Review: Lightning in a Mirror by Jayne Ann Krentz

Review: Lightning in a Mirror by Jayne Ann KrentzLightning in a Mirror (Fogg Lake #3) by Jayne Ann Krentz
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, large print, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: paranormal, romantic suspense
Series: Fogg Lake #3
Pages: 320
Published by Berkley on January 18, 2022
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

The final installment in the chilling Fogg Lake trilogy by New York Times bestselling author Jayne Ann Krentz.
Olivia LeClair's experiment with speed dating is not going well. First there was the nasty encounter with the date from hell who tried to murder her and now the mysterious Harlan Rancourt—long believed dead—sits down at her table and tells her she's the only one who can help him locate the legendary Vortex lab.
This is not what Olivia had in mind when she signed up for the Four Event Success Guaranteed package offered by the dating agency. She doesn't have much choice, though, because her psychic investigation firm works for the mysterious Foundation and Victor Arganbright, the director, is adamant that she assist Harlan. There's just one problem—no one knows Harlan's real agenda. His father once ran the Foundation like a mob organization, and Harlan was destined to be his heir. There's a real possibility Harlan has returned to claim his inheritance.
For now, however, it's a case of the enemy of my enemy is my friend because others are after the secrets of the long-lost lab. Unfortunately for Olivia, the one thing friend and foe have in common is that everyone is convinced she is the key. Her unique psychic talent is required to defuse the ticking time bomb that is Vortex.
Neither trusts the other but Olivia and Harlan soon realize they must work together to survive and unlock the Bluestone Project's most dangerous secrets before more innocent people die.

My Review:

At least in some variations, “We’re from the government and we’re here to help you,” is one of the three biggest lies. In Fogg Lake, and the paranormally powered world of this series, “We’re from the Foundation and we’re here to help you,” seems to be the psi-powered equivalent.

But so far in contemporary Fogg Lake it actually seems to be true. Well, it’s true NOW. It wasn’t true back in the day. Come to think of it, the government version wasn’t true then or now.

The entire Fogg Lake series, starting with The Vanishing and All the Colors of Night, has been all about dealing with the mysteries and the dangers that remain from the Bluestone Project and it’s offshoot Vortex, that came into being back in that day when both the government – in the form of that top-secret Bluestone Project, and the Foundation were doing their level best to figure out how to enhance and weaponize psychic powers.

Something that never ever ends well. At this point, the Foundation, at least in the person of Harlan Rancourt, is just trying to make sure it ends – before anyone else gets dead in the process. The Vortex process.

Fogg Lake turns out to be part of the ‘Jayneverse’ of connected stories that encompasses the Arcane Society and Harmony. In the Fogg Lake series, that connection is tangential. You don’t have to have read any of the Arcane Society books to get hooked into Fogg Lake in The Vanishing. (But the Easter Eggs sure are fun to find!)

It’s not like we aren’t aware of plenty of shady government projects that have disappeared without a trace – at least in fiction. It’s also possible to see the now-moribund government office that ran Bluestone as the cramped, dusty office that would later house Mulder and Scully.

But Lightning in a Mirror is the last book in the Fogg Lake series, so if contemporary paranormal romantic suspense sounds like your cup of tea, start with The Vanishing.

This story, while the romance is totally encompassed in this one book, the suspense factor is not. The Foundation, both its current directors, Victor Arganbright and Lucas Pine, as well as the investigators of the Lark & LeClair Detective Agency, Catalina Lark (protagonist of The Vanishing) and Olivia LeClair (this book’s heroine), have been hunting for the remnants of Bluestone and Vortex throughout the series.

As this story opens it looks like Vortex is hunting them as well. At least, they’re hunting Olivia LeClair for the Oracle talent that entirely too many people seem to think she inherited from her grandmother. Vortex would have caught her, just as they caught her mother, if not for the intervention of Harlan Rancourt.

