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The New York Times bestselling author of the Undead Novels takes on reincarnation in this unforgettable Insighter Novel about the pitfalls in past—and love—lives…
Leah Nazir lives in a world where the past can and will come back to bite you in the ass. No, not teething ghosts—reincarnation! As an Insighter, it’s Leah’s job to delve into the murky and (often) deadly former lives of her patients. And she knows a thing or two about danger after killing her mother’s murderer with the help of new beau, Archer Drake.
Isn’t he the best?
Now, it’s time to take their relationship to the next level, but not in any way Leah could have predicted. She and Archer head to Chicago to meet his parents—and try to figure out why Archer’s dad killed his brother decades ago. When someone tries to sabotage their investigation, Leah must decide if the Drake family past is a deal breaker…
About the Author
MaryJanice Davidson is the New York Times bestselling author of several books, most recently Deja Who, Undead and Done, and Undead and Unforgiven. With her husband, Anthony Alongi, she also writes a series featuring a teen weredragon named Jennifer Scales. MaryJanice lives in Minneapolis with her husband and two children and is currently working on her next book.
Date of Birth:1969
Place of Birth:Minot, North Dakota
Read an Excerpt
"Everybody, listen up! Our cousin and Leah Nazir will be here in twenty minutes. Twenty minutes! So everyone get your pants on!"
"Pants tyrant," came one response, and "We have a cousin?" was another, and "Angela, shrill is not a good look for you" and "If I didn't put my pants on for the mayor, I'm not doing it for Leah Nazir. Or our brother."
"He's not your brother," she said, pointing to Mitchell. "He's your cousin. He's your brother." Pointing to Jordan.
"No, he's mine!"
Other families, she thought, are not like this. I'm pretty sure. "You think I won't tell your girlfriends? The ones lucky enough to have them? They'll hear everything. They'll see everything." Angela Drake shook her phone in their direction. "I will take soooooo many pictures of you guys without your pants. The girls will mock you and dump you in a flash." Unlikely. But she was desperate.
"How long have you been a hostile pornographer?"
"That's how long we've got to re-robe," one explained, "not how long she's been a hostile porn peddler."
"Just . . . come on," she said, and she definitely didn't whine. Nope. Too much pride and class for that. Right? Right. "Guys? Come on? Pants? Okay?"
Grumbling, they complied. She was careful not to let the relief show on her face. Her plan, hatched at age ten, had a much better chance of working if everyone played nicely together.
So it was good to see amusements (cookbook, TV, phones, gambling sheets) were set aside as the lot of them changed out of one thing (swim trunks, hot pants, boxers, culottes, briefs) into another (khakis).
The lot of them. That was just right. Because she was a bad person, Angela found her brothers and cousins generally interchangeable. They were all young and lanky and had messy mops of thick dark hair, from lightest brown (with gold highlights-her brother Jack, the lucky creep) to near black (her cousin Jordan, another lucky creep-why were long eyelashes wasted on boys?) and everything in between. They all had blue or green eyes or, in her cousin Archer's case, one of each. Long noses, wide mouths, long limbs, big feet, deep voices (except Jack, who was sixteen and still occasionally squeaked, to his annoyance and everyone else's mirth). They were a pile of energy when they weren't a pile of sloth. Looked alike, talked alike, annoyed alike.
In fact, if some of the family gossip about her father and uncle was true, some of her brothers were actually her cousins and vice versa. If it turned out to be true, not a single one of them-herself included-would have been surprised. Which reminded her . . .
"And we're not going to bring up family scandals." Even as she said it, she understood at once it was a lost cause. Because Jordan, Jack, Mitchell, and Paul all knew the reason Archer and Leah Nazir were coming to town was . . .
"Isn't that's why The Skull is coming to town? The family scandal?"
"Don't call her that!" The worst part: "The Skull" wasn't even the nastiest nickname the public used for one of the best Insighters on the planet. "And I meant the other family scandals. Don't talk about those. Any of them. Well, maybe that thing with the orange. That wasn't too bad. Nobody called the cops, and we eventually got the stains out of the carpet. No, scratch that, leave all the scandals out of it. Just to be safe. Okay?"
"Didn't Archer kill a guy last month? I mean literally murder the hell out of someone?"
"Don't talk about that, either! Honestly! It's like you guys aren't even reading the memos I send out!"
