Lisa Shearin

Books: Fantasy | Mystery | Romance

SPI Files: The Grendel Affair (2013), The Dragon Conspiracy (2015), The Brimstone Deception (2016), The Ghoul Vendetta (2017), The Myth Manifestation (2018), The Phoenix Illusion (2018), The Solstice Countdown (2021), The Gorgon Agenda (2023)

Raine Benares: Wild Card (2014), Magic Lost, Trouble Found (2007)


Night Shift (2014)

The SPI Files

The Grendel Affair (2013)

The-Grendel-AffairI came across this on a book blog–although I have absolutely no idea which one it was. It was an early review (the book was published on the last day of the year), and it looked intriguing, so I put it onto my wish list. A month or so later, I saw it had temporarily dropped in price, so I pre-ordered it, and New Year's Day as I was looking for something to read I decided to give this a try.

I finished it that day.

Makenna Fraser is a Seer for SPI (Supernatural Protection & Investigations). She grew up in a small town filled with supernatural creatures and people living hidden in plain sight, in a town that drew them in. So when she moved to NYC, she wasn't particularly surprised to find the supernatural. What did surprise her was that there was group dedicated to both helping the supernatural hide and protecting humans from some of the more unsavory creatures and people who would prey upon them.

I think her background is something I especially liked. She grew up knowing about the hidden supernatural but not about an agency dedicated to the supernatural.

I also liked that her powers were–not minor, because they weren't small–but that they were passive. She could see things, but couldn't use her magic to fight. That didn't make her weak, but it was a nice change to have a heroine who was physically normal (so to speak) and had to live by her wits more than power.

Actually, I enjoy the same in heroes as well.

There was another aspect to her growing up in a small town that was well done as well. She had grown up with guns and target shooting etc but discovers that shooting in the country is very different from reacting in a real life situation.

Being able to clear a line of beer cans from an old washer would never save anyone's life, and I'd never actually heard of a deer taking a hunter hostage and using him as a shield while being hoisted into a helicopter. So I could hit a target. Big deal. That didn't teach me when to shoot, when to hold my fire; or if I did shoot, the why and how of that decision, a split-second choice that could mean life or death for another SPI agent, me, or a friend who was in the right place but at the worst time.

I've heard many many people say, "well, if she'd had a gun…" or "if I'd been in that situation…" but I don't think most people could, in fact, react heroically in such situations. I believe that it takes lots of training to be able to act and react in such situations. So I really appreciated her reactions when she was placed in danger. She didn't scream or faint or wait for a hero to rescue her, but she also had what felt like a real reaction.

So, I thoroughly enjoyed this story, and look forward to more books.

Published by Ace

January 2014 | Rating: 8.5/10

Audio Version (2013/2014) narrated by Johanna Parker

Publisher: Audible Studios

The Dragon Conspiracy (2015)

dragon-conspiracyThis is the second book of the SPI files, and a fun romp.

But is also has a few things that are quite different from other books in this genre. Such as this:

Starting a romantic relationship with Ian and having it go bad would make our time at work awkward.

I wanted to do a happy dance when I read that.

But it's also just plain fun.

I was confused. "But isn't the Queen of Dreams the pink diamond?"

"It is."

"But pink's a nice color."

"Not for goblins. Pink is the color of pure evil."

I had a flashback to shopping for one of my nieces in the all-pink Barbie aisle at Toys "R" Us. I had to admit, it had creeped me out. I nodded. "I can see that."

It's a witty romp where the main character is female, isn't unbreakable and KNOWS it, and although she appreciates fine looking men, is capable of concentrating on her work.

I really like this series.

Published by Ace

January 2015 | Rating: 8.5/10

Audio Version (2015) narrated by Johanna Parker

Publisher: Audible Studios

The Brimstone Deception (2016)

The-Brimstone-DeceptionI really like this series.

Makenna Fraser is a seer for the SPI–the government agency in charge of supernatural crimes (and seeing that the supernatural don't come to the attention of the public).

Her talent is a rare one, and the previous individuals to hold her job all died under mysterious circumstances, so Mac is partnered with someone whose job is to protect her. Because she doesn't have magical healing or regeneration or super fighting skills or strength, she's just a human who can see magic.

