’s gotten into some trouble with his Pack over his unconventional romance with a witch, so Melina is worried that Pack politics may be the cause of his unexplained absence, but her investigation uncovers stranger forces in play. Why are she and Sophie chased by oversized cows with mayhem in mind? What’s with the two ravens that keep hanging around? And there’s still the puzzle of her sudden, occasional ability to shoot high voltage out of her fingers.

Mundane and Arcane world are closely interwoven, and the trail leads Melina and her lover Ted into some grim places that induce soul-searching, including an insane asylum, where a police officer has been committed after being bitten by something that wasn’t quite a werewolf.

And still there’s family. Melina may have grown up a loner, accustomed to being the weird kid on the periphery, but that doesn’t mean she gets to miss the weekly family dinner, and who else will pick up her grandmother? Surely not her “busy” brother. Good thing Ted has charm to spare, and everybody in the household likes him.

There’s also a big surprise in store for our heroine, but you wouldn’t want me to Spoil it for you.

This is the coziest urban fantasy I have ever read. There’s no profanity, no glut of violence, no overblown, posturing attitude. Characters have real sorrows, genuine joys, and some tough choices to handle, and the author presents some compelling speculations. At its heart, this is a kind story; Rendahl seems to be drawing from her experience as a – gasp! – happily married woman who groks family dynamics, communication glitches, the humour at the root of coping mechanisms, and how love and exasperation go hand in hand. I read this with sighs of pleasure and closed the book with a smile on my face. And I can hardly wait for the next in the series. ~~ Chris R. Paige

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