A low sigh from behind her. Another problem with a large family: You were always surrounded. "I've told you before, hon. Shrill isn't your best look."
"I remember, Mom." The Scandal No One Should Talk About had blighted Angela's childhood and stolen her mother. Mrs. Emma Drake had turned into a shadow the day her brother-in-law pled guilty to murdering her husband. Angela knew that threatening the lot of them with ". . . or I'll tell Mom!" would never have worked. Mrs. Drake was so unplugged from herself, strangers (and neighbors, and family members) often assumed she was sedated. "And I'm not being shrill. I'm being authoritative."
"Authoritative in a high, shrieky voice," one of the pack commented.
"Firm!" she definitely didn't yelp. "I'm being firm. Because I want to make a good impression on-on-"
"The Skull," everyone in the room said just as Angela finished with, "Archer."
A barrage of scornful hoots was their simultaneous rebuttal. "Since when-"
"Since when do you-"
"Archer? You think we're buying that? You want to make a good impression on-"
"Oh, this is too too rich . . ."
"Archer? The one you treated like a house pet that never quite figured out house-training? That Archer?"
"I did not!" Well, maybe sometimes. During middle school, possibly. Maybe once or twice in high school. "All of you, back off. And back up." They'd all climbed off or from beneath various pieces of furniture and were closing in, which was as dreadful as it sounded. "We didn't get along when we were kids, but that was years ago."
"Years, she says."
"Hey, guys, it's all in the past because, y'know, Angela here says it's been years and years and-"
"She thinks last Christmas is 'years'?"
"She thinks last month is 'years.'"
She groped for the flyswatter hanging on a nail between the living room and kitchen, then lunged forward like a fencer on the offense. "Back! All of you, get back!" The Horde collectively flinched as the swatter swung and hissed through the air.
"Seriously with this, Angela?"
"Don't point that thing at me."
"We have a flyswatter?"
"Yeah, it's usually on one of those little hooks on the keyboard."
"All right!" Swish, lunge, parry. If I didn't know better, she thought, I'd think I was a fencer in a former life. But nope. Alas: She'd been nothing more exotic than a minor league baseball pitcher just after World War I.
Which was probably why she didn't consider softball a real game. "You're right."
"Hear that? I'm right!"
"Which one of us is right?"
"Shut up, you're all basically a hive mind, anyway." She'd stopped ducking and weaving (literally as well as figuratively) and held them all at flyswatter length. "I admit it: I was a shit to Archer through most of our childhood-"
"The sordid truth comes out!"
"It was awful, I was awful, and I've apologized to him." So many apologies. Even now, she flushed hot with embarrassment when she remembered the cutting things she'd said over the years. The fact that, as an adult, he tolerated her with absent good humor was more a testament to his easygoing personality than to her amends. Which she found perversely irritating. The guy can't even hold a grudge right.
But, again: The Plan.
"We need to put that behind us now because- Oh, my God they're here!" She almost dropped the flyswatter, hesitated-it had kept the throng at bay pretty well-then hung it back up. She would not meet Leah Nazir with a flyswatter in one hand. Most likely.
"This is the most excited I've ever seen you."
"Of course I'm excited! She's the Mangiarotti of Insighters." She could actually feel the puzzled silence, and tried again. "The Mozart of Insighters."
"She's a famously immature genius harpsichord player who loves jokes about shit?"
"Scatological humor," she corrected automatically, then cursed herself. "I mean, no!" She flinched as she heard car doors thunking shut in the driveway. They'd be heading up the walk to the front door. They'd be entering the front door! Her cousin/maybe brother/worst enemy and the James L. Brooks of Insighters! Here! In her house! Where she'd been stood up for prom! Twice! "Please. I'm begging you guys. Be nice. Be . . . not weird. I mean-as best you can," she modified.
No use asking for miracles.
The James L. Brooks of Insighters stared at the cream-colored two-story house and tried not to vomit.
"Home," Archer announced (unnecessarily), already tugging their suitcases out of the trunk. "The place where they are morally and sometimes legally obligated to let you in."
"I don't think I can do this," the Mangiarotti of Insighters muttered.
"What's that, babe?"
"I said I don't feel well."
"Okay, let's get you inside and you can have a ginger ale and lay down."