This means she does not have the skills to kick ass, and is well-aware of this fact.

As soon as the elevator doors closed, Ian drew his gun, which was loaded with silver-infused hollow points. "Stay here," he told me.

"I can do that." Not only could I do that, I was glad to do that.

Mind you, the agency is training her in self-defense, but she is well-aware that fighting is not her forte, and I really like that about her. Because as much as I like kick-ass heroines, I really like Mac's realistic assessment of her strengths and abilities.

It's a lovely change.

I was smart enough to know and accept that I could be trained by the best and still never qualify as a badass. My goal was simply to make it to work each day and home every night.

Fred was a solid presence at my back. Though considering what I most wanted to do was turn and run, a solid Fred right behind me wasn't good for either one of us, unless he wanted to get trampled.

And the writing is witty and amusing.

Our head of HSR (Human and Supernatural Resources) was a voodoo high priestess. SPI's non-disclosure agreements for new employees were signed in her office and in their blood. It didn't matter who or what you did or didn't worship, nobody messed with voodoo. No one had ever even thought about blabbing about the agency to the press or anyone else.

Even with all the foot traffic, I had no trouble spotting him.

He'd taken off his balaclava to try to blend in, but all that did was give him a serious case of hat hair.

I really like this series, and highly recommend it when you want something fun to read.

Published by Ace

February 2016 | Rating: 9/10

Audio Version (2016) narrated by Johanna Parker

Publisher: Audible Studios

The Ghoul Vendetta (2017)

I adore this series. It's so fun and enjoyable–despite all the ghouls and monsters.

The nephew of a vampire lord is kidnapped at an elite yacht party Mac is attending with Rake (the wealthy goblin businessman and dark mage she's sort-of dating, but still isn't sure about.). This is followed by ghouls breaking into secured bank vaults, stealing a select few items, and then eating the guards. Needless to say this is a nightmare for the PR people who are supposed to keep the supernatural world under wraps, and thus the case becomes a priority for SPI.

Unfortunately, the leader of the ghouls turns out to be a monster who has been haunting Mac's partner Ian, which makes things more complicated, since as the only seer for NY SPI, Ian is as much Mac's bodyguard as partner. Mac has useful skills, but those skills don't include extreme weapons abilities or defensive abilities.

I appreciated Ian's training efforts in that area as well as hand-to-hand combat, but I'd pretty much gotten as good as I was going to get, though I kept trying, and Ian kept teaching.

That last bit is one of the things I adore about Mac and this series. She's SENSIBLE.

All that being said, I had a gun, I'd been trained, and I almost had the confidence to use it. Though suddenly, I went from having one target to what SPI's shooting instructor called a "target-rich environment."

You didn't walk into a dark hole in the ground unless you were qualified to handle what you found— or what found you. Anyone other than a seasoned battle mage would be woefully— and fatally— unqualified.

We got the hell out.

One of the other things I love is the thought that went into the world-building.

She'd begun her career as a midwife, and had become the first licensed female doctor in the city. Every few decades, she "retired" from one position and took another. She'd been in her mid-twenties when she'd been turned so she didn't stand out when she went back to school after a "retirement" to catch up on the latest medical advances. She'd learned to glamour and glamour well. As a result, she'd never had problems blending in or with being found out.

Vivienne Sagadraco had a lot of pull in this town, and one of the ways she used it was getting supernaturals placed in strategic jobs. In addition to supernaturals in the NYPD, there were mages who, like Dr. Van Daal, could place a glamour on a dead supernatural and hold it there until the body was turned over to the family. Or if no one claimed the body, until it was cremated or buried by the city. These mages were in homicide divisions, the medical examiner's office, and CSI teams.

(T)he Prime Bank was founded by and largely caters to supernaturals. When one has an extended lifespan, it's less awkward and more convenient to bank where you don't have to pretend to die every ninety years.

As a psychometric, Dr. Tierney got psychic vibes from objects, even furniture, especially antique furniture. As a psychiatrist, he needed to keep his concentration on his patients. That explained why all of his office furniture came from Ikea. He even assembled it himself so that the frustration of the people who had to put it together didn't sink into the wood and fabric.

