Fans of gritty police dramas and supernatural mysteries will love Reader, the second book in J.S. Lenore’s Affinity Series!
Coming almost a year after the series’ first novel, Burner, Reader is a well-paced character piece that is definitely worth the wait.
About ‘Reader’ by J.S. Lenore
After nearly dying at the hands of an uncontrollable ghost, Detective Kim Phillips is finally back to work with the Chicago Police Department. Sure, she’s shackled to a desk, sifting through cold cases, but it’s better than being stuck in her apartment. It lets her focus on something other than her unreliable powers, the sudden influx of Turned ghosts in the Windy City, and the continuing tension between her and her old partner, Detective Riley Cross.
That all changes when she finds the case file of a missing girl and is sucked into a vision from thirty years ago. Caught between the present and the past, Kim struggles to find answers about the case and herself. Can Kim solve the mystery of her changing powers and find the girl, or will her tenuous grasp on her powers and the investigation spiral out of control?
‘Reader’ (Affinity Series, #2) book review
Let me first start off by saying this: Since finishing Burner last year, I’ve been not-so-secretly motivating/hounding J.S. Lenore to finish Reader. I couldn’t help but fall in love with the characters in this series (especially the sexy and debonair Detective Riley Cross) and found that I couldn’t get enough of the series’ gritty world — even though I basically live in Chicago and have been around some of it my whole life. (Obvs not the supernatural stuff, no matter how much I wish that was an actual thing here in the Windy City.)
I was incredibly impatient during the ten months between Burner and Reader (sorry, J.S. Lenore), but that impatience was definitely rewarded. Reader is everything I hoped the second novel in this paranormal mystery series would be.
Not that I knew what I was in for, of course. This novel is quite different from its predecessor in a couple of ways. Most notably, compared to Burner, there’s not a whole lot of intense action in Reader. But that’s to its betterment, not its detriment. While Burner felt like there was a high-stakes action (or horror) sequence every couple of chapters, Reader saves the action and uses it sparingly, emphasizing the characters and their relationships instead.
And, when you think about these books in the context of the novels’ emphasized affinities, it makes a lot of sense. The act of burning is very much a physically demanding one, both in the real world and the world of the Affinity Series. It’s acting upon something or someone else. So the fact that Burner was a relatively action-heavy novel makes complete sense.
The same idea goes for Reader. Reading, both in the world of the novel and what I did with the novel, is a quieter, more thought-provoking process. The act of touching an object (or person) to gain important memories and emotions is a softer action, but no less powerful. And that’s exactly how I’d describe Reader: softer, but no less powerful.
The combination of the quiet, snowy setting and the focus of interpersonal interactions and relationships give this installment a slightly calmer tone and atmosphere. That’s not to say that there aren’t any scary or horrifying things going on in this novel. They’re just more sinister and threatening in a constant underlying way (rather than a “jump scare” way).
I find it really interesting that J.S. Lenore introduces this affinity in terms of how it’s not supposed to work rather than how the affinity has traditionally been used. It’s really effective in that this manner of storytelling kills multiple birds with one stone: showing us how reading should work, how Kim’s new given powers differ from that traditional standard, and why we as readers should view those differences as threatening and dangerous. Additionally, this sort of tactic puts the reader on equal ground with Kim and Priya. Yes, they both still do a lot of exposition so that we doesn’t fall too far behind, but it makes for a far more interesting novel when the main characters don’t know much more about their situations than the reader.
This new affinity — and the new ways in which Kim can use it — becomes especially important in solving this installment’s specific mystery. Though it’s refreshing in that it’s not a supernatural-related mystery in any way, Kim’s new ability to read objects and people is crucial to solving the case. Disconnecting the cold case Kim is trying to solve from the overarching series mysteries allows us, the readers, to see just how the affinities work in and fit into the context of the mundane world. Not only that, but the lack of another paranormal mystery allows the story and the characters to breathe more.
And in that breathing room, we get some wonderful character interactions. And, by “wonderful,” I mean that they’re more character-driven than plot driven, therefore feeling more organic and “real.” All of the characters in this world bring out the best in each other. Different facets of their personalities come out every time they interact, showing us more of who they are and what they’re capable of than any action sequence ever would.
While Kim and Priya do share quite a few vulnerable and intimate moments that made me appreciate their relationship more in this novel than I did in the previous one, my favorite interactions are still those that occur between Kim and Cross. Their sizzling chemistry practically leaps off the page every time they’re together, including those where they’re just going over case notes or joking next to the water cooler. In fact, one of my favorite moments between the two of them happens next to the police station break room’s water cooler. Nothing big happens in the scene, per say, but it’s just another building block of a moment leading them closer to where I’d like their relationship to be.
In case you couldn’t tell, I love Cross. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been in love with him from the very beginning. We’re talking head over heels/weak in the knees in love. And I never thought I could love him more than I already did.
I was wrong.
Cross was sexy and caring in Burner, but he’s just straight-up adorable and huggable in Reader (still in a sexy way, obvs). He’s almost like an adorable but protective puppy that you just want to smother with hugs and curl up with on the couch. He’s just that lovely. And he gets quite a few unexpected and exciting moments in this novel, including two in particular that fans of the series will go crazy for. Reader sets Cross up for some pretty large character developments down the line and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for him.
Reader does everything the second book in a series should do and so much more. Not only does it build upon all of the events and characterization of the previous novel, but it also broadens the scope of the story in terms of its overall mythology, posing more questions than it answers (but not in a frustrating way).
Reader is an addicting read that fans of the paranormal, mysteries, and crime dramas won’t be able to put down and I, for one, will be recommending it to anyone and everyone that I can.