Thursday, 16 January 2014


Touched (The Marnie Baranuik Files #1)

By A.J. Aalto

3 out of 5

The media has a nickname for Marnie Baranuik, though she’d rather they didn’t; they call her the Great White Shark, a rare dual-talented forensic psychic. Twice-Touched by the Blue Sense--which gives her the ability to feel the emotions of others, and read impressions left behind on objects--Marnie also has a doctorate in preternatural biology and a working knowledge of the dark arts. She is considered without peer in the psychic community. 

Then her first big FBI case ended with a bullet in one shoulder and a chip on the other, a queasy heart and a serial killer in the wind, leaving her a public flop and a private wreck. When the FBI’s preternatural crimes unit tracks her down at a remote mountain lodge for her insight on a local case, her quiet retirement is promptly besieged by a stab-happy starlet, a rampaging ghoul, and a vampire-hunting jackass in tight Wranglers. Marnie figures the only real mystery is which one will kill her first. 

Too mean to die young, backed up by friends in cold places, and running with a mouth as demure as a cannon’s blast, Marnie Baranuik is about to discover that there’s no such thing as quitting time when you’re Touched.

Marnie Baranuik works as a consultant to the FBI, and has absolutely no filter from what she thinks to what she says.  Oh, and she also happens to be the psychic "day-sitter" to a Revenant (aka vampire), and is quickly being pushed into being the media darling and face of the preternatural that is coming to light in the modern world.  But being in the spotlight makes her the target for enemies and nutcases alike.

Firstly let me just say that I wanted to love this book.  Half-way through the first chapter I was gripped, and excited that I might have found a story that would make up for all the disappointing books I've read lately.
There was a lot to love.
Marnie is ridiculous - in a good way.  She is very open, and seems to be missing the embarrassment gene.  For example, she meets a good-looking sheriff, and suddenly spews out her life story, awkward moments, and admits to an affair with her colleague.  Her lack of control (and lack of concern) of what comes out of her mouth might have something to do with the fact that she is psychic, and shares a strong psychic bond with her vampire, Harry.
She doesn't care about being the media face for psychics; in fact she wants to turn her back on the whole FBI cooperation after the last job ended with her getting shot.
Harry the revenant is entertaining, with his Old English slang, and constant criticisms of his day-sitter and her lack of style.  He enjoys playing with the humans, and scaring them whenever he gets the chance.
Mark Batten is the vampire-hunter turned FBI employee, who also happens to be the guy that Marnie had passionate motel sex with, then found out he was engaged to somebody else.  He's back in Marnie's life, even moving in with her when her life is in danger.  Unfortunately, as much as Marnie hates him and knows he's a jerk (among other wonderful descriptions), she can't help the chemistry between them.

The main downside for what should have been a gripping story was the repetitive and stuttering flow.
Marnie gets attacked and almost killed.  Repeat.  Zombies.  Almost killed.  Repeat.
None of the characters learnt from their mistakes.  They know that Marnie is the target for the attacks, and that she has a desire to solve the problem, even if she (repeatedly) puts her self in harm's way - and her friends and colleagues (from the FBI!  I assume they have a few brain cells between them) just leave her alone with so many openings for her to chase danger, or danger to track them to the cabin.
By halfway through I was struggling to keep interested.

There were parts of the story that seemed randomly inserted for no reason whatsoever.  For example when all of Marnie's gloves were stolen.  They were stolen - oh no, make a big deal.  And then never mention it again.  It was a very clumsy opening for the author to explain "witch-walking".
And Marnie's brother.  Fine, he got turned into one of the undead, but I would have expected Marnie to be a little more concerned that her brother was technically dead.  Perhaps a desire to hunt down the how and why of it?  Made it part of the plot to either hide him or break the news to her family?  As it was, it felt like Wes just walked up, said "Hi I'm a vampire" and everyone shrugs and carries on.

Oh, and was I the only person who felt disorientated, as though I was in the middle of the series.  Several times I checked that there wasn't another book that was supposed to precede this one.  I felt frustrated a lot of the time - I wanted to know the story of the first FBI case; to read the fling with Batten, instead of just flashbacks; to read about the world learning about psychics and vampires, and why Marnie became the media's Great White.

I think I'll read the next in the series, the characters were great and worth following.

Goodreads link

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