Those are the little touches that delight me when I come across them in a story.

Plus, I love bits like this:

"We have other agents who are just as qualified—"

"Name one," Ian snarled.

"Every senior agent in the bull pen."

That's perfect.

Plus, there's a great scene when they're in the restricted archives, and she describes the reaction to the archivists to someone touching an old document.

I really love this series and am already waiting impatiently for the next installment.

Published by Ace

February 2017 | Rating: 9/10

Audio Version (2017) narrated by Johanna Parker

Publisher: Audible Studios

August 2023 | Rating: 8/10

The Myth Manifestation (2018)

Our world is populated by a greater variety of creatures than we might imagine, from vampires and werewolves to goblins and dwarves and all variety of creatures considered mythical. For these creatures to hide in plain sight, a treaty was hammered out 100 years earlier, to keep fights that existed on their home worlds from boiling over here, and to make sure that these creatures remain hidden from most humans.

It's time to renew that treaty, and SPI is to host the convention, and provide much of the protection for the delegates.

Unfortunately, as with the best laid plans, someone wants to give both SPI, and the host of the convention, Rake Dansecu, a black eye.

For multiple reasons, I fear this might be the last book in this series. But, at least everything closed cleanly and clearly, so if there isn't another book I can be happy with how things ended.

As with the previous books, the best part of this story is Mac, a transplanted southern gal whose skills make her important to security and enforcement, but pretty much unable to fight monsters on her own.

I'm like one of those little dogs who chases big trucks. In my case, though, the big trucks are bloodthirsty monsters. Occasionally I catch one, but I'm woefully unqualified to do anything past that point.

Despite her relatively weakness, she does the best with what she has.

I drew my own weapon. It was the latest and greatest paint pistol SPI's chief armorer had made for me. As a country girl who grew up in the mountains, I was a good shot. Since I'd been working at SPI, I'd become a better shot. Our agents and commandos were expert shots— when it came to what they could see.

My paint pistol and I were there to help them shoot what they couldn't see.

While I came to New York knowing how to shoot, I quickly found that there's a big difference between shooting cans off an old, rusted washing machine and taking down a living, breathing whatever. For one, cans wouldn't chase you down to tear you limb from limb. A lot of the things SPI hunted believed that an uneaten human was a wasted human, and they didn't care if you were still alive when they started in on you.

Needless to say, I quickly became intensely motivated to become an expert at hitting moving targets.

I absolutely love how logical and sensible that is.

Plus, Mac is just delightful and fun.

I shoved some bacon in a biscuit, wrapped both in a napkin, and tucked it in my jacket pocket.

I really like both this book and this series, and highly recommend both. They're fun and enjoyable–a perfect escape.

Publisher: NLA Digital LLC

February 2018 | Rating: 8.5/10

Audio Version (2017) narrated by Johanna Parker

Publisher: Audible Studios

Rating: 8/10

The Phoenix Illusion (2018)

The 6th SPI Files book finds Mac and and her friends celebrating when a house suddenly appears in an empty lot–and catches on fire.

More distressingly, the house that appeared is Rake's, and it's from his homeworld (which isn't Earth).

First, Mac remains one of my favorite fictional law officers, because of her attitude.

As much as I wanted to be as badass as my coworkers, I'd come to accept that it simply wasn't gonna happen, but that didn't stop me from training and trying. It was the least I could do for the people who had to work with me.

Her power is being a seer, which doesn't give her any help in a fight, and since her power is rare (several previous seers for SPI were killed) she needs to be protected. But she has no interesting in being helpless, so she trains to be able to protect herself as best she can, which is really a lesson to all of us.

Not that protectiveness doesn't sometimes bug her.

Rake's worrying didn't lessen Ian's worrying, and between the two of them, I'd be lucky if I ever got to pee by myself again.

The other thing I particularly enjoy about this series is that it's relatively light and amusing.

When they came here, elves spread out and settled all over the place. However, a lot of them gravitated toward places like Los Angeles and New York to become actors, singers, models, and dancers. If your favorite celeb looks or sounds too good to be human, chances are they're not.

