Dead in LA (LA Paranormal #1 and #2)

Dead in LA
Title: Dead in LA
Author: Lou Harper
Cover Artist: Lou Harper
Publisher: Harper Books
Amazon: Dead in LA
Genre: Paranormal
Length: 80 pages
Rating: 4 stars out of 5

A Guest Review by Lloyd A. Meeker

Review Summary: Two charming romantic stories featuring an adorable psychic and an injured construction worker haunted by ghosts of his own.

Blurb:

Trouble comes in deceptive packages

Still recovering from an accident that left him emotionally and physically battered, Jon’s goal is to lead a simple life, free of complications and attachments. His new roommate—a happy-go-lucky bookworm—seems to fit into his plans fine at first. He doesn’t find out till later that Leander’s also a psychic, specializing in finding lost pets. Jon’s a skeptic when it comes to the supernatural, so he’s convinced Leander’s a nut job.

Jon’s beliefs are challenged when Leander has to track down a missing teenager and he ropes Jon into assisting him. Soon the two of them are knee-deep in a decades-old murder case. The hills and valleys of the City of Angels hold many buried secrets, and Leander has a knack for finding them.

Jon’s hopes for a trouble-free life go out the window as he’s drawn deeper into Leander’s psychic sleuthing. Digging into the past poses many dangers, but the biggest risk Jon faces is putting his bruised heart on the line.

Warning: Men loving men, skeletons, and an unlucky Chihuahua.

LA Paranormal Series

Review:

This is my first reading of Lou Harper’s work, and I could easily become a fan. Dead in LA is a charming, easy read with very likable characters. The book is actually two short stories that string together as anecdotes in a developing relationship between Jon, a construction worker studying art as he recovers from the accident that killed his wife and Leander, a good-hearted psychic kid who makes his living finding lost pets.

The writing is smooth and engaging, the characters are well-drawn and although the plots are not the stuff of great mysteries they provide a tonally perfect vehicle for Leander’s airy, quirky way of doing things. Jon is the story narrator–he’s depressed and closed down but against what he thinks of as his better judgment he’s drawn out of himself in response to Leander’s open-hearted way of wandering happily through the world. At first it might be easy to think Leander simple, or at least naive. He is neither.

This excerpt is from their tentative and sweetly awkward introduction, in which Leander takes the lead. In fact, in spite of the fact that he is just renting a room in Jon’s house, Leander pretty much takes over, in his effervescent and slightly goofy way.

===

“So what made you go back to school?”

“I needed a change.” That was the understatement of the year. After a year of depression I needed to get away from everything that reminded me of my late wife, Alicia, or I would’ve jumped off a bridge, and it’s not that easy to find a suitable one in L.A. Most of them are over freeways. Causing a pile-up wasn’t my wish.

He stared at me expectantly, so I added, “I had an accident, and it fucked up my shoulder. I had to find a new career.”

“And you decided to become an artist. How awesome!” He didn’t just say it to be polite, either. His smile shone as if I’d revealed a precious secret.

[…]

What Leander did next took me totally by surprise. He reached out and put his hand on mine. I couldn’t even search his downcast eyes for explanation. His touch was both soft and firm, sending electrical signals through my body, waking up cravings I didn’t want awake. I sat frozen like a rabbit in front of a snake. I wanted to yank my hand away but that would’ve looked stupid. Fortunately, the shriek of the kettle broke the moment.

“You’ll be all right,” he said getting up and turning to the stove. “You’re not an alcoholic, right?” he asked over his shoulder.

“No, I’m not,” I replied startled by the strangeness of the question.

“Good.”

While he busied himself, I rubbed the back of my hand and wondered when I’d become such a wimp. I needed to get a grip on myself.

He put a steaming mug in front of me. “Chamomile toddy. My Grams’s recipe.

“Grams?”

“Granndma. She raised me after my parents died. Careful, it’s hot.”

I got the impression he didn’t feel like talking about his dead any more than I did. Most of all, I didn’t want to know intimate details about him. Not getting involved with other people and their lives was part of my no complications policy.

===

There were a number of elements that recommended this book to me. To my sensibilities it was infused with a quality of kindness that I often miss in M/M stories — men being good to each other for no reason other than it was in their nature to do so. Simple stuff, in contrast to the usual fare of dramatic attraction, dramatic disagreements and constant red-lining emotions. Jon’s inner critic and the mysteries create plenty of conflict, but Leander’s innate generosity is truly refreshing.

