Title: The Spirit Key
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: Reese Dante
Publication Date: January 15, 2019
Length: 210 Pages
Reviewed by Sammy
Lock and Key: Book One
When he was eight years old, Scott Fogel died. Paramedics revived him, but he came back changed. Ghosts and spirits tormented Scott for over a decade until, thinking he was going mad, he did the only thing he could. He ran—leaving behind his best friend, Tim Jennesee. Scott’s had five normal, ghost-free years in Chicago, when the spirit of Tim’s mother comes to him and begs him to go home because Tim’s in trouble and needs him. He isn’t prepared for what he finds when he goes home—a taller and sexier Tim, but a Tim who hasn’t forgiven Scott for abandoning him… a Tim whose body is no longer his own. The ghost of a serial murderer has attached itself to Tim, and it’s whispering dark and evil things. It wants Tim to kill, and it’s becoming harder for Tim to resist. To free the man who has always meant so much to him, Scott must unravel the mystery of the destiny he shares with Tim.
At the age of eight, Scott died. When he survived the drowning, he was dubbed a miracle but in reality a nightmare had just begun to weave itself around the young boy whose only relief was the love of his best friend, Tim. As one horrific encounter with the supernatural after another happened Scott withdrew further and further into himself, turning to drugs in order to survive. But it simply wasn’t enough. So, he ran, from Tim, from his brother and mother, from all he knew. When he fled to Chicago, things got better and for five peaceful years the ghostly apparitions that seemed to always want Scott to help them disappeared, until the day one came that he could not ignore. Tim was in danger and he had to return home to help him. Not only was Tim his best friend but also his first and only love and now, despite what going home would mean for Scott’s own sanity, he needed to reconnect with the man who was his heart and soul.
Parker Williams begins a new series with the release of The Spirit Key. Dabbling in the paranormal the novel explores the idea that some can be a conduit for those lost in the afterworld. I will say that the pieces of this story that dealt with Scott seeing the dead were quite well done. There were some hair-raising moments when I was glad the lights were on and I wasn’t reading in the dark as is my habit with my well lit kindle. I felt the more macabre aspects in terms of the shock of seeing ghosts was actually the best element in this novel. However, I struggled with several other components that felt abruptly introduced with a lack of any transitional material to smooth their way.
In particular I really couldn’t come to terms with the amount of anger Tim had when Scott returned. I understood that the author was laying the scene for a future revelation in regards to Tim and why he seemed so easily led into a furious state but it still didn’t quite justify how he treated Scott. Then when that anger was coupled with a sexually dominant streak that Tim wore easily and the more submissive Scott responded to things got a bit strange. It was hard to distinguish if Tim was just being naturally dominant with little clue as to how to actually treat a submissive or if it was the ragged bursts of anger that led him to do things such as yank Scott’s hair to make him listen. More importantly it was the angry, bullying tone that slipped over that Dom/sub line that often threw me off—causing their interactions to seem forced—as if the author decided there should be an angry, sexy moment there and forced it into the scene. And that is my main criticism of this novel—so much of it felt out of sync—forced in order to bolster a future plot revelation.
If the story line had been more even—bits and pieces revealed gradually rather than spat out after sporadic moments of drama and intrigue then I could have understood those scenes where Tim’s character felt so wrong. To be frank, if the plot had been more cohesive then it would have made the emotionally violent interactions more plausible. Instead I often had to force myself to move on—to understand that almost every encounter Tim and Scott had with each other was going to end with either Tim being mean spirited and skirting the edge of being an abusive partner rather than someone who professed to be in love or Scott getting angry at Tim. Scott seemed to vacillate between being a strong and clear minded individual and a dishrag. I got that Tim’s domineering side made the sex so much better for Scott but there were times when he also just seemed to give in and take whatever Tim decided to dish out due to the guilt he carried over leaving and hurting him. Then the two would do their I’m sorry bit and the scene would play out over and over again. After several times this just got old and I felt that we had covered this ground and then some.
There were some very good sections to this story. I feel that once the author decides to explore and allow for his characters to discuss what kind of relationship they want to have in the bedroom and set some ground rules for each other, this series will find a really smart groove to travel on. Until then I worry that future stories may be as uneven as this one was. I know that author Parker Williams can write a good story, however, The Spirit Key just needed a bit more editing and plot development to smooth out it’s edges and make it a solid hit.
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