phoenix-webThere is truly nothing I love more in a book than one that surprises me.  Late last night I finished Jamie McLachlan’s, Mind of the Phoenix, and to say that this book surprised me is a complete understatement.  I was not only surprised, but very pleasantly so.  Let me explain.

Jamie is a friend of mine — we both have our first books coming out by Penner Publishing this year or early next.  Even even before I knew Jamie, I wanted to read her book because the title and premise sounded interesting.  And then I met Jamie online, found that I really liked her, and then offered to read and review her book.  And that’s when the worry set in.  Jamie writes Speculative Science Fiction.  Translated, that means that she writes the kind of books that I often don’t enjoy.  I’m too firmly based in the real world to wrap my brain around an alternate universe.  It’s one of the reasons why, though I’ve read them, I wouldn’t put J.D. Robb’s books at the top of my reading list.  I like her books okay, but I always feel like I have to suspend my own reality to get into them.  Usually it’s just too much effort.  I want to escape in the pages of a book,  not think too hard.

Mind of the Phoenix came as not only a surprise to me, but a true delight.  The setting is a mix of historical fiction (early 20th Century England) with the element of a “different” world where a race of people known as empaths have been enslaved by the common man.  These empaths have a range of abilities from reading the minds of others to being able to telepathically suggest they do things they’d rather not, or even see things that aren’t real.

Enter the main character, Moira.  I won’t give you her last name because she hates it.  She hates it because, as a slave, her last name is not her own — it’s the name of her owner.  She’s killed her last owner and has been imprisoned deep in the bowls of a jail below the city streets where she awaits her execution.  As luck would have it, someone in the “Elite” recognizes that she may have skills to help the police solve a string of murders apparently coordinated by an empath known only as “The Phoenix.”  Nobody knows who he is, and Moira is paired up with Detective Keenan Edwards to solve the mystery.  And that’s what Mind of the Phoenix really is — a mystery.

Mind of the Phoenix has all of the hallmarks of a great mystery.  You have your crime-solving duo (Moira and Keenan), a bit of sexual chemistry, a string of unusual murders, at least one bad guy on the loose, and no end of questions that need answers.  It was quite simply a delight to read and kept me turning the pages.

This novel is the first in a three-part series set for publication by Penner Publishing, and I’m honestly glad to see it.  I need to read more about Moira’s abilities as an empath.  Like an onion, I think there are a lot more layers to her than were revealed in the first book. I’m also interested to see where this chemistry between Keenan and Moira goes.  It’s one of those relationships where there are a lot of “almosts” that leaves the reader thinking, “Seriously?  Just kiss the girl!”  And because he doesn’t, the chemistry just gets stronger and more interesting.

As a side-note, I did read one review about this book that rated it fairly low for having a “cliffhanger.”  I worried about this because I despise cliffhangers and have made a conscious decision to no longer read books that leave me hanging with the obvious intent to make me buy another book.  That is NOT this book.  True, many of the mysteries are left unsolved, but not in a frustrating way.  Actually, it reminds me very much of how Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta series has one huge mystery she’s trying to solve, while still dealing with the day-to-day smaller mysteries.

This is definitely a book that I would recommend to other readers and, in fact, I can’t wait to read the second book in the series.  If you like mysteries, I think this is a book you will thoroughly enjoy.

This novel is available in e-book and print format through Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Kobo and iTunes.