By J Lincoln Fenn
23-year-old Dimitri Petrov makes a living writing obituaries, but on Halloween he gets a last-minute assignment to cover a séance at the haunted Aspinwall Mansion. There he meets Lisa, a punk-rock drummer who works at the local nursing home, and promptly falls for her. But right as he’s trying to woo her, things get real creepy—the séance becomes real and Dimitri has a near-death experience.
After waking up in the morgue and finding himself stuck with a female ghost he dubs Poe, things only get creepier. Citizens are gruesomely murdered and pieces of the puzzle slowly click together as Dimitri unravels his own connection to it all, the truth about his parents, and the secrets of a pair of antiquarian books.
I started reading Poe in the morning before work, and I finished it that evening. As I raced through the book, I had my own theories about Dimitri’s history, his parents, and Lisa’s family—some of which were right, others not so much. Either way, J. Lincoln Fenn combines horror, mystery, humor, supernatural suspense, and romance in a neat little bundle. The plot moves smoothly, with perfect twists and turns, each action leading to another logical action. Characters and plot devices are all introduced and nothing jumped out as strange or out of the ordinary (for example, after Dimitri throws an old stuffed animal across the room and it heavily thunks into the wall, my first thought was, There is something in there. I was right).
The description is exhilaratingly creepy, the writing feels very gothic horror. I found myself glancing over my shoulder as I read, creaks in the house making me jump. I was completely absorbed.
The characters were well-crafted. I was impressed with Dimitri, his quick-thinking and intelligence, but also his tendency of putting foot-in-mouth I hated his lying and slight tendency toward misogyny, but I appreciated the realness it gave him. I loved Poe (especially as the readers increasingly get to know her). I really loved Dimitri’s dreams/flashbacks to Aspinwall Mansion, and just his dreams in general—I found that they added a lot to the story. In fact, it felt a lot like Aspinwall Mansion was a character of its very own, the flashbacks some of my favorite parts of the novel.
I loved many of the more minor characters and how their roles neatly fit into the overarching plot. Something that I had a hard time with was the lack of development between Lisa and Dimitri—I didn’t quite get their relationship. I liked Lisa’s character but I wanted more. I wanted to delve a bit more deeply into her past, her quirks and her issues, and I wanted to know why she liked Dimitri and when she fell as hard for him as he did for her. I also really hated him lying to her and treating her like she was a fragile, damsel-in-distress—part of his character, it would seem, but I was annoyed on her behalf nonetheless. Maybe I will get to see more of their relationship in a sequel (there has to be a sequel, right? Right?).
I greatly appreciated (and also was a little disgusted by) Fenn’s ability to write about spleen-eating and throat-ripping and intestines everywhere. It was incredibly well-written and it even made me cringe (and Game of Thrones has desensitized me quite a bit). The humor that laced the book more than made up for it’s cringe-worthy moments—I laughed aloud several times, chuckled quietly to myself many more.
In short, if you like mystery, the supernatural, and quick-paced reads with some humor to take the edge off, Poe is for you.
Written on 25th September 2014 by Vanessa .