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Chasing Azrael (Deathly Insanity Book 1) Kindle Edition
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Top Customer Reviews
This book engaged me very quickly, and I ended up reading it over the course of about a day and a half, enjoying the entire experience.
On the surface, this is a psychological thriller/paranormal mystery/romance, and the book adheres to the reasonable expectations readers have for all three of those genres. This perhaps includes some of the less fortunate expectations, such as a bit of gender stereotyping (although not nearly as much as in other books I have read). Deeper down, however, the book deals with mourning and melancholy, differences between, and the intermingling of, grief and depression. It's poignant, and Butler makes you care about her characters.
Which brings me to another refreshing aspect of this book: the sympathetic protagonist. It seems like it has been decades since I have read a book with a likable protagonist. Since the 1990s, most books (the ones for grown ups, anyway) I read have main characters who are insufferably good, insufferably bad, insufferably narcissistic, insufferably clueless, or insufferably quirky. Andee seems human. Smart. Not perfect. Not awful. A little clueless but not completely self-absorbed.
The dialogue is well-crafted, which is good, because there is a lot of it. There is also a fair amount of action. Between those aspects of the story, the book goes fast. I recommend it for romance novel readers, people who like the Vampire Chronicles (this is not as dark but it did feel similar to me), and fans of the various female detective series out there. I do not recommend it for anyone who lacks patience with romance/serial drama themes.
I am very much looking forward to the next installment.
Full disclosure: I received a kindle copy of the book from the publisher so that I could read and review it.
One strong theme in this book is mental illness. I think it's handled very well (not that I truly have any experience with this issue, to be fair). I was struggling for awhile to identify with the main character (Andee, which is short for Andrea). I always found her sympathetic, I just didn't really "get" her at first. But as I read more of the book, as I learned more about her relationship with her deceased husband and her struggles since his death, she started to make sense to me. And by the end of the book, I like where she ended up (and was glad to learn there are planned sequels).
Other characters were also reasonably well-developed, which is especially nice for a first-person POV book like this is. I think we'll learn more about the police officer in sequels; there are hints that there's something more to him. Lily, a friend and fellow professor of Andee's, is mostly a support character. And yet, as I think back, I really know a lot about her by the end of this book. Joshua is, likewise, a friend and fellow professor, and he had me confused for awhile (but, this is explained by certain events we learn of at the end of the book). The method by which Andee finds out about Joshua's past is maybe a little contrived, but the point at which she learns was appropriate (and I'm not sure that it could have been done any differently).
This book is listed as having 366 pages but it read like something longer (that's not a bad thing, just the feeling I got -- the length is actually just right for me). I think the author handled multiple storylines well. There were a few elements that had me guessing (such as the character Natalya's extreme reactions when we first encounter her) early on, but things started to click later in the book.
Probably my favorite thing about the book was the setting, the environment. I have always enjoyed books set in remote parts of the UK where there's a creepy or scary feeling to what's going on. Andee is an archaeology professor at a university (so she deals with bones and death as a job) and a Goth-type who lives in a big, old home next to a cemetery. It's winter and there's a lot of snow on the ground. The university is quite old and has hidden passages and rooms. And, of course, there are all the ghosts Andee can see. All of these elements come together to create an atmosphere that matches really well with the events of this book. I've read some books where the setting is incidental and can kind of be ignored, but this isn't one of those!
The narrative style is mostly linear but a few chapters begin with flashbacks to the night Andee's husband died. These are well-placed and allow you to learn more about Andee, her husband, and their relationship.
If I had to list one criticism, I guess I'd talk about fantasy tropes. Andee has, for some years, been able to see and communicate with ghosts. When she finds out there is more to her ability than just this, she does most of the learning in a secret area of the university library by reading old books. Gaining knowledge from old books when a teacher isn't available is fairly standard for the genre. So is the refusal of one or more people around the character with abilities, to accept the existence of those abilities -- especially when the book is given a contemporary setting. (I just finished reading all the Dresden Files books, and this theme is discussed at length in those books. It also comes up in the Hallie Michaels books by Deborah Coates, which you might like if you enjoyed Chasing Azrael, by the way, as there are a lot of similar elements.) A character who has no business at a crime scene showing up to lend a hand also tends to pop up, especially in fantasy/urban fantasy/paranormal mysteries (there was something of an excuse offered here, at least). Incorporating elements of other cultures' folklore is also somewhat common, although I will say that I like the direction the author takes with this in Chasing Azrael. The folkloric aspects of the story tie in with "real world" events in an original way.
At any rate, I've spent some time discussing tropes, but I've had to sit and think for awhile to come up with them. There was never anything really bothering me as I read the book.
Although this book is from a small indie press, I found the editing, proofreading, and layout in the Kindle format book to be wonderful, and comparable to what I might see from a larger publishing house. I didn't take a lot of note of the language although there were a couple of times I ran into British slang I didn't know. It was easy enough to guess (from context) the general intent, so I just went with it. I don't think any meaning was lost by my taking that approach (consulting the dictionary tends to break immersion for me...).
Review copy provided by the publisher.
So, first up, probably the most defining feature of this book is the way it explores depression and bipolar disorder. The main character, Andee, deals with her own depression as well as her deceased husband's bipolar (although, he doesn't have that now he's a ghost... but he is still a bit of a douche - because that had nothing to do with the bipolar... that was just him).
But, it's OK... in sweeps the husband's best friend, Josh, who's had the decency to butt out for the two years since the tragic suicide of hubby, and not utter a word about his love of Andee that he's harboured for quite some time...
Instant book-boyfriend there, right? Right?! Just me? No... I think not.
OK. I'm risking talking this down with my tone. Thing is, I love the rough-around-the-edges-kind-of-bad-guy-comes-good main man. So, yes, I admit, Josh as a character was a major pull as far as my interest in this book goes.
But the whole storyline keeps you going. It's a who-dunnit complicated by the fact that ghosts are real and some of them can influence the world of the living... maybe even kill...
And I don't even want to go near any spoilery stuff. So, if you like something along the lines of paranormal-mystery with a good dollop of goth, and a dash of "Nooo! Don't let it be as the narrative is hinting it might be... MUST. KEEP. READING to find out!"... then, yeah, this might just be the book for you.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The first thing which caught my attention was the book cover followed by the blurb.Read more