“Insight” by Santino Hassell
Series: The Community #1
Author: Santino Hassell
Genre: Gay Paranormal Mystery/Thriller
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Word Count: 88,500
Growing up the outcast in an infamous family of psychics, Nate Black never learned how to control his empath abilities. Then after five years without contact, his estranged twin turns up dead in New York City. The claim of suicide doesn’t ring true, especially when a mysterious vision tells Nate it was murder. Now his long-hated gift is his only tool to investigate.
Hitching from his tiny Texas town, Nate is picked up by Trent, a gorgeous engineer who thrives on sarcasm and skepticism. The heat that sparks between them is instant and intense, and Nate ends up trusting Trent with his secrets—something he’s never done before. But once they arrive in the city, the secrets multiply when Nate discovers an underground supernatural community, more missing psychics, and frightening information about his own talent.
Nate is left questioning his connection with Trent. Are their feelings real, or are they being propelled by abilities Nate didn’t realize he had? His fear of his power grows, but Nate must overcome it to find his brother’s killer and trust himself with Trent’s heart.
My favorite aspect of this novel was that no one is what they seem, not even our narrator. Considering I love mystery/thriller, that probably comes as no surprise, but since I was expecting a sort of paranormal romance plot it surprised me! Delightfully so.
Nate Black is a psychic in a paranormal world that closely resembles our own. He lives in Texas and is estranged from his family, including his identical twin brother. Part of the reason he can’t stand himself and his family, is they all possess a certain psychic skill or talent, which he blames as the reason for his miserable existence. Nate’s a sort of crappy empath, but his aunt is powerful and manipulates them all to protect the family and their secrets.
Nate is living a bare bones of a life, working at liquor store and living in a crappy apartment, and he probably would have stayed in his rut for all eternity, but he receives a psychic message from an unknown source of his brother drowning, and the next day his brother is found in New York, dead and drowned. It’s written off as an accident but Nate knows better.
Nate hitches to New York with an engineering student, Trent, who agrees to help him uncover the mystery of his brother’s death. Along the way, Nate and Trent form a friendship which slowly tightens into a romantic bond, which then gets sorely tested when they arrive in New York.
In New York, Nate uncovers his brother was a part of some sort of psychic club or cult. It pretty much defies everything his family ever stood for and both the Black family and the club begin to reek of centuries-old political corruption. And danger. Finding who killed his brother is going to be harder than Nate thought.
The science fiction elements were interesting, but mostly in the way they aided characterization. Nate isn’t the brightest psychic crayon in the box, and that makes this work a bit unique. Usually in a mystery or thriller the protagonist has some untapped skill set, but Nate is probably the least prepared of anyone to be conducting a murder investigation. Not only does he seem poorly educated in the ways of criminal science, but his low-level abilities put him at a constant disadvantage and make him vulnerable. I was frankly flabbergasted he didn’t get killed within the first day of being in New York, but the author does a fantastic job of weaving Nate’s low self esteem, shyness, distrust into everything he does.
This is where Nate’s romantic partner, Trent, comes in. Through the romance of the work, Nate opens up and develops the confidence he’s never had before. Watching that evolution was intriguing.
I also loved the mystery elements of this piece. We have a compelling call to adventure for our protagonist, and a book full of crazy characters who are all hiding something and all seem as if they know what happened to Nate’s brother but aren’t telling him. The list of suspects was endless. My only complaint would be that I pretty much figured out ‘who done it’ as soon as I met them. Usually I like to be surprised.
This is my first Santino Hassell book–where have I been, right?–and I can’t wait to read more.
This review was originally posted to Queer Sci Fi.