Book Review: Omens by Kelley Armstrong

Posted November 29, 2013 by Stormi in Book Reviews, Review Archive / 2 Comments

Book Review: Omens by Kelley ArmstrongOmens by Kelley Armstrong
Series: Cainesville, #1, #1
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Published by Dutton Adult on August 20, 2013
Pages: 486
Format: Hardcover
Source: the library


Twenty-four-year-old Olivia Taylor Jones has the perfect life. The only daughter of a wealthy, prominent Chicago family, she has an Ivy League education, pursues volunteerism and philanthropy, and is engaged to a handsome young tech firm CEO with political ambitions.

But Olivia’s world is shattered when she learns that she’s adopted. Her real parents? Todd and Pamela Larsen, notorious serial killers serving a life sentence. When the news brings a maelstrom of unwanted publicity to her adopted family and fiancé, Olivia decides to find out the truth about the Larsens.

Olivia ends up in the small town of Cainsville, Illinois, an old and cloistered community that takes a particular interest in both Olivia and her efforts to uncover her birth parents’ past.

Aided by her mother’s former lawyer, Gabriel Walsh, Olivia focuses on the Larsens’ last crime, the one her birth mother swears will prove their innocence. But as she and Gabriel start investigating the case, Olivia finds herself drawing on abilities that have remained hidden since her childhood, gifts that make her both a valuable addition to Cainsville and deeply vulnerable to unknown enemies. Because there are darker secrets behind her new home and powers lurking in the shadows that have their own plans for her.

Also by this author: Wild Justice, Sea of Shadows, Visions, The Masked Truth, City of the Lost, Forest of Ruin, Betrayals, A Darkness Absolute, Indigo, Rituals, The Unquiet Past, This Fallen Prey, Stolen, Rough Justice, Dime Store Magic, Industrial Magic, Haunted, Broken, Dark Screams: Volume Nine, No Humans Involved,, Waking the Witch, Portents, Missing, Alone in the Wild, Watcher in the Woods, Otherworld Secrets, Wherever She Goes, "The Case of the Half-Demon Spy", "Truth & Consequences", "Territorial", "Escape", "Adventurer", Otherworld Chills, A Stranger in Town, "Bargain", Hex on the Beach, "Recruit", "Checkmate", "Framed"

First in the Cainesville urban fantasy series revolving around Olivia Taylor-Jones / Eden Larsen and Gabriel Walsh.

Do NOT skip the prologue!

My Take
Wow, excellent! It’s such a slow, subtle buildup, and it does take a long time to set us up, but Armstrong develops the story and pulls us in as she does it. In some ways, it drove me mad for how long it took, and in other ways, it was almost perfect as it gave Armstrong the time to build the multiple secretive backgrounds, create the series characters on the several sides of the fence, and stir the chemistry between Olivia and Gabriel. To make me overwhelmingly curious about Cainesville and its inhabitants. They each want something from Olivia with some feeling more benign than the others. Rozalyn has me thoroughly confused as she swings in so many directions!

I’m just as confused about James. On the one hand, he seems to be like every other self-serving politico wannabe (talking to his adviser about his wedding??), a bit of a Neanderthal, and then, after handing out an ultimatum, he turns around and wants Olivia protected.

What a scum bucket of a mother! I can’t believe she pulls this! As for Howard, hmphh, I’d fire his ass. I do love how her dead adoptive father protected her, though. What a terrific dad… It’s too bad the police can’t get their heads out.

LOL, I keep going back over and over that one sentence about Olivia preferring quantity over quality. It’s just so unexpected. Not what you think the heroine is going to say… Nor is there any insta-love. It’s more of a slow build-up of respect with lots of questions and a great deal of trepidation.

Why didn’t Howard hire some security when this started up? Whose is the voice that keeps whispering in Olivia’s ear?

Then there’s that pride rearing up. Yeah, I get it. I do understand why Olivia does what she does, and of course it’s necessary for the subsequent story. I love that Gabriel is the way he is; it makes such a nice twist and there’s a complexity which Armstrong has developed for him. More even than she’s done for Olivia. Although Rozalyn still takes the ribbon in this area1

I am enjoying the variety of children’s rhymes in this, from Solomon Grundy to superstitious sayings , and Rosalyn/Rose’s explanations of how her psychic abilities work. Clever deductions, most of ‘em. A tribute to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

And for a lighter note, there’s the gargoyle list. I have to confess, I’d like to be tripping around Cainesville, looking as well.

