Source: ARC from the author
Back Cover Description:
The sleepy town of Newbury, Connecticut, is shocked when a little girl is found brutally murdered. The town's top detective, perplexed by a complete lack of leads, calls in FBI agent Leia Bines, an expert in cases involving children.
Meanwhile, Dr. Peter Gram, a psychiatrist at Newbury's hospital, searches desperately for the cause of seven-year-old Naya Hastings devastating nightmares. Afraid that she might hurt herself in the midst of a torturous episode, Naya's parents have turned to the bright young doctor for help.
The situations confronting Leia and Peter converge when Naya begins drawing chilling images of murder after being bombarded by the disturbing images in her dreams. Lacking any other clues, Leia explores the information found in Naya's crude drawings which lead her closer to the killer...and panic him into further action.
A Circle of Souls is a suspenseful mystery with a dose of paranormal and a pinch of romance. The main paranormal element is Naya's being able to speak with the murdered girl while she's sleeping.
The book was fast-paced and had realistic characters. The world-building was very good. The details relating to the psychiatrist were very good and immersed the reader into his world. However, I questioned a few of the police procedural parts (like how quickly the missing person status was put into affect, the use of an amber alert, and how many people tramped through the crime scene before forensics was brought in).
This was a very multi-cultural book: Peter is white, Naya is Indian, Leia is half-Mexican half-white, another character is British, and yet another is a black Jamaican.
There were also a variety of belief systems. The most talked about were the Hindu religion (specifically regarding reincarnation and destiny) and Jamaican folklore. The belief systems were more lived than talked about, and the only parts that were explained were those related to the case. By the end, a non-Hindu main character does come to believe he might have a reincarnated soul.
I almost would have liked more of an explanation of the Hindu elements of the book because I was confused by how Naya could talk to the soul of a dead girl if, as it's later implied, a soul is immediately reborn. But the answer didn't really matter since I was already suspending disbelief about the paranormal elements, anyway.
The writing was very good, though it could have been tightened in a few places. For example, several times the author repeated a detailed physical description of a character after having given that full description just a page or two before.
There was a very minimal amount of profanity of the "he swore" variety and a brief, non-graphic sex scene remembered from the childhood of one of the main characters. (The scene explains the motives behind most of his subsequent actions.) The gore was not graphic while still making the murder chilling. Overall, I enjoyed this book very much and would recommend it as "good, clean reading."
If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.
The slaaf stumbled along the shore of Willow Lake. The ground was soft from the previous night’s rain, and wet leaves made a slippery carpet under his feet. His arms ached from struggling to contain the animal he carried in a coarse gunnysack across his shoulder. The sedative had worn off, and the animal thrashed more and more violently as the slaaf approached the faded red boathouse. Finally, in front of the peeling door, he dropped the squirming sack. The creature inside yelped as the bag hit the ground. The slaaf found the key on his large metal ring, unlocked the padlock, and slipped inside.
He lifted the sack onto a long, wooden workbench near the back of the boathouse, where its contents lay still for a moment. He wiped his sweaty forehead with his arm, while with his other hand, he fingered the small bag of white powder inside the front pocket of his jeans. He sat carefully in a creaky wooden chair against the wall. He wanted to wait, knowing it would be over so quickly...but his hand moved against his will, pulled out the bag, reached in, and took a pinch. He placed the white powder in the palm of his other hand. He snorted it, and his head came alive.
Yes, yes, he thought. He cast his euphoric mind into the ether, searching for his master. Would he come?
But the euphoria didn’t last long, and the slaaf, having felt no trace of his master’s presence, found himself slammed back into his body. His hands were gripping the arms of the wooden chair. The muscles in his legs had tensed so rigidly that he wondered if he would be able to stand.
“I hate you! I hate you!” he screamed at the top of his lungs. The sound of his panting was interrupted by a low whine from the sack on the workbench. The slaaf snorted more of the cocaine and tried again to reach his master, whom he was certain was toying with him. Again, he failed. It took more and more of the cocaine to reach the ecstatic state he needed to summon his master. And now, the little bag was empty.
Read the rest of the prologue and chapter one.