I cut loose with profanity's greatest hits. Too bad there wasn't anyone around to hear me. They'd have been impressed. Or appalled. … I silently recited the flip side to profanity's greatest hits.

There is an acknowledgement of boinking in this story, but no details, just as there is an acknowledgement of cursing (see above). I actually like the lack of boinking, and didn't notice the lack of cursing at all, which makes this series more than acceptable for older teens.

She says she's not done with this series, and I'm glad to hear that, because I really enjoy these books.

Publisher: Murwood Media, LLC

January 2019 | Rating: 8/10

Audio Edition (2018) narrated by Johanna Parker

Published by Audible Studios

September 2023 | Rating: 7/10

The Solstice Countdown (2021)

The Solstice CountdownMac and Rake are heading to North Carolina to spend Christmas with Mac's family. Unfortunately, it looks like the cabal that wants to take out the SPI seers has followed Mac and is still trying to take her out.

As with the previous book, the best parts are Mac's voice.

(M)y sudden maneuver turned the Jeep from a four-wheeled vehicle into a Tilt-A-Whirl fair ride. I'd hated those things as a kid and having my Jeep acting like one did nothing to change my opinion. Not to mention, it was embarrassing for me as a Jeep owner. I was shaming my people.

And the area she lives feels like the south.

(T)he Jeep became completely encased in fog. The headlights reflected back at us, and I had to slow to a crawl. I knew which way the road was supposed to go, but it would be all too easy to misjudge exactly where the road was. In most places, we'd be stopped by trees. In others, it'd be a freefall off the side of the mountain.

Rural roads and towns in the Appalachian mountains have a certain feel, and this story does capture it.

Throughout the series is has remained sensible, but also very much a southern gal–self-reliant and fond of sweet tea. But most importantly she knows her limits.

However, the story didn't feel as strong as earlier entries. Possibly because I may prefer to problems coming to Mac as part of her work, rather than problems following Mac around.

But it was still fun and I will keep enjoying the story.

Publisher: Murwood Media LLC

March 2021 | Rating: 7/10

The Gorgon Agenda (2023)

The Gorgon AgendaI seem to have forgotten much of the previous book. But now I check the publication date, I bought it a the end of March 2021, so, yeah, that explains it.

The Aegis–the mythical shield with Medeusa's head head embedded in the center, has been stolen from Vivienne Sandrago, the head of SPI–and a dragon, who is very unhappy someone has taken something from her hoard.

And that person was most likely aligned with Vivienne's sister, Tiamat.

One of the things I have especially loved about this series is how sensible and down-to-earth SPI is.

Thick glass walls along both sides of the hall provided an unobstructed view into the labs. That way, if an experiment or subject got out of control, those windows let the folks across the hall know that all hell had broken loose and to please, when they had a minute, call for help.

Makenna has to go on many of these dangerous trips because she is the only seer the SPI has, and she is the only one who can see people and objects hidden by glamour. And because she has such a rare gift, SPI has done everything possible to keep her safe while allowing her to help her teammates.

And Makenna is aware of her limitations and sensible about them.

Axes were merely the more lethal cousin of Pin the Tail on the Donkey. The Garrisons knew their walls were safe. We were professionals. We knew what we were doing. And no, I didn't include myself in that "we." I still couldn't throw for crap and wasn't about to embarrass myself in front of my friends.

And I love the humor.

Using carbon dating, we estimate the gorgon who shed this scale is approximately seventy-two hundred years old."

Silence. And a second later, we heard actual crickets. Someone had brought lunch to our little viper guest.

It's possible this is the last book in the series, and I'm okay with that. Do I want to read more SPI cases? Of course. But if things end here, that's ok.

Publisher: Murwood Media

February 2023 | Rating: 8/10

Raine Benares

Wild Card (2014)

wild-cardThis short story is an introduction to Lisa Shearin's Raine Benares series.

I fully admit that despite being elves and goblins and not set in this world, I like it. Probably because it was a PI story, so the world building gets to take second place to the mystery. But also because everything is close enough that you don't need huge explanations as to how things work and things have normal names (like coffee).

