I don't read a lot of urban fantasy, but this one has a great premise: Cleo has an unusual talent. She can see when people lie, by way of a shadow mask that covers their face to a greater or lesser extent, depending how big the lie is. Sometimes the mask comments, too, betraying the person's real feelings. This is such a cool idea, but there's a dark side too. What must it be like to know, beyond any possibility of doubt, when someone lies to you? Your best friend? No, of course your bum doesn't look big in that. No, of course I’m not trying to steal your bloke. Yes, I'd love to see you tonight but I've really got to work. Your boyfriend? I love you. You're the only one. You're the best ever in bed. Eek.
So when Cleo is recruited by other
'supras' (people with similar talents), part of her is thrilled to be
amongst people who understand, with whom she doesn't have to pretend.
Sadly, Cleo is immediately sent undercover to winkle out a traitor
amongst the supras, which involves a lot of hanging around people to
watch for lies, and asking leading questions, so she's still on her own.
isn't the usual self-confident assertive female lead character so
common in urban fantasy. Instead she's a much more realistic person,
damaged to some extent by the lies she's been exposed to by everyone
around her. However, her slightly chirpy voice and her constant mistakes
get very wearing after a while. Another big problem: way too many
characters to keep up with. I could possibly remember names, but trying
to keep track of everyone's supra abilities (which they often hid, even
from other supras) was impossible. And the plot fell over because it
depended on Cleo being kept in the dark about crucial information. As
she herself pointed out, if she'd been told everything right from the
start, the problem could have been solved in five minutes.
in the middle of the book things begin to pick up, and there's a secret
about one character that I just didn't see coming. And at about the
three quarters point, there's possibly the best sex-with-subtext scene
I've ever read. Quite brilliant. But after that, things crater
spectacularly. Firstly, after all the undercover work, the bad guys
reveal themselves to Cleo after she makes an unbelievably stupid
decision and puts herself into their power. Then things degenerate into a
long-drawn-out and totally farcical melee of a finale. Authors really
have to decide whether they're going for the serious,
oh-no-everyone-might-die line, or whether it's going to be lighthearted
fluff. Once characters start dying (well, one character, anyway), you're
fairly well committed to serious, and fluff seems distasteful (to me,
There are a few loose endings left dangling, like the
oft-mentioned but never seen step-father, and why did Beau conceal his
true nature? But I guess there's a series in the pipeline, so there has
to be fodder for future books. There were too many flaws and saggy
moments for me to enjoy this completely, but even for a non-fan of urban
fantasy like me, there were still plenty of fun moments, a few nice
characterisations and that amazing sex scene. Recommended for fans of
the genre, and it is a brilliant premise. Three stars.