Friday, February 28, 2014

Review: Poe by J. Lincoln Fenn, winner of 2013 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest

This year's deadline for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest is almost upon us: March 2, my dears. Time to finish that novel you've been working on and get it submitted by Saturday.

Or, if you think that's a tad outside your reach, you could read the winner of last year's contest in the SFF/Horror category, Poe by J. Lincoln Fenn.

I chose option two.

Poe is the story of Dimitri, a recent college grad working at a newspaper in a small town in New England, writing obituaries. His parents recently died in a fiery car crash, and he's stashed some of their belongings in a closet in his tiny apartment. One day, he finds his father's ring in one of the boxes. He puts it on and...

Ghosts. Spirits. Murder. Demons! A magical grid of evil numbers. Grimoires.

As the small town of New Goshen loses citizen after citizen, Dimitri must unravel the truth of what's going on, from why he woke in a morgue after having been submerged in an icy well for three hours and declared dead, to the unknown ghost who's leaving messages in magnetic poetry on his refrigerator, to who his parents really were.

I don't know what I expected from the contest, but I was somewhat surprised. Poe is a fairly deft mystery with solid writing, and the voice of Dimitri, the main character, is clear enough that you can picture him in your head. He's engaging, sometimes a knucklehead but bright enough, and he's much like any young guy in his twenties--a feat many writers would like to pull off, but usually don't. The mystery itself is twisty, and while it never truly scared or even thrilled me, I enjoyed figuring it out along with Dimitri.

If I had any criticisms, it's that the writer seems a bit enamored with shows like Supernatural and Buffy--hey, is that a bad thing? No, but I think the writer aspires to Joss Whedon-clever and falls a bit short, though the dialogue definitely is a cut above most books. And the motifs are a bit, "Seen that before." And, of course, our hero occasionally makes the dumb move that we just know we wouldn't make! Minor crits, though. Really. Overall, Poe is a fun read. As Publisher's Weekly called it, "gothic pop with a literate edge." Yep. Enjoy.

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