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WesternSFA
The Grendel Affair
A SPI Files Novel
by Lisa Shearin
Ace Books, $7.99, 292pp
Release Date: December 31, 2013
Makenna Fraser moved from her home town of Weird Sisters , North Carolina to NYC to become a reporter. She has a rare talent: she is a seer, and no disguise or spell or glamour can keep her from seeing the true nature of supernatural beings. This ability has led to her recruitment by SPI, Supernatural Protection and Investigations, as a junior agent in training. (Their last seer died messily.) SPI is a dressed down version of Men in Black, safeguarding not only law-abiding humans but benign supernaturals as well from dangerous ones. Makenna is well-intentioned and determined to do better than her predecessor, but it’s difficult when the supply clerk refuses to issue her a weapon and her assigned partner, Ian Byrne, feels as if he’s stuck babysitting.

Then one cold winter’s night, Makenna decides to do a small solo mission as a favor for one of her best informants, Oliver Barrington-Smythe, who runs an antiques/pawn shop. A flesh-eating Bavarian nachtgnome has moved in, and Makenna figures she can capture it easily enough; no need to bother her partner, who has a date lined up.

Things go wrong from the moment she steps out of the liquor store with the three bottles of Jack Daniels intended for the nachtgnome, and before the night is over, Makenna and Ian are under arrest for murder. Fortunately, SPI is accustomed to having its agents found at the wrong place at the wrong time, and have a very good vampire lawyer on payroll.

It turns out that Oliver, who specializes in objects of supernatural weirdness like mummies and squishy things in jars, has picked up an oversized arm, and persons of interest from faraway places have an interest in recovering it.

But it’s never just one thing, is it? Someone with a grudge against SPI is threatening to expose the reality of supernatural beings in a way too terrible and public for any agency to hope to conceal.

Shearin writes a good story, and she’s wonderful at characters. You get the sense that she genuinely likes people, and has probably based a number of her characters on friends or persons she’s observed with the writer’s eye. I love the way the mystery of the man with many faces unfolds – he’s, by far, my favorite of her supernatural beings. If you’ve read the Raine Benares books by Shearin, you already know to look forward to a good series. ~~ Chris R. Paige

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