Book review of No Good Deed by Bill Blais
(a Kelly and Umber novel, book 1)
An urban fantasy with soul.
In a genre dominated by author names like Patricia, Charlaine, Jeanine, and Laurell, and stories following smart-talking mortal (and immortal) demon-fighting twenty-somethings, Bill Blais and his character stand out like a white heron at a black swan convention.
Kelly McGinnis is happily married to a man she adores and a devoted mother of two active eight-year-olds. But her family’s future is uncertain–not only has she just lost her job, but Kelly is also struggling to deal with the reality of her husband’s declining health, and, of course, the inevitable medical bills.
Then, one day, an accidental brush with the paranormal leads to Kelly standing over a body of one very dead demon hunter and an equally dead demon. Then she receives a job offer that could solve all her financial problems, if only she’d join up and slay monsters for a mysterious group posing as antique dealers. All Kelly wants to do is take care of her family; instead, she’s plunged into a secret world of demons and magic, conspiracies and broken lives.
What’s worse, she can’t be sure she’s even doing the right thing. But she might be in too deep to ever get out.
What had initially attracted me to the story was that, unlike most accidental demon slayers, this was a plump, middle aged mom with a family and a husband she adores. I wasn’t expecting much, but as I started reading Kelly’s story, something wondrous happened; I completely and utterly believed in her.
“Kelly is not the figure on the cover of any contemporary urban fantasy novel, and she knows it, but she doesn’t care (for the most part), and that independence was key. […] I also didn’t know if I could pull off a believable female voice, but as soon as I put pencil to paper, she started talking on her own, so the pressure was off. All I had to do was listen.”
In Kelly, Blais creates a woman who really is out of her depth, but who rises to the occasion, even as she struggles to juggle her two lives, truly lying to her husband for the very first time while trying to rationalize how the stack of bills she’s earning justifies her risking her life. I was delighted to see the same high level of detail go into everything, from demon battles to Kelly’s relationship with her husband (which was, dare I say, utterly and charmingly adorable).
The secondary cast, while initially almost overwhelming in its numbers, is sketched out with that same characteristically Blais eye to character-building. We get a good dose of delicious intrigue and mystery as Kelly tries to understand the whys and hows of the supernatural underworld and comes to realize that things are not as black-and-white as they appear. And of course, she also learns to shoot people. Win all around.
One canary does get knocked off due to pacing, particularly the slow-down near the middle of the story as No Good Deed strives to bridge that plot transition from First Blunder to Final Battle. But once the threats (against Kelly, against her family) start flying and the conspiracies and inconvenient questions rear their heads, it’s a hang-on-tight ride to the very last page.
Highly recommended to anyone looking to switch up their usual Urban Fantasy line-up.
Check out our other reviews of indie books in our Independent Authors Series here.