A Perfect Darkness
by Jaime Rush
(Avon, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 978-0-06-169035-8
***
A Perfect Darkness kicks off a new paranormal series. Although it's a step, hop and jump away from the now-overworked story of vampires and shape shifters, the basic premise remains familiar: people who have been the object of illegal government experiments find love as they struggle to obtain justice and reclaim their lives. It is more the need for polish than the lack of originality that prevents me from giving it higher marks.

In addition to being a computer genius, Amy Shane has special powers she does not quite understand. She can read people's moods. Because the constant onslaught of other people's emotions is exhausting and invasive, she tends to avoid people. She prefers to stick to her machines and to a recurrent dream where she is visited by an expert lover.

Then, one day, the man, who calls himself Lucas, appears in her house. He informs her that her father did not kill himself, that she belongs to a special group of people known as "Offsprings" and that her life is in danger. Before she can find out any more, FBI agents storm the house and take him prisoner. They justify their actions by claiming that Lucas is a dangerous psychopath who relies on lies to save himself.

Amy is not sure whether she believes them. She asks her father's best friend, Cyrus (who also happens to be a secret agent), for information about her father's strange death, but he sticks to his story. When other facts come to her attention, however, she stops trusting him and turns to a group of bizarre youngsters who are not only part of Lucas's foster family but also his best friends.

Amy learns that she shares quite a lot with them. They all grew up on or near an army base in Maryland; all their parents died in suspicious circumstances; and like her, they all seem to have unusual powers. The others are convinced that the government is covering up illegal human experiments on their parents and on them. Amy is determined to get to the bottom of it and to save Lucas.

Amy and Lucas spend most of the book apart. Rush overcomes this problem and ensures that readers obtain their required dose of sex and romance by having Lucas continue to visit Amy in her dreams (his ability to move through them is one of his unusual talents). Unfortunately, I did not find this interaction very satisfying: their relationship remains too unreal, too abstract and too untested to produce that satisfying sigh I crave.

As for the suspense plot, an over-the-top villain and uneven pacing dampened my enjoyment quite a bit. Rush does not manage to blend the background information to this complicated plot in an efficient and seamless fashion. As a result, too much time is spent repeating and rehashing information and not enough building suspense.

While Amy and Lucas obviously get their happy ending in this story, evil continues to threaten them and the other Offsprings. Rush will be back with their stories. Here's hoping she works out the glitches in her craft and writes a more winning tale next time round.  

--Mary Benn


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