A review of Internal Affairs (OSI #4), by Jes Battis

READ NOVEMBER 2013

ONLINE PLOT SUMMARY: “A dead body on the beach turns out to be a live demon on the run from some of the nastiest bounty hunters in this dimension-or the next. Protecting one demon from another, Tess gets wrapped up in a case that’s as dangerous as it is mind-boggling, especially when it begins to involve her own past.”

MY REVIEW: I’ve really been enjoying this series, and I think I liked this one even more than the first three books. Battis has several strengths which are apparent here: Technically, the writing (and/or editing) leaves nothing to complain about; as a male writer, he is able to write a very convincing female character; and, finally, there is a nice mix of the supernatural with the quotidian.

Technically — or, mechanically, as Janet Burroway puts it, in Writing Fiction — the best word I can think of for Battis’ writing is “accomplished,” in other words, more than just competent. I found none of the distracting sort of errors which lift the reader, well, this reader, anyway, out of the story. “Accomplished” could also apply to the narrative style, which moves smoothly from page to page, effectively alternating calmer scenes with well-written action passages. “Calm,” though, doesn’t mean nothing happens in those scenes. In fact, a lot goes on: a fair amount of back-story is presented, but never feels like an info-dump; we learn more about Tess, both her past and her romantic relationship; and, we get some in-depth looks at her unique family life.

Not every writer can produce female characters, especially principals, who ring 100% true. Battis definitely succeeds, though. In fact, until I googled Jes Battis, I had assumed the author was female, Jes being gender-ambiguous. I can’t over-emphasize how important I think this is. Being presented with a convincing female protagonist allows the reader, male or female, to fully identify with and sympathize with Tess. The author’s insights into her personal, as opposed to her professional, side, greatly enrich the novel’s complexity. It’s that complexity that elevates this series above some of the other entries in this genre.

There are plenty of novels in this genre which are purely action-driven, event stories as opposed to character stories, if you will. Battis manages to quite successfully combine two structures, and the glimpses of Tess’ quirky family are, to me, some my favorite parts of the book. I simply love Mia, and hope we see much more of her in the series. In fact, I wouldn’t mind Battis giving Mia a book of her own, as Armstrong did with Savannah Levine in the Women of the Otherworld series. In any case, the aspects of Tess’ home life make this an infinitely more enjoyable novel than many, simply because of its greater depth.

But…and, readers of my reviews know there’s often a “but”…

Structurally, I have a serious problem with Internal Affairs: There’s no climax. Really! There are a series of crises, none of which exceeds the others in tension. The final scene begins as if we’re approaching a climactic conclusion, but our heightened expectations are never met. In fact, this last scene really fizzles. At a point which seems to demand a major physical confrontation and resolution, all we get is talk. Informative, interesting conversation, true, but still, just talk. I found it extremely unsatisfying, and given how good things were to that point, terribly disappointing. While there are, admittedly, quite successful novels where the plot is more of a plateau, in this particular genre, a satisfying climax is almost always called for, and here, its absence is very noticeable, problematically so.

Be that as it may, Internal Affairs, is an extremely enjoyable read with plenty of action and some of my favorite characters in this or any genre.

 

 

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