Mind of the Phoenix by Jamie McLachlan

Mind of the Phoenix by Jamie McLachlan

(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

Moira is a powerful empath, a psychic graced with the ability to read emotions and memories. Her skill is as much a curse as a gift, for in the harshly stratified city of Braxton empaths are slaves. Clever and beautiful, Moira has learned to rely on no one but herself. Determined to escape life as a concubine, she kills her master, and is imprisoned for the crime.

This could be the end for Moira, but the government has need of her skills. A mysterious serial killer known as the Phoenix has been planting suggestions in his victims’ minds that drive them to murder and suicide. To gain her freedom, Moira partners with Keenan Edwards, a handsome young detective, to stop the killer.

Hunting the Phoenix will bring Moira on a more dangerous road than she imagined, forcing her to confront dark minds, twisted moralities, and her growing feelings for the detective.

[Full disclosure: I requested and recevied a free ebook through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

I wasn’t really sure what I expected from Mind of the Phoenix, but it certainly exceeded whatever expectations I did have.

Moira is a truly amazing character.  She’s been a slave in a pleasure house for years until at the age of 19 she was sold off to a private owner that she then killed.  She evaded capture for 6 months before being taken into custody pending execution—until even the Elite (the powerful empaths that work with regular humans to suppress their less powerful brethren) admit they need her abilities to solve a recent spree of suicides that are likely murders.  Throughout the investigation we see Moira start to open up just a bit.  In the beginning she’s very cynical and sarcastic, both of which are clear defense mechanisms considering what she’s been through.  And then as time goes on and Keenan shows her some of the good in the world, she opens up to him a bit.  She still struggles with her inner demons and she doesn’t exactly have rose-coloured glasses on by the end of the novel but she at least softens her outlook a little bit as she sees the good in some people.

Keenan is truly an enigma.  He’s not your typical tough, silent detective type and he’s certainly not the typical bad boy type of person that you see in so much fiction now.  He’s just a man struggling with demons of his own, much like Moira.  As a detective he’s seen a lot and feels quite a bit of responsibility on his shoulders.  In a world that is clearly morally skewed, he does the best he can to be a good person.  He’s not perfect—the second scene where he holds Moira’s head under water definitely shows that—but he’s not a monster.  And he’s certainly not the type of man Moira is used to and can easily fit in one category.

Lest you think so, let me say clearly that any romance between Moira and Keenan is not the main focus of the story.  Jamie McLachlan does a great job of depicting the inner struggles of the characters while at the same time moving the plot along quite quickly.  The mysterious Phoenix is on the loose, implanting commands in people’s minds that make them commit suicide when a certain phrase is read.  How can he or she be stopped when you don’t know who you’re looking for or what their true motives are?  Moira can search through minds but not even she can undo some of the blocks the Phoenix places in them—at least not without utterly destroying the mind of the victim.  When you think you know the true identity of the Phoenix, the plot twists and you’re left wondering whether or not that person is the Phoenix.  Jamie McLachlan writes great interpersonal struggles, but she also writes one heck of a murder mystery.

If you’re looking for something a little different from the regular fantasy/speculative fiction, Mind of the Phoenix is the perfect book for you.  It has political intrigue, two separate murder mysteries and some great intrapersonal/interpersonal conflicts.  And yes, it has just a hint of romance and deals with the whole idea of putting the past behind you so you can live in the present.  Best of all, it’s extremely well-written.  You’ll be up reading into the early morning hours just like I was last night.  I can’t recommend this book enough and I really can’t wait for the next book in the Memory Collector series.

I give this book 5/5 stars.

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