Mind Over Monsters: A F.R.E.A.K.S. Squad Investigation by Jennifer Harlow

“Beatrice Alexander is no ordinary schoolteacher—she can move objects with her mind, an embarrassing skill she hasn’t yet mastered or embraced. After nearly killing her brother by accident, she joins the F.R.E.A.K.S. Squad, the Federal Response to Extra-Sensory and Kindred Supernaturals. This top-secret branch of the FBI combats ghosts, ghouls, and other monsters threatening humanity.”  Book Description

The premise of this book is intriguing.  Beatrice’s fellow squad members include a reticent werewolf, an obnoxious vampire, an elegant pyrokinetic, a teleporting teenager, a baby-faced psychometric and a blind medium.  Bea’s first case with the group involves evidence of a necromancer in the small town of Bridge Stone, Colorado:  he or she is raising zombies, but why and can they stop him before anyone else falls victim?

I wanted to like this book.  It’s a first novel and there is definitely potential:  I like the idea of a top-secret team of crime-fighters with unique paranormal and supernatural abilities.  I like the basic cast of characters.

I don’t like Beatrice, at least not yet.  She’s 26 years old but she reads more like a teenager who’s just discovered boys.  Yes, I know her romantic experience has been limited, but I think Harlow overdid the number of “OMG, our hands touched!” moments.  Not only were there too many of those moments, they were too vividly described; when Bea first meets Will, she opens the door and we’re treated to 3 paragraphs of her thoughts before she says anything and another 2 paragraphs before he replies.  The paragraphs may lessen but sadly, this is how most of her interactions with Will and Oliver are portrayed:  too much attention focused on telling us exactly what girlish thoughts are streaming through Bea’s mind and not enough attention on simply sketching a scene and letting the reader feel it.

While I enjoy a vicarious glimpse into the life of a newly-discovered “it girl”, Harlow overdoes this as well.  Rather than draw me further into the story, it distances me from it.  Right off the bat, the girl whom no one noticed before has two hotties vying for her attention and one of those hotties is so traumatized by the death of his wife years before that he’s been completely indifferent to women since—until he first lays eyes upon Bea, that is.  It doesn’t ring true:  a guy like that would need time to let his guard down.

Not only has Bea suddenly become a hottie-magnet, she’s also at the top of the game on the Squad despite being  the newest recruit—and even though she apparently needs 3 1/2 pages of clues before she can figure out she’s talking to a vampire.  Ack—if she’s going to be super-quick with guessing what kind of supernatural is most likely to be involved with a particular crime, she should have pegged the vampire within the first paragraph of their meeting.  Aside of that minor detail,  I like seeing the Ugly Duckling turn into the beautiful swan, the caterpillar turn into a butterfly, but I want to see the transformation happen.  The transformation is what makes the story interesting and so far, Harlow has skipped that step.  She does show promise in her treatment of the relationship between Bea and Oliver—their scenes at the end of the book were excellent and might be enough to persuade me to give the next book in the series a shot.   Untitled as of yet,  it is scheduled to come out this fall.

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2 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    marcy ogle said,

    Did you find it gory?

  2. 2

    lightheartedlibrarian said,

    Not really. There is gore but it’s not so descriptive that it bothered me. It’s also written in a humorous slant—that downplays the gore-factor.


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