Which is where the story kicks into gear. High gear. Rancourt has been hiding from the Foundation for five years, investigating the death of his own father in a mysterious accident. With Vortex on the rise he returns to the fold to prevent the catastrophe that his own talents tell him is coming.

Rancourt is a wild-card to everyone. A chameleon talent who fools everyone, all the time, about the true nature of the threat he presents. But he never fools Olivia. She sees him for the predator he is – and doesn’t run.

At least she doesn’t run FROM him. Running WITH him to keep one step ahead of Vortex – and to stay together – turns out to be just what both of them have been waiting for.

Escape Rating A-: First and most important, the ENTIRE ‘Jayneverse’ is a whole lot of fun – especially if you like a bit of the paranormal mixed with romantic suspense. She writes the historical parts of the series as Amanda Quick, the contemporaries as Jayne Ann Krentz, and the futuristic Harmony as Jayne Castle. And they are all just oodles of fun.

The links between the series are loose, but like a tangled thread, once you pull at one and get invested in THAT part of her world, you’ll be led to the others. (And I prefer ‘Arcaneverse’ as the collective title but that’s a “me” thing)

There are, as usual for this series, two stories blended into the book. One is the overall series arc, which is the suspense part, and the other is the, well, romantic part. Which, as is also usual, isn’t all that “romantic” in a hearts and flowers sense.

Neither Harlan nor Olivia are hearts and flowers kind of people – and that’s been true of the protagonists for most of the series. They meet because they’re on the trail of a serial killer, or a series of serial killers, they’re both in danger and they’re both capable of taking care of that danger themselves (I love that there are no damsels in her series). But they are better – and safer – together than they are apart.

For select definitions of both “better” and “safer”.

So their romance begins with the forced intimacy of being on the run together, combined with the adrenaline thrills and crashes of facing deadly danger together> That rush to romance is ably assisted and enhanced by psychic compatibility that validates the attraction into becoming something more. It doesn’t feel “romantic” in any of the traditional senses, but insta-lust is a real thing and the insta-love that surprises them both does manage to feel earned.

Nevertheless, what captivated me about this book – and about the Fogg Lake series and everything else this author writes – is the overarching suspense plot. I always enjoy a black-ops project/government agency/conspiracy gone wrong kind of story, and this one is a doozy.

It’s not hard to believe that there are government agencies so secret that no one knows about them, because they’re doing things the government can’t afford to acknowledge. In fact, it’s downright easy to believe this and it’s a stock in trade of lots of genres. Bits of it have even happened in real life – just look up the history of the Manhattan Project, secret towns and all.

That such a project would be rife with criminal shenanigans isn’t a stretch either. And neither is the idea that some people wouldn’t be able to let it go. That’s where Fogg Lake and the Bluestone Project sit, at that intersection of conspiracy theories and government black operations.

So the romance didn’t seem all that romantic, but I was all in on the conspiracy parts, and that’s what kept me flipping pages as I poured through this story and this series.

While we may be finished at Fogg Lake, I’m looking forward to visiting another corner of this universe in May, when we return to 1930s Burning Cove, California in When She Dreams.

Review: All the Colors of Night by Jayne Ann Krentz

Review: All the Colors of Night by Jayne Ann KrentzAll the Colors of Night (Fogg Lake #2) by Jayne Ann Krentz
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, large print, ebook, audiobook
Genres: paranormal, romantic suspense
Series: Fogg Lake #2
Pages: 304
Published by Berkley on January 5, 2021
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

