Review of Memory Zero (Spook Squad #1), by Keri Arthur

Memory ZeroThe nice folks over at Random House Publishing Group – Bantam Dell and Netgalley approved a review copy of Keri Arthur‘s rerelease of Memory Zero.

Description from Goodreads:
For Sam Ryan, life began at age fourteen. She has no memory of her parents or her childhood. In a decade of service with the State Police, Sam has exhausted the resources of the force searching for clues to her identity. But all mention of her family seems to have been deliberately wiped off the record. Everything changes the night Sam’s missing partner resurfaces as a vampire . . . and forces her to kill him in self-defense. Now Sam is charged with murder. Suspended from the force, and with no one left to trust, Sam accepts some unexpected help from Gabriel Stern, a shapeshifter who conceals startling secrets.
 
While investigating the circumstances surrounding her partner’s strange behavior, Sam discovers that Garbriel’s been involved with a dangerous organization that’s planning a war on the human race. More immediate, someone is guarding the truth about Sam’s past—someone who’d rather see her dead than risk her knowing too much. To stay alive, Sam must unravel the threads of her past—and find out not only who she is but what she is.

Review:
I had mixed feelings about this book. It jumps right into the action and never stops. And while this is exciting, it’s also problematic. Because with all the go, go, go the characters never once stop and have any sort of getting to know one another conversations. This means that the reader never has access to any getting to know one another conversations. I’ve finished the book and still feel that Sam is a complete stranger; Gabriel too, though to a minimally lesser degree, as we at least got to see his affection for his brother.

Further, I checked again and again to ensure that this is in fact the first book in the Spook Squad series. Once I had convinced myself it is, I started looking to see if the Spook Squad is a spin off of another series. Dark Angels is a fairly large series by Arthur, for example, and dark angels are mentioned here. But as far as I can see, the original release of this book predates the other series, so it can’t be a spin off.

The reason I was so convinced it must be is because there is no world building and a lot of information seems to be assumed or glossed over—What is the Federation, for example, or who/what is this Sethanon everyone seems to know about, the events surrounding the recently deceased sibling, the interspecies war, all of Sam and Jack’s history, why does the SIU and the Federation know all about Jack in the first place, etc. There is a lot of history that is referenced but never directly addressed (and arn’t part of the book’s mystery) and I felt I was missing a very large piece of the puzzle.

I did like that the book was set in Melbourne. I always enjoy finding that books are set in interesting locations. Though, honestly it could have been set anywhere. The setting played very little part in the story. I also liked that though the MCs were obviously becoming emotionally aware of each-other, the book didn’t go there. This is urban fantasy and it remained true to its genre by not straying into romantic territory.

The writing was pretty good, though I do have to admit to thinking the use of ‘kite monster’ was incredibly cheesy. I could have lived it just ‘kite,’ you know, like the bird. But really, kite monster? Would a group of shifters, vampires, shapechangers, etc (you know monsters) really refer to another mythical creature as an xxx monster anyway? Either way, it felt really middle grade to me.

Final say: not a complete dud, but not a big winner either.

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