Raine Benares is an elven Seeker, which sounds pretty much like what it is: she finds things. She comes from a family of pirates but keeps herself mostly on the straight-and-narrow (at least as long as local law enforcement is concerned).

When a goblin Lady asks her to retrieve her jewelry–stolen by her no-good husband, who substituted paste for the real gems–things immediately get complicated.

This was a fun little story–well crafted and I didn't need any familiarity with the books to get the story.

Published by NLA Digital LLC

Rating: 7/10

Magic Lost, Trouble Found (2007)

Magic-Lost-Trouble-FoundI came across Lisa Shearin through her SPI files, which I thoroughly enjoyed. So I decided I should probably look into checking out her Raine Benares. I then read a short story set in this world that was a prequel to the first book. It also was interesting, so I decided to take a gamble.

So how'd that work out for me?

First, this is straight-up fantasy, which I don't read a lot of anymore.

Second, this is, I now realize, book one in a six book story arc.

Did I enjoy the story? Yes. I found some of the names confusing, especially having two main characters, both male, whose first names started with P. Piaris and Phaelan aren't that similar, I know, but at a glance (I read very quickly) they look similar, and so I kept losing track of who was who.

Despite that occasional confusion, I enjoyed the writing quite a bit.

My godfather didn't keep anything of value except his privacy, but that he held dear above all else.

(A) man didn't have to have power to be corrupted, but it sure happened faster when he did.

I also appreciated Raine's fashion ideals.

I approved of the leather and even the corset I'd have to wear underneath. I wouldn't be comfortable, but at least I'd have marginal protection against pointy steel objects that went stab in the night.

That is one of the nicest things about straight-up fantasy: you can mix different eras and sensibilities without offending history. So you can have a female fighter who wears trouser at the same time you have women wearing corsets and fancy gowns.

So am I going to read the rest of this series?

Most likely not.

I enjoyed the story and the characters, but not enough to commit to reading five more books to get the full story. Which brings us back to why I don't read much straight-up fantasy anymore. I don't want to commit to a long series that probably has cliff hangers. I want a series I can read some of, then take a break, and come back later and jump right back in without feeling lost.

So, it was a good book, I just don't want to read five more like it to find out what happens.

Published by Ace

Rating: 7/10


Night Shift (2014) Nalini Singh; Ilona Andrews; Lisa Shearin; Milla Vane

Night-ShiftLet me be clear from the start: I read only two of these stories. In fact, I was going to read only one story, Ilona Andrews' story "Magic Steals" until I realized the next story was a Lisa Shearin SPI files story. I very much adored the first SPI Files book, so was delighted to read a novella set in that world.

I already knew I don't care for Nalini Singh's stories (they simply aren't my thing), and the last story didn't pique my interest. I might read it at a later time, but possibly not. So I'll review the two stories I did read.

Magic Steals is Jim and Dali story, and one that I (and many others) have been waiting for since their last story, "Magic Dreams".

Jim and Dali are dating, except that Dali is so certain that handsome, confident alpha Jim is going to come to his senses at any moment and dump her, that she refuses to admit they are dating.

This sounds dumb, but you'll have to trust me that it isn't. Dali is a tiny, vegetarian, half-blind woman who turns into a massive white tiger–who is afraid to fight, doesn't like the taste of blood even in her tiger form, and is befuddled following her change to her tiger form.

Yes, she is a very rare shifter who is also magic user, but her calligraphy magic doesn't always work as she expects. So, her lack of self-confidence is understandable. But what this story makes clear is that Dali has value, to Jim and to her community.

I really enjoyed this story, despite all the boinking.

I also enjoyed Dali's relationship with her mother.

Not to mention that she would be so overjoyed that I was having sex in the first place, she would probably call all of our relatives and tell them about it. They'd throw a party to celebrate.

Lisa Sherain's story, "Lucky Charms" is a light-hearted story (like the first book in the series) and although there is snogging, it's not a boinking story.

But much of the story does take place in… an unusual location.

"There're behaviors that aren't suspicious in a strip club?"

It's about Mac's first case with the SPI, so it's set prior to the first book.

I quite enjoyed the story, but I can see that people who were expecting boinking and romance and all that might be… disappointed in it.

Published by Berkley

Rating: 8/10