Two psychics plunge into a dark world of deadly secrets in this second installment of the Fogg Lake trilogy by New York Times bestselling author Jayne Ann Krentz.
North Chastain possesses a paranormal talent that gives him the ability to track down the most dangerous psychic criminals. When his father suddenly falls into a coma, North is convinced it was caused by a deadly artifact traced back to the days of a secret government laboratory known only as the Bluestone Project. North knows his only hope of saving his father is to find the artifact. He is good when it comes to tracking down killers but to locate the relic, he's going to need help from a psychic who knows the shadowy world of obsessive collectors, deceptive dealers, and ruthless raiders…
With her reputation in ruins after a false accusation, antique expert Sierra Raines is looking for a fresh start. She turns to the murky backwaters of the paranormal artifacts trade, finding and transporting valuable objects with a psychic provenance. When North Chastain approaches her for help, Sierra takes him on as a client, though not without reservations. North represents the mysterious Foundation, the secretive organization established to police the underworld populated by psychic criminals and those, like Sierra, who make a living in the shadows of that world.
North and Sierra soon find themselves at the scene of The Incident that occurred decades ago in Fogg Lake. The town and its residents were forever changed by the disaster in the nearby Bluestone Project labs. The pair unearth shocking truths about what happened that fateful night, but they are playing with fire—someone in town knows what they’ve discovered and will do anything to make sure the secrets stay buried.

My Review:

A long time ago, and partly, come to think of it, in a galaxy far, far away, there were two books written by Jayne Ann Krentz under her various pseudonyms. Second Sight, written as Amanda Quick in 2006, was the very first book in her long-running and century spanning Arcane Society series featuring characters from the Victorian era up through the present day who were gifted – or cursed – or sometimes even both – with paranormal abilities..

But before that, in 2000, or long after in the internal chronology, there was After Dark, written as Jayne Castle, the first book in the Ghost Hunters/Harmony series. The ghost hunters were the people, Harmony was the planet, and it had been settled by refugees who all left Earth because they had, you guessed it, paranormal abilities.

Those series converged in Midnight Crystal in 2010, where the thing I had always guessed was finally revealed, that the Harmony settlers were the descendants of the Arcane Society.

The long arm of coincidence being very long, and the concept that two separate populations of people with psi powers had somehow developed on Earth being too weird to be coincidental, when the marvelous first book in the Fogg Lake series, The Vanishing came out this time last year I was enthralled with the story – and fully expected Fogg Lake to link up to the Arcane Society and Harmony sooner or later.

It’s sooner. But if you’ve never dipped into either of the other series, don’t let that stop you from plunging into Fogg Lake. Because the link is tangential. It’s a hint, not a deep dive into the Arcane Society. Just a couple of brief mentions to answer the curiosity of readers – but mostly to allay the professional snoopiness of The Foundation, the early-21st century organization that is currently organizing and policing the paranormal population.

Because The Foundation has brushed up against the Arcane Society before, and they definitely don’t believe in that long arm of coincidence at all. But the clear but subtle “back off” messages they receive from both Harmony Jones, the Oracle of Fogg Lake, and Ambrose Jones of the paranormal artifacts retrieval agency, The Vault, let them know that the Arcane Society was very, very real and that that’s ALL they’re going to EVER be told.

So not nearly enough to make a new reader desperate to dive back into the other series, but a lovely little tease to let new readers know that if they enjoy their visits to Fogg Lake and want more that there is a whole universe out there to binge read.

All the Colors of Night takes place in the wake of The Vanishing. Not in the sense that the characters continue from that book, but rather that as the series opener The Vanishing literally opens the door to the series as the investigators discover the reason that the residents of Fogg Lake ALL have paranormal power when they find the ruins of the defunct Bluestone Project’s Fogg Lake labs.

Just as the protagonists of that first book are the descendants of Fogg Lake, so too are North Chastain and Sierra Raines, the heroes of this entry in the series.

For both North and Sierra, that inheritance from the “Fogg Lake Incident” is very much of a mixed blessing. They both have strong paranormal powers, but to the point where pretending to be “normal” is beyond them. It’s just too big a secret to keep and keeping it has kept them out of close friendships and romantic entanglements.

Until they meet each other, not in a romantic setting but as business partners forced to work together against their own instincts. But they need each other, at first only in the professional sense, but as they team up to chase down the people who attacked North’s father, they discover that their senses resonate together in a way that can’t be denied.

If they survive.

Escape Rating A-: The story in All the Colors of Night was every bit as fascinating as The Vanishing. This was just one of those books that I couldn’t put down – so it was a good thing I was reading it on a day when I didn’t have to.

