About a year and a half ago I picked up Omens, A Cainsville Novel by Kelley Armstrong and totally fell in love with the characters and the paranormal mystery plot. Olivia Taylor-Jones is a department store heiress with everything going for her; she is beautiful, intelligent and caring. Her fiancé is a brilliant attorney who is getting ready to run for office. In a short while Olivia will turn 25 and come into the inheritance left to her by her father.
Then, without warning, everything falls apart. Liv is suddenly thrust into the media spotlight when a story is leaked claiming that she is adopted and names her birth parents as infamous occult serial killers. To Liv’s horror her mother confirms the rumors before jetting off to Europe to evade the press and her fiancé abandons her as a form of damage control for his political campaign.
Looking for shelter Liv finds herself pulled to a small, remote suburb called Cainsville, a safe haven where she can hide while she sorts out the mess that has become her life. Soon enough she realizes that Cainsville is not all that is seems and Liv finds her self pulled deeper into the mystery of her birth-parents’ crimes while realizing that the omens she has seen all her life are real and not just part of a vivid imagination. An uncertain friendship with her birth-mother’s former lawyer, Gabriel Walsh, gives Liv the impetus to embark on solving the mystery of her identity.
What I really enjoyed about Omens was the mystery of Cainsville: Who is Olivia and how does she fit into the puzzle? Why does she see things that other people don’t? Who is Gabriel Walsh? Why is he helping Liv even though her birth-mother is no longer his client? Most importantly, are her parents all that they seem or is there something extraordinary laying beneath the surface?
When I finished Omens I immediately went back to page one and re-read it, and that is not something I do often. The interactions between the characters left you wanting more and the questions behind Cainsville and the inhabitants were entertaining and other-worldly. So when Visions, the second Cainsville novel, came out last year, I was thrilled. But as I read I became wary; Armstrong was taking the series in an all too familiar direction. She introduced Ricky, a “Sons of Anarchy” cast off and un-surprisingly Liv found herself in the middle of a love-triangle. We find some of the answers to our paranormal questions but the mystery of Cainsville promptly took a back seat to the blossoming romance between the characters and the (terrible, absolutely terrible) age old question: Who gets the girl?
Optimistically, because Visions ended with many unfinished plotlines, I (naively) assumed that book three would bring everything to a close while getting back to the intriguing mystery that made Cainsville enjoyable in the first place… I don’t think you need to read omens or have second vision to see where this is going…
Deceptions came out this August and the story of Cainsville is now entirely focused on the love triangle with Liv at the center. The titles really could be how I feel about the books: There were omens of what was to come, visions of the love triangle and finally the deception has been uncovered. Now before you get out the pitch forks (I know Armstrong is a popular author in the genre) the books are still well done, and the plot makes sense, but Armstrong’s focus is no longer about unmasking the truth of Cainsville. Even the questions surrounding Liv’s birth parents (while driving the plot) are secondary to the relationships between Liv, Gabriel and Ricky.
I will read the rest of the Cainsville novels, and maybe if I had stumbled on them after they were all released I would be more forgiving, but waiting a year in-between books that don’t answer any questions but are instead an epic “will she / won’t she” is frustrating to say the least. The last thing I wanted to do is get interested in a series that has the potential to turn into a paranormal version of Stephanie Plum, or even a more serious Sookie Stackhouse-esque love-triangle. But no matter how much I may want to fight it, Armstrong’s writing has kept me interested and I do care about what happens to Liv and the inhabitants of Cainsville.
What do you think? Have you read the Cainsville novels? Do you agree with my frustrations over where the plot has gone or do you think the love-triangle has made the book?