Vacant: My least favorite book in my current favorite urban fantasy series

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Alex Hughes Vacant urban fantasy book reviewsVacant by Alex Hughes

Vacant is the fourth book in Alex Hughes’ MINDSPACE INVESTIGATIONS. I absolutely loved the first three books, Clean, Sharp, and Marked (read my reviews) and this has been my favorite series for the past couple of years. Marked was my favorite book of 2013. However, I didn’t like Vacant as well and I hope (and expect) that this is just a minor setback in the series.

The most compelling element of the MINDSPACE INVESTIGATIONS series for me is all about the main character, Adam, and his fight with addiction. It is visceral and written so well that I can almost feel Adam’s pain as he craves something he knows will destroy him.

Adam owes huge debts to the Guild for a number of things and paying that off after his recent problems with the police department only makes things worse. The important thing is that Adam is very good at what he does. Even the challenges of his personal history make otherwise reluctant supervisors willing to make an effort because Adam gets results. When the Guild contacts Adam to let him know that his repayment plan has been accelerated, the options are supremely limited as only a drug addict felon can comprehend.

The burgeoning relationship with Cherabino has been a source of almost unexpected joy for Adam. The fact that she can see the good in him and is willing to invest in a romantic relationship in spite her personal tragedies makes it even more amazing. While on a romantic date, Adam and Isabella are attacked by a group of hooligans. Adam gets his butt kicked and Cherabino, commensurate with her police and martial arts background, does some butt-kicking. When one of the hooligans turns up dead and all the witnesses on the scene are pointing their fingers at an innocent Isabella, all hell begins to break loose.

Like a ray of hope, Adam gets a call to work for the FBI as part of a detail to protect an appellate court judge and her son. The money is more than Adam can turn down, so off to Savannah he goes to be the psychic version of a bodyguard known as a Minder. The investigation into the threats to the judge and the recent attack on her son gives Adam a very difficult trail to follow and it seems like each new piece of information just further muddies the water.

Adam’s relationship with Tommy, the judge’s son, is an important element of the story. The boy is gifted with the same kind of talents that Adam has and will eventually be selected by the Guild for training. For Adam, teaching Tommy how to begin to come to grips with his developing talents is a reminder, in a gentle way, of who he used to be and the good that he can do. Sadly, with the difficulties of the investigation and the veritable firestorm that Cherabino is going through at home, Adam is not at the top of his game.

Vacant feels mostly like a police procedural, with a little paranormal action thrown in just to stay in the genre. It takes almost 250 pages to get going and become interesting. I understand that an author has to set the stage for the action packed portions of the story, but I was literally bored with long segments of the story as Adam and the FBI Agents basically plod along trying to figure out who is behind the threats to the judge and Tommy. Once the story gets going and the real villains begin to surface it become much more interesting. There are naturally some twists and turns that are to be expected in a novel like this, but unfortunately they were sometimes predictable.

Adam remains one of my favorite characters in paranormal fiction. Hughes has done a masterful job of creating him with qualities and faults that truly make him live and breathe. I just hope that future stories will spend a little more time of the action and less time on the investigation. I will definitely be picking them up.

Publication Date: December 2, 2014. Nothing ruins a romantic evening like a brawl with lowlifes—especially when one of them later turns up dead and my date, Detective Isabella Cherabino, is the #1 suspect. My history with the Atlanta PD on both sides of the law makes me an unreliable witness, so while Cherabino is suspended, I’m paying my bills by taking an FBI gig. I’ve been hired to play telepathic bodyguard for Tommy, the ten-year-old son of a superior court judge in Savannah presiding over the murder trial of a mob-connected mogul. After an attempt on the kid’s life, the Feds believe he’s been targeted by the businessman’s “associates.” Turns out, Tommy’s a nascent telepath, so I’m trying to help him get a handle on his Ability. But it doesn’t take a mind reader to see that there’s something going on with this kid’s parents that’s stressing him out more than a death threat…

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JOHN HULET (on FanLit's staff July 2007 -- March 2015) is a member of the Utah Army National Guard. John’s experiences have often left a great void that has been filled by countless hours spent between the pages of a book lost in the words and images of the authors he admires. During a 12 month tour of Iraq, he spent well over $1000 on books and found sanity in the process. John lives in Utah and works slavishly to prepare soldiers to serve their country with the honor and distinction that Sturm Brightblade or Arithon s’Ffalenn would be proud of. John retired from FanLit in March 2015 after being with us for nearly 8 years.

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One comment

  1. I’ve always been drawn to these because of the intriguing titles (and your reviews). I hope I get to them in 2015.

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