In fact, it was refreshing to encounter a story where the psychic character is the most balanced person in the story. Too often they are given the role of the tortured one clinging to sanity, as if it had to be that way.

Finally, the humor is in character — each protagonist has a sense of humor unique to his character. Leander’s is whimsical, Jon’s ironic and bitter.

If you’re in the mood to be charmed by someone guileless as Leander, and to root for Jon as he slowly comes out of his shell, then you should pick up this book.

23 comments

  • Love the review and would like to read Dead in LA. Will just have to hope that this book will be available at ARe at some stage!

    Reply
  • Hi Lloyd,

    I’ve read it now and I must say, your review is spot on and dead center. Wonderful book! I loved the subtlety, the character’s inane goodness, and most of all, how good they were with and for each other. Two wonderful stories!

    “Lumber? Just what I always wanted for Christmas…” It cracked me up!

    Reply
  • Lloyd

    One of the reasons I appreciate the reviews on the site are the discussions that arise out of them. I love to read about writers’ and readers’ preferences and why, and Victor’s comments always provide great insight that very few writers have – no offence to you Lloyd. 🙂

    These short discussions are such a great way to learn about different art forms. Really love this: 😎

    First you sing Puccini, then sit down at the piano and Chopin comes rolling out like thunder and crystal.

    :grumble: So unfair

    Reply
    • Believe me, Wave, no offense taken! The man has over two hundred novels under his belt. I’m just beginning work on my fourth. Not in the same league at all when it comes to understanding what writing is all about.

      Reply
  • Hi Lloyd. I prefer longer, meatier novels with fleshed out characters and a great plot and intelligent, clever dialogue.

    My favourites are Josh Lanyon, Harper Fox, Kaje Harper, Tere Michaels, Kate McMurray, Rhys Ford has become a new fave, Wren Boudreau, Katie Allen, Abigail Roux, most of Ethan Day’s novels, L.B. Gregg, Dani Alexander… those are just off the top of my head:)

    Reply
  • Thank you do much for the great review Lloyd. I usually prefer longer pieces myself but there are writers who I think write great shorts :). I really liked this one too.

    Reply
  • Thank you for the compliments, Lloyd. Oddly, I avoided short fiction most of my career (scared away from it by all those experts) It was only about 10 years ago, or a little longer, that I tried my hand at it, and found that I enjoyed it and seemed to have the knack. Now,of course, there’s the age thing – I know if I sit down to write a short story that I can have it done in a day or so, but a novel? Who knows?

    Reply
  • I think both as a writer and a reader there is a special satisfaction to a short story. Many great writers (Maugham, e.g., who was a master of the short story) have described them as infinitely harder to write than a novel, because you do have the constraints of time and space. But as a writer I like the challenge, and as a reader, I am always fascinated to see how much a good writer can tell you – about the story, and especially about the characters – in just a few pages. But, I honestly don’t think the two can be compared – they are really different art forms. It’s like comparing an opera to a piano etude.

    Reply
    • And that you should be so d–n good at both seems eminently unfair to me, Victor. First you sing Puccini, then sit down at the piano and Chopin comes rolling out like thunder and crystal. :grumble: So unfair.

      Reply
  • That’s interesting, Madonna — e-publishing has changed the economic rules about story size, and it seems there is a big proliferation of shorter-than-novel works getting published.

    I have to confess that in general I prefer a longer work, but at the same time a short story is a great way to get to know an author.

    This is a question I don’t have an answer for: I’ve heard that the appeal of shorter stories is that readers want something they can start and finish on their lunch break. Is that really true? I don’t think I believe it, simply because I’d just as soon read 50 pages of a novel over lunch. To use the lunch metaphor, it’s partly a matter of nutrition, “meat” — a 50-page story doesn’t give a character room to grow, and that’s what I want most from reading. Now a bunch of short stories strung together together could. But then it’s really a longer work… I confuse myself. 😕

    What do you like?

    Reply
    • Yes, I generally read the novel size stories. Lanyon seems to specialize in the Novella story length peices. Victor Banis,well, yeah he can write whatever he wants…excellently. An amazing short story at 44pgs is ‘Skybound’ by Voinov. If you haven’t read it yet, it is worth checking out. It is the perfect length and, well I’m not a writer. I don’t have the words. It’s an experience.

      Thanks for the great review. Lloyd. I will be taking a close look at the book and looking forward to more of your writing and insights.

      Thanks again! :skoal:

      Reply

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