The fun of this series so far is the slow reveal of all of the creepy woo-woo secrets and the way that kicks off and inserts itself into the romance. The idea that the government was playing around with the possibilities of paranormal powers is not a surprise – nor is it a surprise that when the government backed out the coverup began.

It would not surprise me AT ALL to learn that the secret government agency in charge of the Bluestone Project, “tiny, woefully underfunded Agency for the Investigation of Atypical Phenomena, a one-desk operation (currently unstaffed), buried deep in the basement of a building somewhere in Washington, D.C.” isn’t the same agency that Mulder and Scully worked out of in the X-Files. Although we’ll probably never know for sure.

But back to this story. North and Sierra aren’t so much investigating as digging for buried treasure – with pirates and tomb robbers chasing them at every turn. North has not one but two personal stakes in this hunt. He’s searching for the men who attacked his father, and he’s hoping to find out the truth about his grandfather’s disappearance way back when Bluestone was shut down.

He finds way more than he bargained for, that the attack on his father wasn’t the first attack on his family. Someone is poisoning him with the intent to burn out his paranormal powers. He’s not sure whether he has one enemy or lots of them – only that Sierra seems to be the one person he can trust. After all, she’s the one who discovered the poisoning.

But the chase that North begins thinking it’s all something in the present really goes back to his grandfather, his grandfather’s research partner, and a long-lost cache of weapons that holds the secret – even if that isn’t what North has been told and the cache isn’t quite what everyone believes it to be.

The romance in this one is very much opposites attract, along with more than a bit of one of this author’s specialties, the damaged hero finding a partner who is far from perfect herself, but is absolutely perfect for him – even if he can’t see it when they meet.

Both North and Sierra are afraid to let anyone other than family get close to them, both because of the powers they have to keep hidden from “mundanes” and because they each feel like they’re missing something or waiting for something to happen. Along with North initially believing that he’s about to lose his powers and fearing what will follow. While North’s situation pushes him even deeper into his own serious and driven side, Sierra comes off as a bit of a flake, job-hopping while searching for her “calling”.

They shouldn’t match, but the way that they do works really well and adds just the perfect touch of Happy Ever After to what would otherwise be a rather dark and serious story. The mix of danger and romance is just right.

While this story is a standalone, it is also clear that there is plenty more to uncover and many more stories to tell in Fogg Lake – and I can’t wait to read them!

Review: The Vanishing by Jayne Ann Krentz

Review: The Vanishing by Jayne Ann KrentzThe Vanishing (Fogg Lake #1) by Jayne Ann Krentz
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, large print, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: paranormal, romantic suspense
Series: Fogg Lake #1
Pages: 304
Published by Berkley on January 7, 2020
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

From New York Times bestselling author Jayne Ann Krentz comes a new gripping romantic suspense trilogy fraught with danger and enigma.

Forty years ago in the small town of Fogg Lake, "The Incident" occurred: an explosion in the cave system that released unknown gases, causing peculiar effects on its residents, such as strange visions and ominous voices. Not wanting the government to get involved, they chalked it up to the hallucinogenic effects of mushrooms. Little did they know these effects would linger through the generations....

Residents Catalina Lark and Olivia Dayton have been best friends for years and own an investigation firm together, using what they call the "other sight" to help with their business. When Olivia goes missing, Cat frantically begins the search for her alone when the town does nothing about it. When scientist Slate Trevelyan shows up, she has no choice but to accept his help even though there's something about him she just can't trust. The duo discovers someone is hunting the two witnesses of a murder in Fogg Lake fourteen years ago—the very one Cat and Olivia witnessed as teens, one that they couldn't prove happened. Cat and Slate's search for Olivia takes them down a rabbit hole that is far more dangerous and mysterious than they ever expected, and with a killer in their midst, neither of them can foresee who will come out alive.

My Review:

This was the book I felt compelled to read this week – no matter what I put in my Sunday Post. I expected to be swept away by Krentz/Quick/Castle’s unique blend of romantic suspense and parapsychological woo-woo and that’s exactly what happened.

