Studies of Beasties
Iona Adair Scottish Mysteries #1
By Polly Letson
Iona Adair thought she had a simple life, with her job, draughty flat and her sweet, black and white cat. But when you are moonlighting for a secret organisation aiming to destroy all evidence of the paranormal, whilst working as a parapsychologist at the world renowned Diederich Institute of Parapsychology, things are bound to get complicated. Throw into that mix an uncanny ability for mind control, her baffling spirit guide, a fake clairvoyant mother, as well as some naked dead bodies, and mayhem ensues.
Iona is forced out of the safe world of Edinburgh academia by her new Texan boss and is suddenly in the field, exploring a small Scottish town that believes the Beast of Badnoch is behind the spate of recent disappearances. Will her dishy colleague Andy find out that the psychic he’s investigating is her mother? And will that change how he feels about her? In this, the first of the Iona Adair Scottish Mysteries, Iona finds out that the supernatural world is far more dangerous and expansive than she could possibly imagine, even if it does have some very charming characters, like blood drinking Henry, a bonafide ancient techno-geek.
The supernatural world has never been funnier, sexier or more tartan.
I feel like many female protagonists in cozy mysteries need to have poor social skills and be unable to interact well with others, and that over the course of the book(s) they begin to open up and learn things and trust people. Sometimes that becomes frustrating because a confident woman or an extrovert can be an amateur sleuth as well. Well, I suppose some cozy mysteries I’ve read have extroverts. And maybe it’s because I read so many book themed cozies that the sleuths are introverts. And I get it – I’m an introvert. But it’s a theme I’ve found and I wonder what that means about readers of cozies. Maybe we all feel a little set apart from others or can sympathize with the difficulties in opening up to new people so seeing a slightly heightened version of this in books, and seeing that version succeed, is helpful. Something to keep pondering.
Now, Iona Adair has a good reason to withhold herself from others; her psychic gift sets her apart. She also has a spirit guide she can’t speak about so there is much of her life that is necessarily secret. She doesn’t seem to have any friends, not even her spirit guide.
(That was a little confusing. If you’ve had a spirit guide since childhood, wouldn’t you have worked out the relationship more by the time you’re an adult? Iona learns so much about Rain in the book that it made me wonder why she hadn’t learned it earlier. Maybe that will be addressed in future books.)
She shares an office with Andy, a colleague at a parapsychology institute. There’s more than meets the eye with him. I’d hoped Iona would realize she can’t seem to use her mind control on him but that never happened. Again, maybe in future books.
Her job at the institute is a cover for her real job with a secret organization dedicated to keeping paranormal gifts, etc. a secret. She modifies students’ research results to hide legitimate findings, for example. Iona is sent to a location where a rumored beast has attacked and killed several men. While bumbling through that mystery she meets Henry, a vampire; she didn’t even know vampires exist. While she’s attracted to Andy, and he is a lovely man, Henry is someone she can talk about her secrets with. He has his secrets as well. It makes for a nice romantic triangle, although I think she can trust Andy.
The book was an enjoyable enough mystery with likable and engaging characters. I would have liked to feel more of the setting of Scotland but that’s a personal thing since I love that country so much. There were a lot of unanswered questions – about Iona’s abilities, about Rain, Andy, the organization she works for. I know series are meant to have subplots that slowly reveal over several books. I think I wanted to know more about Iona’s world and her struggle between her real, secret job and her role at the institute. Having that information might have grounded the story and her struggles a bit more.
Read it for Iona’s daft mother, her inconsistent spirit guide and her world, which is so much more exciting than ours.