This first book in the Riley Thorn series (two so far with book three on the way) is a witty, quick-paced read with unique, individualized characters. They are so well-created, and the author really shines through all the personality she pumps into these characters.
Riley Thorn is a divorced, broke, 30-something year old, renting a studio apartment in a converted Philadelphia mansion. Her geriatric housemates come with larger-than-life personalities and no understanding of privacy. And oh, yeah, Riley's psychic... and beyond tired of all the dead people pushing messages into her head.
Determined to be normal and free of the mind-reading and visions, Riley becomes incredibly out-of-sorts when she sees the murder of her obnoxious, misogynistic, dirty old neighbor Dicky Frick... before it happens.
And to make things even more interesting, there's dimpled Nick Santiago... a private investigator who's casually staking out the mansion looking for the very same man. When he knocks on her door pretending to be someone he's not to get answers about Dicky's whereabouts, Riley sees right through his facade - magic powers not required.
Nick doesn’t edge closer to Riley – he dives head first, telling himself he's just trying to get the drop on her neighbor. But he quickly realizes that Riley knows more than she's letting on... She's just doesn't want him to find out how. He's charming, attractive, and carefree, so content with being his own boss, chasing down answers and making his own schedule. He's a local Philly boy who seems to know and be loved by everyone. It's so refreshing to see a character who loves his life.
Nick Santiago is the highlight of this novel, and the relationship between him and Riley shines through their witty banter and genuine connection. Both of them are so dynamic, with rich backstories that really enhance the plot and the relationship. It’s slow burn meets friends-to-lovers with unabashed flirting the whole ride.
Riley is a interesting main character with a family that feels real and fits together so well. Without giving too much away, I will say that the author doesn't skimp on anything. She gives almost everyone a full backstory, and each character slots so well into the overall plot. Riley's family is kooky without distracting from the plot, and there's a suspension of disbelief required with the hippie psychic element, but the family is so funny and balanced that I was right on board.
Riley doesn't deny her abilities for the sake of denying or for a plot point; there's a pretty solid event in her past that put her off embracing her gift, despite how much her family is submerged in it. And even though it shapes her, it doesn't overwhelm the story, and it's not some big mystery that she refuses to talk about. It's just a fact of her past that affects her but doesn't drive the story.
When Riley and Nick meet, she's in a slump, down on her luck, dealing with a dim-witted ex who's charging her alimony, and living in a flop house with a slew of old people who can't remember to lock the door. But she's not some debbie-downer who's moping around the house. She's inherently upbeat and comically sarcastic, getting through life by recognizing the irony and just chugging through it.
She and Nick progress so naturally, with a level of maturity that matches characters in their 30s. They don't have it all together and they have different visions for their lives, but they're mature enough to embrace change and embrace whatever's happening between them.
They both grow as they chase down murderers, follow leads, and avoid being thumbed as suspects. The story is absolutely crazy, but it's fun, and it's funny, and you root for all of the characters, from Nick and Riley to the old fogies she lives with.
I found myself laughing out loud continuously and enjoying the unique personality of each and every character in the novel. It's a hoot, and that's such a cheesy thing to say, but I was smiling and laughing throughout this whole book. I can't find a better way to describe it.
I've never been a (cozy?) mystery romance kind of girl, and I think this book sits firmly in a mash of genres, but the Riley Thorn books have me running head-first into rom-coms, hoping for more just like this.