Dead Spots - Melissa Olson

Review for…

Dead Spots (Scarlett Bernard #1) by Melissa Olson

Scarlett Bernard knows about personal space: step within ten feet of her, and anything supernatural is instantly neutralized—vampires and werewolves become human again, and witches can’t cast the slightest spell. Scarlett uses her status as a null to cover up crime scenes for Los Angeles’s three most powerful magical communities, helping them keep humanity, and the LAPD, in the dark. 
One night Scarlett gets caught at the scene of a grisly murder by the all-too-human LAPD cop Jesse Cruz, who blackmails her into a deal: he’ll keep quiet about the supernatural underworld if she helps him crack the case. Their pact doesn’t sit well with Dashiell, the city’s chief vampire, who fears his whole empire is at stake. And when the clues start to point to Scarlett herself, it’ll take more than her unique powers to catch the real killer and clear her name.

I have to hand it to Olson, she’s created something that I don’t think I’ve seen much of in paranormal fiction, especially urban fantasy; the null is a new paranormal creature to fit along with witches, vampires and werewolves, whose basic skill is removing magic from her surrounding area. This one is employed as clean-up crew for all the paranormal mishaps that occur in Los Angeles.

Scarlett Bernard is estranged from her brother, has recently lost her mentor and is in a love-triangle.

She’s down-to-earth, she’s really smart for a 20-something heroine in an urban fantasy, she drives a van that is one-in-a-million, generic tees, jeans and kicks, and knows when to walk so it doesn’t look like she’s running. Most of the time being in Scarlett’s head subtly reinforces how precarious her ‘human’ position among all these powerful beings is. It’s thrilling and entertaining, and Olson has created an interesting narrator.

For the most part.

Scarlett’s also infuriatingly and randomly catty. She refers to several women as having “‘n’ extra pounds”, and one as beautiful despite being overweight, and when one waitress dares to flirt with a man she’s only known for a few days, she jokes that the waitress’s fake breasts are gonna make her fall over.

But the guys, oh the guys. It’s not a typical love-triangle, but it’s there, no doubt about it. There’s the cop (one reference to his “caramel” skin was annoying, but it was only once) and the werewolf (kinda forgettable but they’re already hooking up). Oh, and she works with both of them, talk about complicated.

So, right, it’s not a dramatic love-triangle where she swoons and can’t decide between them, but then we spend specifically appointed time where she thinks about them, like at one point she needs to kill some time and think and she literally thinks something like ‘and then my thoughts strayed to the two men in my life’ which was a bit of an eye roll moment. If I hadn’t been listening to the audiobook while doing other things, I might have skimmed a lot of it. Things always seem longer in an audiobook.

(Specific to the audiobook: why does an american raised cop, I'm talking about Jesse, have a generic latino accent in the audiobook? I’m calling foul.)

To be honest, if these are her choices… they aren't even that exciting, I kind of wish she just did her job and blushed without actively comparing them. It gets boring, so quickly.

Also, thinking about the dudes you wished you could be kissing while you’re being held captive and looking for a way out, waiting to be rescued, is so, so boring.

The vampires were cool and classy, the werewolves were passionate and warm, the witches were underappreciated. I liked how Olson creates a shared history for all these paranormals, and I am not upset with this stereotypes about them. However, I was convinced for a large part of the book that Dashiell, powerful leader of the vampires and de facto leader of paranormal Los Angeles, would be the other part of the love triangle for Scarlett. He kept threatening her life, but that is by far the least concerning thing, I could see them getting past it… maybe.

Now a moment about my wishes, with some spoilers: even after Dashiell’s wife, Beatrice, turned out to be as amazing as she seemed, and loved Scarlett, I hoped she was secretly evil and behind all the attacks, but no such luck. Though that would have made Dashiell available, and begun a slow-burn romance as they grew to— anyway. They could have at least had a triad set up or something… but now I’m getting ahead of myself.

Another spoiler and a moment that I wish had been excluded: it comes out that the null she’s looking for has been raped, and then Scarlett herself is taken captive by a bad person, and threatened with rape… Having two nulls, a passively paranormal creature, being raped seemed like going too far. But then again, I would like rape to not be the first and only thing women are threatened with in fiction. What’s wrong with pulling teeth and breaking bones? Keep your violence a little more feminist, my friends!

The leaders of the groups are among some of the most interesting characters, and getting the chance to see more of what’s going on with them and what the twist at the end means for Scarlett, means I’m just curious enough to justify having bought this trilogy all at once.

I’ll probably keep listening, but I’m prepared now. Scarlett may have good plans and think things through most of the time, until she gets distracted by attractive men. What's all the cleverness gonna do if you’re just gonna be so stupid!?

Pages: 293
Year: October 30, 2012
Publisher: 47North, an imprint of Amazon Publishing

Read: 25 September 2017 to 1 October 2017
Stars: 2.5 (I’m curious)