Whew…what a narrow escape! Who would’a thunk not seeing a therapist was so much healthier!

No, it doesn’t all ring quite true, but the story itself is so good that I’m willing to overlook Olivia’s immature reactions, Gabriel’s out-of-character choice in the house, what Chandler knows about Cainesville, and the secrecy with which Armstrong envelops us.

The Story
It’s twenty-two-some years later that Olivia Taylor-Jones discovers she’s been living a lie. Hounded through town, it’s Olivia’s inherent nature that helps her out and a tip from Jack that eventually sends her to Cainesville and the very unexpected help she’ll receive from its varied inhabitants as she digs for the truth of what happened all those years years ago.

The Characters
The two-and-a-half-year-old Eden Larsen has become Olivia Taylor-Jones, heiress to a department store fortune. Her master’s thesis was on Arthur Conan Doyle which will come into play throughout the story. Todd and Pamela Bowen Larsen are the parents of whom she still dreams. The ones in prison for life. Her adoptive parents are Lena Taylor and Arthur Jones of Mills & Jones department store. Howard is the family lawyer.

James Morgan is Olivia’s fiancé and the CEO of Chicago’s fastest growing tech firm. His father is a former senator, and Olivia has been ignoring the potential ramifications. His grandfather was a former partner with Olivia’s adopted grandfather in Mills & Jones. Neil Leacock is the senator’s former campaign manager. Maura is James’ clingy mother who can’t let James go. Eva Talbot is an ex-girlfriend.

The sour Grace rents out rooms in a walk-up. Ida and Walter Clark do everything together. Margie is a Cainesville returnee who burnt a lot of bridges before she left, and she has a very hard row to hoe now that she’s returned. Larry Knight is a newcomer even if he is of boinne-fala with a hint of the old blood and runs the Corner Diner, where Margie works; Susie and Trudy are other waitresses. Patrick is a paranormal-romance author and one of the fey, a bòcan. People are almost paranoid in their respect of him. Except Margie. Peter Marks is Larry’s landlord. Veronica is one of the elders. There’s some mystery about the Bowens that has me panting to dig deeper. Rosalyn Razvan, a.k.a., Rose Walsh, is Gabriel’s great-aunt, and she tells people’s fortunes.

Gabriel Walsh is a shark of a lawyer with an office in Chicago; he’s got a reputation that police, journalists, and other lawyers, um, respect. He represented Pamela Larsen in her last appeal. However, he works for himself, in every sense of the word, doing nothing for free. Seanna Walsh is/was his drug addict of a mother.

Niles Gunderson is the father of one of the victims, Jan Gunderson. Christian Gunderson was Jan’s older brother while Anna was a younger sister. Peter Evans was Jan’s fiancé while Tim Marlotte was the former fiancé. Peters’ father, Dr. William Evans, is a psychiatrist, and formerly with the CIA, with information for Olivia. Maria is the Evanses’ housekeeper. Josh Gray was Peter’s friend, the one in whom he confided; Desiree Barbosa is his meth-head girlfriend.

Don Gallagher runs the motorcycle club that keeps Gabriel on retainer; Rick is the heir apparent. Lily is Meribeth’s daughter and has issues.

Colin Hale of the Chicago Post is just one of the scumbag journalists. Martin Lores has a nice little arrangement going on.

Dr. Escoda was Eden’s pediatrician. Edgar Chandler was Evans’ supervisor at the CIA; Anderson is his bodyguard. Anita Mosley, a Chicago journalist, was a victim of an acid-splash attack back in the mid-1970s. Now she’s an authority on MKULTRA, a code name for a top secret CIA experiment.

The Cover
The cover is Smalltown Main Street meets the Wolfman with its eerie sky, the full moon, and an orange cast to it all as a lone man walks down an old-fashioned Main Street with its old buildings, horse hitches, and a few trees just before it shifts abruptly right.

The title is what Olivia sees everywhere, what the inhabitants test her on: Omens.
Reviewed by Kathy Davie

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