Mystery Review: Malevolent by Jana DeLeon

Malevolent (Shaye Archer Series Book 1) is the first of the six books in this series by Jana DeLeon. I discovered DeLeon when someone in one of my Facebook groups mentioned three of her series. All three series sounded intriguing though very different. Two of them, the Miss Fortune Mysteries and the Ghost-in-law Mysteries, were supposed to light and humorous cozy mysteries. The third, the Shaye Archer Series, was supposed to be darker. The first book in each of the three series was free at the time, so I thought, “Why not?”

I’ve just finished Malevolent, and I’m still intrigued.

Twenty-four-year-old Shaye Archer is a private investigator with a past, one she doesn’t remember. She became a licensed private investigator to help others find answers like those that have eluded her for the past nine years since the night police found her beaten and broken with no memory of how it happened. Shaye’s first client, Emma Frederick, who killed her husband in self-defense, is now being stalked by his lookalike and dismissed by police as having PTSD. Both Shaye and Emma fear the stalker intends to do more than frighten her. They are both dismayed when the stalker broadens his attention to include Shaye’s family and friends.

I read Malevolent despite the rather extreme mixed reviews. After reading it, I understand the disparity.

Some critics praised the well-developed characters, the story telling, and the balance of implied darkness against actual details. Others bemoaned the gruesomeness, the unbelievability, the unrealistic risks, and the unexpected ending as well as typos and characters telling more than they showed or discovered.

I found Malevolent, more thriller mystery than cozy mystery, to be well written and descriptive, using all the senses to pull the reader into the story and the terror. The story and the characters also pulled me in and held my interest. The story is dark and somewhat gruesome, and Shaye is a bit reckless about putting herself in danger, but amateur sleuths do that all the time. In Shaye’s defense, she is a professional private investigator. PIs would expect and be expected to take risks.

Shaye’s situation was a little unrealistic as well. How many amnesia victims of torturous abuse are adopted by a social worker trained to help people and wealthy enough to provide the care and protection someone like Shaye might need? Probably not many. But then, how many real-world sleuths inherit a house with a dark history or enough money to pursue their sleuthing like so many fiction sleuths do? Ultimately, it’s all about asking “what if” and suspending disbelief, and Malevolent does both. The end lives up to being a “final twist” surprise even though DeLeon does provide a few hints along the way to prepare the reader for it.

Shaye’s own mystery remains unsolved, but enough memories surface to suggest a resolution and to encourage readers to pick up the next book in the series. I plan to do just that—after I read Louisiana Longshot, the first book in DeLeon’s Miss Fortune series. Come back next week to find out how this lighter fare compares to Malevolent.

I’m wondering if DeLeon’s switch from light to dark had any effect on readers’ reviews. Does it bother you when one of your favorite authors switches genres or even sub-genres? Do you bring certain expectations to the new genre or do you read it without bias? Leave a comment to share your thoughts on author switching.

* This book is somewhat gruesome and does contain infrequent language use that some readers might not find acceptable.


2 thoughts on “Mystery Review: Malevolent by Jana DeLeon

  1. Thank you for this review. I just ordered the first book in each series to see which one I like, if any. I think I may like the Miss Fortune series as I have been looking for something lighter to read.

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