Story Rating: 4.25 stars
Audio Rating: 4.75 stars
Narrator: Greg Boudreaux
Length: 5 hours, 26 minutes
Audiobook Buy Links: Amazon/Audible | iBooks
Book Buy Links: Amazon | iBooks
Matt Steinitz is a rare human who not only knows about the supernatural world, but gets to live as part of it. After a big mess in his past where Matt’s work as a paparazzi photographer got him in trouble with the supes, he has now been hired by Quest Investigations, a paranormal investigation agency. Matt has mostly been doing surveillance jobs, but he is finally getting handed his first real assignment. It seems pretty straightforward. Their selkie client, Lachlan Brodie, says someone has been leaving dead fish all over his boat, ruining the equipment and messing up his charter jobs. And Lachlan is sure that the culprit is his soon-to-be ex-husband.
As it turns out, things are more complicated than they first appear and while Lachlan’s ex admits to throwing the first fish, he denies responsibility for any of the others. The case gets twistier than Matt could have imagined, made worse by the fact that Matt is quite attracted to his client — a client who is still legally married. But when Lachlan is attacked and needs Matt’s help, nothing could keep him away. However, the case ends up even more complicated when someone turns up dead and Lachlan seems like the mostly likely culprit. Now, rather than sorting out a small fish problem, Matt is in the middle of a murder case. He knows Lachlan is innocent, but proving it in the midst of a very dangerous situation is going to be another thing entirely.
Five Dead Herrings is the first book in the Quest Investigations series, part of E.J. Russell’s larger Mythmatched universe (more on that in a minute). I found this one totally charming and just a lot of fun. The world building is engaging with a wide variety of supernaturals and Matt is such a great POV character. He is a rare human who is allowed inside this world, plus he is just fascinated by supernaturals. So he is a perfect guide for readers as he is curious about everything he sees and it allows us to learn about the world along with him. Matt got himself in trouble in the past, and he is still working his way back into everyone’s good graces, but he is a good guy and determined to do his best. The story is fun and light and there is a nice dose of humor with just the right amount of quirkiness. The mystery is involved enough to carry the story, but not overly complex, and makes nice use of the supernatural setting as the truth behind the murders (and the fish flinging) is revealed.
Russell bills this as a mystery with a romantic subplot, rather than a romance, and I think that description fits well. There is interest from both men and we know Matt finds Lachlan’s “Jason Momoa as Aquaman” vibe particularly alluring. But they are just starting to move toward some sort of romantic connection as the book wraps up. It appears the couple is the focus of all four books in this series, so presumably things will continue to build as the stories continue. But this is definitely lighter on the romance side. Even so, I found the connection between Lachlan and Matt really appealing and I am interested to watch it develop.
As I mentioned, this is the first in a new series, but part of Russell’s larger Mythmatched universe, which comprises a number of books and series. I have only read the Fae Out of Water series myself, though we have reviewed a number of books in this larger world, and I was fine jumping in here and able to follow the story. That said, I found this story leans very heavily on cameos and call backs to characters and events from other books set in this world. In this case, Matt works for Mal from Druid Next Door, who plays a role here, and we get appearances by Niall from Bad Boy’s Bard, as well. But there were clearly many other folks who must be from other books in the universe, as they get too much backstory mentioned to be unrelated side characters. I think if you have read a lot of books in this world, it would be fun to see these characters showing up again here, but as someone who hasn’t read much, I found it got to be a lot after a while. Not because I was confused, but because it seemed like a lot of backstory and commentary on these folks that I didn’t always need for this story. We also learn about events from Matt’s past, which if I am guessing right, must have occurred during Single White Incubus. In addition to getting into trouble, Matt apparently also fell hard for a bear shifter named Ted. I think getting Matt’s backstory was important, especially it crosses books, and things were explained just fine here. But I found the story focused too much on Matt’s feelings about Ted, as it felt like he was constantly talking and thinking about him. I am fine with characters having interest in someone other than their future partner, but it just felt like overkill after a while, with just way too much focus on a man who never even appears in this book and with whom Matt doesn’t even seem to have a current friendship, let alone romantic connection. So while I had no issues understanding anything about the other books, I do feel like Russell leans a little too heavily on the larger world here.
I listened to this one in audio with narrator Greg Boudreaux, and let me just say, this type of story is one of Boudreaux’s sweet spots. He is so good at this sort of light comedy with a host of quirky characters. He manages to really capture personalities in his narration in a way that brings this large cast to life. The characters also have a variety of accents and there are lots of what I assume are Gaelic or Celtic words from the selkies and fae and so there is really a lot to manage here from a narration standpoint and Boudreaux just does it all so well. The voices were distinct and the audio was easy to follow, even with so many characters. I really found this one so delightful to listen to and if you have a chance to pick this up in audio, I highly encourage it.
Five Dead Herrings is really a cute and fun story and a great start to the series. I am looking forward to following along as the other books are released in audio.