Melissa F. Olson is a deceptively good story teller. Boundary Crossed comes across as a fun, light, “beach” read, and it is. More often than not, when we categorize a book this way we also mean there’s no real meat, little in the way of character and that it certainly doesn’t address is compelling issues. Nicely enough, Ms. Olson brings all of that to her “fun” read. So, it’s good story telling without being a difficult story to follow. There’s reflection without much angst (hey, every story needs a little angst), plot without a bunch of artificial plot mechanisms and embedded values without it being a “Message” book. In other words, it’s pretty near the epitome of what a light, summer read ought to be and when we settle for light reads that do less, we’re, well, settling. The book’s the story and setting seem so natural as to have been effortless creations. That’s a little like saying Fred Astaire’s dancing appears effortless and, perhaps not gravity-free, “gravity–lite.” It takes well-honed craft to leave that impression.
Let me step back a bit; the book’s protagonist is Allison “Lex” Luther (OK a little cheesy wink to Superman). She is working at a convenience store when a couple come in for diapers. However, the baby for whom they’re shopping turns out to be Lex’s niece Charlie (daughter of her dead sister Sam). Oh, and they’re vampires. As you can imagine, chaos and danger ensues. It appears that she is stabbed to death but survives and with that survival discovers the world’s not as she once thought. Along with vampires, there are werewolves and witches, of which she’s one.
So here’s a girl who has powers of which she was unaware, living in a world with creatures she recently considered merely mythic and thrust into a world of danger and intrigue. Sound familiar? Maybe, but the devil is in the details and the execution. Ms. Olson’s protagonist is in her early thirties, not a teen. While her reaction to this newly discovered world is initial shock, she doesn’t panic or step into super-mode. he deals with it as a former Army Sargent who has been deployed in Iraq, shocked but functional. In fact, one of the many qualities about this book I love is the plausible way events unfold and the characters interact with them. These characters and this world are believable from the initial introduction to the world to the way it works. Lex spends much of the book recovering from constantly feeling behind-the-eight-ball yet coping. Wouldn’t you? The interaction of the characters with Lex and each other seem to fit. There are few cookie-cutter characters or relationships. It’s all very down to earth, which, if you come to think about it, is a weird thing to say about paranormal world but one of the best complements you could give.
While I feel quite at home in this world, that doesn’t mean it’s tame or dull. She populates her world with intriguing characters, some of whom are easier to peg than others. There’s Simon, the University of Colorado professor and bohemian witch and Lily Pellar, his laid-back sister. There’s their intense Mom, Hazel Pellar, head of the witches in the area. There’s stud-muffin Quinn, who’s a bit of a private detective and fix-it man for the Vampires. I’ve given these folks a quick characterization but they are not caricatures. From John, Lex’s brother-in-law to her dad Richard Luther, former hippie and current shoe entrepreneur, they are colorful and don’t follow a pre-set script. Well, obviously they do, but they don’t appear to. All of these characters, relationships and world building occurs organically within the context of the action and dialog with little exposition.
So what are these things I love about Boundary Crossed?
- The people are down to earth.
- Les has some experience (in her early 30s).
- It feels like a plausible world; the introduction to the world is handle especially well.
- Lex is overwhelmed but coping.
- The writing, including dialog, fits the story and the setting.
- It has the right amount of exposition; most revelations are embedded in the dialog and action of the story.
- Intriguing characters.
What are some elements of which I’m less fond?
- Quinn borders on being a perfect guy (with some difficult history, plus vampire).
- While characters are intriguing and well fleshed-out, we don’t see as much development throughout the story as I would like.
While I went back and forth between the Kindle and the Audible versions of the story (using that delightful bit of magic, Whispersync for Voice), I mostly listened to it. I did this because Kate Rudd is the narrator. In fact, I was drawn to the book because Kate Rudd was the narrator rather than my usual find-the-book-and-hope-the-narrator-is-good mode. (For some other great books she narrates see, The Mad Scientist’s Daughter, The Fault in Our Stars, Timebound and Time’s Edge). I hadn’t read anything by Ms. Olson previously or knew much about her. I’ve read and like paranormal/urban fantasy, but it’s not a genre that naturally draws me in. So, while I’m a pretty big fan of Ms. Rudd’s narration, I think it was a particularly wonderful bit of serendipity that has her reading this book. Her voice is grounding. It lends itself towards projecting genuine characters and a rooted normalcy even in the least normal settings. So the genuine nature of Ms. Olson’s world and characters was only enhanced by Ms. Rudd’s performance of her book. If you like audiobooks, I highly recommend buying that version for this book.
Ms. Olson does a beautiful job presenting her world, characters and crises in plausible ways while keeping the book light and fun. I look forward to her second book in this series, Boundary Lines, due in October and will add the Scarlett Bernard series to my ever growing TBR list. I commend Boundary Crossing for your beach, plane and park (and any other location) reading pleasure.