Has it really been almost a year since Kelley Armstrong's Omens
appeared in my mailbox? When I learned the second book in the
Cainsville series was due out in August, I knew I'd better start
I've been thinking about how to describe Omens and keep coming back to the term paranormal light. This novel is perfect for readers who've been curious about Armstrong but who don't generally like books with otherworldly creatures in them. No werewolves or vampires here. There is a bit of a creepy factor; a strange small town; and some second sight, superstitions, old wives' tales, and folk legends. All you anti-paranormal readers need not shy away from Omens. This may be your gateway novel to Armstrong's writing.
- What's it about? High-society Olivia Taylor-Jones discovers at age twenty-four that she was adopted. When she is told why her true identity was kept a secret--that she is really the daughter of two serial killers--she goes underground to avoid the press and to take some pressure off her widowed mother and her politically ambitious finance. Acting on a tip, she moves to Cainsville, a hard-to-find small town an hour from her native Chicago. What she learns there about herself, her parents, and life in general makes up the bulk of the story.
- Olivia. Olivia is a smart young woman whose life is suddenly turned upside down. For a number of reasons, she decides to leave home and thus must experience the real world, including finding an affordable apartment and getting a job. She adapts pretty well to being poor, but then again, she has a really strong safety net (she can always ask her mother for money, and she will have access to her huge trust fund in a few months). Regardless, she is likeable as she struggles with finding her new niche and new self-image. Although her mother and fiance are not strongly developed, the people she meets in Cainsville are more fully realized, especially a defense lawyer, Gabriel Walsh, with whom she teams up to investigate the truth about her birth parents (the Larsens) and about her own heritage.
- Cainsville. The small town is filled with colorful characters. I don't want to say quirky because that implies a whimsy that doesn't exist; the citizens of Olivia's new home have a darker, deeper aspect to them. And, in fact, the town itself is a bit, shall we say, off, with its gargoyles, lack of a church, constant population size, and isolation. It's almost Stepford like--you just know there's a secret history there.
- Themes and genre. As I mentioned, Omens steps away from Kelley Armstrong's usual paranormal genre. It is a suspenseful, mystery/thriller that is as much about the investigation of the Larsens and their guilt or innocence as it is about Olivia discovering her place in the world and reconsidering her future. The title of book comes from Olivia's knack for seeing and interpreting omens (especially birds and poppies) and her strong superstitions (never leave your shoes upside down; keep the opening of your pillowcases facing out). Armstrong infuses the story with a thread of unease, but much of the action and Olivia's dilemmas are solidly grounded.
- Recommendation and general thoughts. Omens is the start of a new series, and as such, Armstrong spends some time familiarizing us with Cainsville and its inhabitants. The novel doesn't end on a cliffhanger, but several major story lines are left open-ended, and we have to wait for book two (coming out in a few weeks!) to get more answers. Overall, I really enjoyed Omens and zipped through the audiobook fairly quickly because I found it hard to step away from the story. I was caught up in several of the plot arcs, especially the one about Olivia's parents and, of course, the underlying question, What's the deal with Cainsville? I'm recommending Omens as a promising start to a complex series, with the warning that you'll need to keep on reading future installments to get the full story.
- Audiobook. The unabridged audiobook (Penguin Audio; 14 hr, 40 min) is narrated by Carine Montbertrand and Mozhan Marno. Montebertrand was the primary narrator, and I'm not a huge fan of hers, although she didn't do a bad job. Marno put in a stronger performance, and I was slightly disappointed when her chapters ended. I'm not quite sure why the producers felt it was necessary to have two narrators for this book; I don't think it added much to the story. If the narrators are the same for Visions (the second Cainsville book), I think I'll be reading instead of listening.
Source: Review (print); bought (audio) (see review policy)
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