Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Book Review - Paul Magrs' Something Borrowed

Something Borrowed (Brenda and Effie Book 2) by Paul Magrs
Published by: Headline Publishing
Publication Date: 2007
Format: Paperback, 280 Pages
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy
Brenda wants a return to normalcy, while Effie is all for further fun. Brenda just wants to run her Bed and Breakfast and make it the cleanest and friendliest place in all of Whitby. Yet their adventures of the previous year has made Effie realize that there's so much more out there. Sure, growing up with a family of powerful witches, you know about "other" things, but dating Dracula and watching a hell mouth open change your priorities. Without consulting Brenda, Effie has got them a case investigating a string of poison pen letters. Sheila Manchu, who runs the decidedly low rent Hotel Miramar, is the latest victim. She has been shaken by the accusations and hopes that Brenda and Effie can help her.

Their first suspect is Mrs. Claus, with her mysterious ways and otherworldly air. She runs the upscale Christmas Hotel and is hoarding more secrets than perhaps even Brenda. Yet, she seems to be too classy to resort to poison pen letters. Lucky for Brenda and Effie, their now significantly transformed friend Jessie's nephew Robert works at both hotels and is will to help in their investigations when not tending to his womanzee aunt Jessie.

With a beer garden with evil undertones and a rampaging womanzee, sleep deprivation and things that scuttle in the night, surprisingly it's a man from Brenda's past that upsets the precious balance of life in Whitby. Henry Cleavis was a part of Brenda's life at one time, if only she could remember that time. Both of them are long past the time they should have left this earth, Brenda for more easily explainable, if unbelievable reasons... Henry though? What secrets does he hold? One things clear, he still hunts monsters, so where does that leave him and Brenda... Jessie is in danger, that's for sure. Yet if he's in town, there must be something more sinister that drew him here.

At first I was not sure if I would love this second book in Paul Magr's Brenda and Effie series as much as I did the first installment. There was a distinct structure shift. The narrative style changed from little vignettes to a more overall narrative arc. I loved the little "monster of the week" structure of Never the Bride, because it felt more Victorian in construct. Little sweets of stories that take place in Brenda and Effie's lives. Yet, there shouldn't have been a doubt in my mind. While the structure changed, my love for the characters didn't. Paul's style change perfectly fitted the story at hand. Instead of all these little individual tales, we have one tale that every little aspect of the narrative fed into. The story kept building on itself till we finally got the big reveal in Brenda's flashback that locked all the pieces down into place.

Also, learning more about Brenda's past, and her working as a housekeeper and maid back in 1946, makes sense with her continued love of a clean home. Her run in with Dracula way back in the day makes sense as to her prejudice against him when he previously was in Whitby and courting Effie. Secret societies comprised of academics, B Horror movie characters come to life and running amok. Creatures so dangerous that other evil creatures will inexplicably band together for "the greater good" all make this book a wonderfully fun read.

Still, the heart and soul of the book is Brenda. One doesn't really sit down and often think about if someone had an extremely long life, without the supernatural elements, Brenda after all is a creation of man, having been created by Doctor Frankenstein, what would happen to your brain after all these years. Obviously, there's only so much information that a human brain can retain, so amnesia or just plain having problems remembering your own past would be common. Not to mention, there might be a lot that you wish to forget! Brenda has "too many memories to fit inside one body." Memories return to her in flashes. Everything would be easy if she could quickly recall what happened the last time her and Henry where together, because it's obvious with his return, whatever was a danger to them in the past is a danger to them in the present. Yet, that is not how things work. Life is complicated and messy, and never simple, especially if you've had more than your fair share. You can quite literally be haunted by your past... who knows who or what might appear next. I know I can't wait to read about it!


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