Friday, June 10, 2011

Shadow Point by Amy Briant

Book:  Shadow Point
Author:  Amy Briant
Publisher:  Bella Books

I don’t care who you are or how many books you may or may not have written, if you can find a way to smoothly slide the tantalizing little phrase “enthusiastically going down on me on the living room floor” into the first six pages of your story, I guaran-damn-tee that will you have my undivided attention for the duration. 

Mission (and a few other things) accomplished.

Shadow Point is a feisty little romantic paranormal thriller by first time novelist, Amy Briant.  In the story, we meet Madison McPeake, a burned-out corporate road warrior seriously in need of a metaphysical adjustment.  Unfortunately, she gets just that and more when she’s all but fired from her job, finds out that her only brother is dead, and realizes she’ll suddenly be responsible for a five-year old she’s never even met.  Like any responsible Next of Kin, she ties one on, buys a Dr. Spock book, and boards a plane to San Diego, where her brother was living in a tiny cabin in a remote section of a Navy base.  Once there, she meets the lovely next-door neighbor (with her truly lovely behind), Dr. Alice Piper (Pipe), and her surprisingly well-adjusted niece, Katiekins.

Why do I have the suspicion that if I was the one on that beach that evening, the next-door neighbor would have had a five o’clock shadow, a hairy ass, and man boobs?

Almost as soon as Madison arrives at the cabin, the action starts.  There are bad dreams, spooky encounters, strange sensations, and some good old-fashioned flirting, kissing, and fondling.  We meet a handful of unorthodox characters, see Madison really fight to make herself a better person for the kid, and learn that there is definitely more to Shadow Point than meets the eye.  Madison, Katie, and Pipe quickly form a strong bond, team up with an English Bulldog with a questionable taste in chew toys, and take on the malevolent, smelly, and downright creepy spirit.

It’s been a long time since I’ve read a good ghost story.  And, suffice to say, my wait ended with this book.   Ms. Briant was able to draw a landscape that was both beautiful and eerie; a lead character that managed to be pitiable, funny, and lovable; evolving relationships that while new and untested were credible; and a Big Bad that made the reader just about as skeeved-out as the characters.

Madison McPeake is truly brilliant.  Her thoughts, actions, rationalizations, and internal dialogue were pure comedic poetry, even in the darkest part of the story.  I loved the sad box of animal crackers, and her irrational protection of her Niners cap from the five-year old.  Likewise, Katie is wise beyond her years, but still threw tantrums when it came time for a bath.  Pipe, simply put, is every girl’s hot dream scientist.

And lest we forget, she has that truly lovely behind . . . and a few other decidedly unscientific parts.

Overall, this is a great book that scores high points in humor, mystery, and creepiness.  I’m not really so sure, though, why such a big deal was made early on of the Church of the Benevolent Fount – the whole fundamentalist thing seemed to be nothing more than a way to inject suspicion and drama into the brother’s death and Katie’s placement. Don’t get me wrong, it did, but by the end it was nothing more than an “oh, by the way, never mind”.  Similarly, I’m not really sure why we even get to know Patricia (Patsy) Klein.  Sure, she is a frisky little closet minx that had the hots for Mad’s brother, and she did provide a little comic relief, but still, she just dropped in and then disappeared.   

My bookie had 5-2 odds that she’d be gloriously hurled from the tip-top of the lighthouse by the Big Bad before the 15th Chapter.

All these little things aside, Shadow Point is a strong début novel, and Madison McPeake is someone I hope we get to meet again, because she is absolutely fun, fabulous, and a once-in-a-lifetime type of character.  The story was smart, colorful, and fresh, and it left few dangling threads or unanswered questions. Ms. Briant is currently working on a second novel, Romeo Fails, which is scheduled for release in February of 2012.

For the record, I aspire to be the annoying reader that keeps asking, “Is it done yet?  Is it done yet?  Now? Now?  How about now?”

I’m giving Shadow Point a 5.1 on the Rainbow Scale – Amy Briant did so many things right in this book, and I can’t remember ever laughing my way through something this fiendish.

Well done.

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