I also expect that Fogg Lake will somehow turn out to be just down the road from Scargill Cove, that the Bluestone Project will somehow turn out to be related to “Mad Scientist” Jones’ research or that The Foundation will be outed as a precursor agency to the Arcane Society. Or all of the above.

But in the meantime, The Vanishing stands on its own as the first book in a new series. And it stands proud.

The story does begin a bit in the middle, but not because there have been previous mentions of Fogg Lake. But because by the time that Catalina and Olivia are teenage girls, whatever happened to make Fogg Lake the place it is occurred decades in the past. There was a Fogg Lake Incident that turned the town more than a bit insular. An incident that gave all the residents – and their descendants – paranormal powers of one kind or another. The kind of powers that the so-called normal world treats as a one-way ticket to drugged institutionalization.

Not that The Foundation doesn’t have its own facilities for that sort of thing. It’s one of the reasons that their reputation in the paranormal community is more than a bit tattered. But people with paranormal powers do go off the rails. It’s just that The Foundation is well aware that they are not off those rails merely because they think have those powers.

Catalina and Olivia left Fogg Lake to go to college. After they learned to keep their powers hidden and appear normal. Long after they witnessed a murder in the Fogg Lake caves that everyone else was convinced was a hallucination – even them.

But that long ago incident in their own personal past reaches out to grab them, or at least to grab Olivia, from the streets of Seattle. Just as The Foundation, in the person of Slater Arganbright, shows up at their private investigations agency to hire them. The Foundation needs their help in investigating a couple of crime scenes that just might connect back to Fogg Lake’s incident.

Catalina and Slater join reluctant forces to find the missing Olivia and determine whether their two cases connect.

Coincidences aren’t in either of their worlds. Slater’s crime scenes are all too related to Olivia’s disappearance. And everything ties back to that incident at Fogg Lake. Both the one in the town’s past and the later one in Cat’s and Olivia’s.

And Cat and Slater definitely connect with each other. More than either of them expected – or even thought might be possible.

Escape Rating A-: I got completely lost in this one, which seems appropriate for a story set in a place called Fogg Lake. I was grabbed by the story at the very beginning, with teenaged Cat and Olivia witnessing a murder in the caves – and not being believed.

But that was just a teaser to set up part of the main story. And it so worked.

Because it gives the reader a glimpse of the way that Fogg Lake is while not revealing how it got that way. In the end, that revelation is part of the main story – and it’s clear that we don’t know nearly enough – yet.

The biggest part of this one is the investigation. We follow along with Slater and Cat as they search for the missing Olivia, investigate Slater’s mysterious crime scenes and attempt to discover what the one has to do with the other. All the while, the true history of Fogg Lake hovers just out of reach – until they begin stumbling over its very messy pieces.

Along the way, several fascinating things happen. One is the dive into the paranormal world that Slater and Cat inhabit every bit as much as they do the normal world – if not sometimes a bit more. The whole thing about the secret world existing alongside of the one we know is done well and is very cool as well as a bit creepy in all the right ways.

At the same time we get to know Cat, her abilities and her powers. Part of the fun of that part of the story is discovering just how many people Cat distrusts and has run afoul of, as well as her snarky attitude towards all of the above. Cat’s a woman I’d love to have drinks with – and she’d know if anyone spiked them.

And then there’s the growing tension between Cat and Slater. They don’t trust each other. To be more accurate, Cat doesn’t trust anyone from The Foundation as Cat’s last job for them left her holding the bag on a big mess courtesy of Slater’s uncle. A mess that seems to follow her around throughout the story and with which she has zero patience – and for good reason.

But the same powers that have made both of these people fear relationships with normals have given them an instant and intense awareness of each other that can only lead to one place – if they are willing to take the risk.

And if they can get this case wrapped up before it kills them.

I don’t know when the second book in the Fogg Lake series will be coming out – but I can’t wait to find out more!