liar city coverRating: 5 stars
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Length: Novel


Reece is an empath, one of two living in Seattle. His abilities allow him to read other people’s emotions if he touches them, but it also makes Reece anxious and constantly stressed, overwhelmed with concern for how others may feel. Yet despite the fact that Reece and other empaths are total pacifists, basically incapable of hurting anyone (or even wanting to), they are also the subject of much anti-empath hate. Reece can’t go out without special gloves to stop him from reading someone against their will — not that Reece could even conceive of doing such a thing — and anti-empath groups are lobbying for legislation to take away empath rights.

One night, Reece gets an anonymous call sending him to the scene of a brutal murder, one involving the senator who sponsored the anti-empath bill. Normally, Reece wouldn’t get anywhere near someplace like that; he is far too sensitive to other people’s pain to be around so much violence. But the caller tells Reece that his sister, Jamey, the police officer handling the case, needs his help and there is nothing Reece wouldn’t do for Jamey. When he arrives, it is to a scene of a horrific murder and a catatonic witness. Even worse, the case is quickly taken over by Evan Grayson, the so-called Dead Man, someone Reece thought was just an urban legend. All empaths know stories of the Dead Man, know that crossing his path could be the end of you. He is an empath hunter, a man with seemingly endless power and influence, and one whose voice and expression is dead of all emotion. Not only does Grayson take over the case, grabbing jurisdiction from both the police and the FBI, but he tells Reece that the only way to protect him from whatever is going on is for them to stay together.

The two men spend the day running around the city, trying to get to the bottom of the murders. While Grayson gives up no information about himself and little about the case, Reece slowly begins to learn more about who is behind the murders and why. He is also coming to realize more about himself as a empath, and some of those things are terrifying him. Reece always thought he understood exactly who he is and what he is capable of, but it turns out that may not all be true. As the killer gets increasingly violent, Reece and Grayson come closer to learning the truth about who is behind the killings, how they are happening, and why. But with the killer setting their sights on Reece and Grayson, not to mention a city full of people who hate empaths and want to see Reece destroyed, making it out alive will not be easy.

I absolutely loved Allie Therin’s Magic in Manhattan series, so I was really excited to see what the author would do with a contemporary story. And wow, did this one blow me away! I was caught up from the first moments and I just could not put down this twisty, fascinating story. Clever and original world building is something that just gets me so excited and this book is full of it. I have read plenty of stories featuring people with empathic abilities, but Therin gives such an interesting take here. It is not just that empaths have the ability to read other people through touch. It is also that they are so incredibly sensitive to others’ feelings that it impacts pretty much everything about them. They are pacifists, unwilling to harm anyone, even to defend themselves. At one point, when someone grabs Reece and is shocked because he falls down so fast, Grayson points out that Reece would let them bash his skull in before he would lift a hand to protect himself and possibly harm someone else in the process. Reece is so upset about the idea of violence, he practically passes out when he sees a book depicting torture on the cover. He can’t even watch football, because the players are being hit. But it is not just abhorring violence. Reece won’t talk on the phone while driving for fear of accidentally causing an accident. He won’t let Grayson park three inches out of his parking space (and won’t even discuss parking in a fire lane), because it is harming someone else, even in a small way. All of this makes Reece a man who lives with a lot of fear, anxiety, and stress. At the same time, he can’t help but sometimes let his occasional prickliness or sarcasm out, even when it gets him in trouble. It is a nice juxtaposition for his character, and I found him so interesting, even when his lack of any sense of self-preservation made me want to scream at him. Then, layered over all of this, we have the anti-empath sentiment, the hate groups and those who see empaths as nothing more than lab rats and certainly not people deserving of rights or care.

So into this whole fascinating situation, we have The Dead Man, Evan Grayson. Grayson is a man thought to be nothing more than an urban legend by many, the boogeyman who will get you if you are not careful. The story is told in multiple POVs, primarily Evan and Jamey, but also a few other side characters. But never Grayson, as he is intentionally kept a mystery that is slowly unveiled through the book, though never completely. He is an agent, but it is never totally clear who he works for. He has seemingly endless influence and people jump at the snap of his fingers. He also has seemingly endless information, always one step ahead of everyone, putting pieces together in a way almost no one else can. Everyone is terrified of him, even those who should be on the same side. Grayson is ostensibly the enemy, yet the more time he and Reece spend together, the more clear it is that at least part of him is protecting Reece. But it takes time to learn from what, and just where Grayson’s loyalties lie.

Overlaid with these two really interesting characters, we then have this case, these multiple murders that kick it all off, and more to come throughout the day. We know pretty early on who the killer is, but why, how, and who may be driving it all behind the scenes is another mystery. It is a really fascinating story and I was so eager to see how it all played out that I could barely stop reading. This is a long book (over 400 pages), and I can see that some folks might find the story a little too meandering. But for me, I found the slow unveiling of information to be so engaging and it just kept me on the edge of my seat.

I will note that this story is not a romance; we get just the barest spark of an emotional connection between Reece and Grayson, just an ember that has the potential to grow into more. But beyond Reece noting that Grayson is objectively handsome and a sense that he finds him attractive, there is nothing physical or romantic that happens between them at all. By the end of the story, the men have found some sort of understanding, a sense of caring what happens to the other, and just maybe, the idea of wanting to see each other again. It is so tantalizing, this slowest of slow burns. I am dying to see how things could play out for them. So don’t go into this expecting a romance, even an HFN, because we are for sure not there. However, if you want a really engaging and fascinating dynamic between two incredibly interesting and unusual characters, this book delivers.

Most of this story is very closely focused on Reece and Grayson, but I also want to throw a shout out to Reece’s sister, Jamey, who is an incredible character. First off, the love and care she has for her brother comes through so clearly. But she is also a total badass, fearless and strong and taking on anyone who dares to threaten Reece. She is incredibly smart and insightful, putting pieces together on the case in a way few others can. And she has her own secrets, ones that reveal themselves throughout the story and tie so nicely into the bigger picture in such a clever way. I absolutely adored Jamey and found her such a wonderful complement to the larger mystery investigation, but also to Reece and Grayson as characters.

I found this story so much fun and it just drew me in and kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time. I loved learning all the secrets along the way as Reece and Grayson and Jamey learn the truth about what is going on. I love that everything isn’t totally black and white. And I really adored these characters. If you are looking for a unique, fascinating, and creative mystery/paranormal, definitely check out Liar City.

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