REFLECTION OF EVIL by Bridgette Powell is a book flagged as Forensic Science united with Spirituality in a spine chilling murder mystery novel. So right up front I should just say I wasn't particularly convinced. I'm not a fan of this type of cross-over, not being a welded-on fan of the supernatural or metaphysical. Having said that, because I'm a reader and can therefore be a somewhat tricky prospect, I number amongst my favourite books a few that fall exactly into this category. So, long story short, I'll now have a go at this sort of thing, whereas once upon a time I would have been stepping away at a rapid pace.
The book starts out with the prologue, the opening paragraph of which is:
"With a gentle tug, the silk scarf covering her eyes fell away. Her beaming smile froze clown like as she took in his malevolent expression. Then she heard the humming emanating from the box at his feet. Innate fear paralysed her senses as she watched him reach down and unhinge the catch, releasing the myriad of frenzied and buzzing insects from captivity. The swarming mass burst forth in a dense, pulsating cloud."
The story centres around a number of characters that the reader meets very quickly. A psychotic killer with a low boredom threshold, Forensic pathologist Tahilia Baxter who has psychic visions, and Detective Brodie Halligan who, along with stopping a killer, is also trying to deal with a growing attraction to Baxter.
Despite my concerns, the supernatural element of the story is actually pretty well handled. Presented in a matter of fact, low-key manner it isn't too much of a stretch for a reader to accept. There's nothing overtly fantastical going on, and as the story unfolds, many of the visions that Baxter experiences become increasingly disturbing as they become increasingly obscure. Surprisingly the potential clash of Science and Spirituality wasn't quite as glaring as you'd think it could be. This is assisted by some good characters who are approachable and believable.
This is, however, another psychotic serial killer story, and whilst, in itself, not a bad plot it is yet another psychotic serial killer story and the supernatural element is about the only twist in what is, nowadays, a particularly heavily trodden path. There was also the rather odd inclusion of acronyms (or explanations of acronyms) which is probably something that other readers simply won't notice - but for some reason it clanged and yanked me firmly out of the story every time I came across one. I honestly don't remember another novel in which, for example, Sudden Infant Death (SIDS) and Personal Assistant (PA) was quite styled that way. But a more serious problem is that at 433 pages this is a hefty tome and whilst there is no denying the author has a way with words, there were passages that got bogged down. There seemed to be enough opportunities throughout to pare down and tighten up both the storytelling and the descriptive elements, contributing to both the tension build, and the readability as at points it did feel a little padded / overblown.
To be fair though, debut novels often suffer from "more is not enough" syndrome, and my overdosing on mad, bad serial killers should have nothing to do with whether or not this is a novel that readers with a liking for a touch of the supernatural should take a look at. Set in Perth and surrounds, REFLECTION OF EVIL might be just the thing for readers looking for something a little bit different, or those who really enjoy genre cross-over like this.