The Grendel Affair
SPI Files Book 1
Author: Lisa Shearin
Publisher: Ace Fantasy (A Penguin Random House Company)
Page count: 292pp
Release date: 31st Dec 2013
Reviewer: Theresa Derwin
online: www.lisashearin.com, @lisashearin
When Makenna (Mac) Fraser moved from her small home town of Weird Sisters, she intended to use her seer powers of identifying supernatural creatures, (which everyone else couldn’t see) into a brilliant journalistic career. Still, those rare skills came in handy working for a trashy New York tabloid. However, she never expected to be head-hunted (in a good way) by the SPI, a Supernatural equivalent of the FBI, a secret government agency set up to protect all species from dangerous cryptids and bring them to justice, whilst looking after the everyday supernatural inhabitants of NY.
Of course, not battle trained, she became their seer, the much needed eyes of the agents who would go out on combat missions.
The first in the series starts with Agent Mac Fraser doing a job off the books, for antiquity dealer Ollie, late at night at his shop. He’s being tormented by a nacht gnome, dangerous little buggers that can be contained by knocking them out with liquor. So, armed with bottles of Jack Daniels she is spotted by stuck-in-the-mud partner Ian Byrne. He catches her roaming the streets with tequila filled water pistol (she’d been banned from live ammunition after an ‘incident’) and insists on going with her. Which is a good job considering they find a mutilated body at the shop.
Between a hidden bunker full of monster body parts underneath a crypt, to mysterious letters addressed to the ‘Dragon Lady’ boss, Agent Mac and her partner Ian are going to have to put aside their differences to battle a nemesis threatening to let loose a myriad of monsters in Times Square NYE. The aim? To let the world know that Supernatural creatures exist, cause chaos, fear and death.
As the only seer in the NY office, with monsters on the loose, Mac is the only one who can see, identify and mark the danger. So, fighting his own fears, partner Ian has to accept that Mac needs to be trained as a field operative. And if anyone is going to train her, it’s him. What appears to be a gruff, slightly cold exterior on Ian Byrne, is a form of protective shielding he uses to keep his feelings for Mac locked in tight. And as they work together to combat evil that has a personal grudge against their boss, they become even closer.
There are some great characters in this novel, from Ollie, the human artifact dealer, ‘Dragon Lady’ boss who hides a tough exterior in her petite form, über Geek Kenji, Yasha the ‘cuddly’ Russian werewolf and the Scandinavian gang of agents, there are loads of relationships to enjoy here. But it’s Mac and Ian who take centre-stage; Mac with her honest, yet somehow naive opinions, and regular mishaps, which remind me slightly of Laura Resnick’s Esther Diamond, though less accident prone, and Ian Byrne, with his ‘Agent’ exterior which really hides a heart of gold. Think Mulder and Scully but reversed.
Add in some brilliant one-liners, monster-mashing fun, blood and gore, high-octane action and a fast pace, and what you have is a series that starts on a high. I was addicted within a few pages – okay, let’s be honest, I was addicted by page four, and here’s why.
As Mac puts it, whilst talking about her previous work for seedy tabloid ‘The Informer’, “where only stories like ‘Donald Trump is a Werewolf Love Child’ had any hope of making it to the front page. … ‘That particular headline had been an obvious lie – at least it’d been obvious to me. No self-respecting werewolf would have hair like that.”
See, with snort-worthy narrative from Mac’s point-of-view such as that, you’re in for an hilarious ride. This is truly great first-person snark, as C E Murphy would have it. To add even more enjoyment, Shearin is adept at using relevant pop culture references. As for the combat and fight scenes plus military style masouvers, these are handled deftly, and it’s clear Shearin has done her homework, building up the tension at the right time.
If I could find anything more to say to recommend this I would, but it’s possibly just as easy to say, the end rounds off, but leaves teasers for the future. There are so many more creatures the SPI could explore, and we haven’t even nearly dealt with the complex dichotomy between Ian and Mac.
So, I suggest you stay on for the long haul. I know I will be.