Ah, Archer Drake. The love of her life. (Well. This life.) Straightforward and not a man to get lost inside his own head. Product of a close, large, loving family. Brave and sweet and gorgeous.
And clueless. Also, lay/lie was one of her peeves. "It's lie. Unless you are physically laying me down, it's lie." Her peeves were legion.
"You'll lay yourself down," he said, with aggravating cheer. "I stand by what I said! And you know it's totally fine to be nervous, right? Hell, I've met all the players, and I'm nervous. Actually that's probably why," he added thoughtfully. "I know 'em. But they'll love you."
Leah found a smile. "I'm certain that's a lie."
"Well, they won't hate you."
"They can't hate you, they know you're here to solve a murder."
"Why are they so adamant the wrong man is in prison? Is it-" Her experience with such things was nearly non-existent, so she chose her next words carefully. "Is it a family thing? Or is it more objective than that?"
"A little from Column A and a little from Column B. Listen: There's no way my father killed his brother. They were always tight, to the point where my aunt hated it. My dad adored his brother. Still does, how's that for depressing?"
"I don't know."
"And anyone planning a murder would make sure they had a much better alibi than Dad did. It's stuff like that, all little things. You look at the facts, and you can't shake the idea that something's missing. Something huge."
Her normally good-natured sweetheart had gone pensive, so she held off from more questions. "This won't be an instant fix, you know. I'm not sure your cousin understands that."
Archer's brow furrowed. "What? I'm not following."
Before she could say anything else
(not a fix-and also, get me out of here)
(what was I thinking)
(i mean it, get me out of here!)
the front door popped open so hard, it rebounded in the face of the young woman standing just inside. "Archer!" she called as she wrestled with the screen door and bounded out in a burst of energy with which, by now, Leah was familiar. The woman-his cousin?-strongly resembled Archer, with the same long limbs and barely suppressed hyperactivity, the same bright eyes, and a mouth made for smiling. Her hair-a riot of shoulder-length reddish-blond waves-was the only visible difference. Well, the hair and the breasts, too. Obviously.
"Huh," Leah mused. "You're all like that."
"Only when we're freaked out. Or nervous. Or horny. Or in fear for our life . . . yeah," Archer finished, giving up. "We're all like that. All the time. Except my aunt. But you'll see for yourself."
Archer's cousin had finally fought free of the screen door. "Hi, it's so great to meet you oh my God I can't believe you're here how was your trip oh my God!" This as she rushed over so quickly and shook Leah's hand so enthusiastically, she nearly knocked her back into the car.
They're insane. I should be terrified.
And perhaps she was. Deep down inside, where she crushed most of her fears. Mostly she was fascinated. It was like observing a pack of Archers in the wild, and she was the hapless nature lover trapped in the high hide, praying the predators were vegetarians. Or at least full, and thus would not eat her.
Angela had begun by introducing her brothers and cousins. Or her cousins and brothers; there were a lot of them, they all vaguely resembled each other, and they all spoke in unison.
"Guys, this is Archer's fian-"
"Do you know who James L. Brooks is? Will you tell us?"
"Arch captured you, right? Set some sort of bizarre trap and you fell right into it? Blink twice if you want an extraction team."
"Man, not cool. Archer doesn't like 'Arch.'"
"He also doesn't like when you insinuate he makes a habit of felony kidnapping."
"He didn't like Toe Cheese, he didn't like The Thing That Smells Like Gym Shorts, now he's yanking 'Arch' from circulation . . . Cripes, what does he like?"
"It's nice to meet you, Leah."
"Angela made me put on pants. You're welcome."
"It's nice to meet you," Leah managed. Probably. There were a half dozen of them, all gangly and dark-haired and energetic. The youngest-Jack? Jordan?-was still in his teens, the oldest-Mitchell? Paul?-was in his early twenties. Angela was the oldest of them all, at twenty-five. "All of you."
"What'd you say?"
"Hon, you'd better speak up if you want to be heard over our actual voices and all the voices in our heads."
"She said-shut up-she said she-shut up, you guys, let me talk! She said it was nice to meet you!" Angela made a visible effort to calm herself. "Which is a lie, obviously, but she's being a good guest."
"I've been called many things," Leah said, and found a smile, "but never once 'a good guest.'" Possibly because she was rarely invited anywhere. Who'd want to be around someone who could see all your sins from all your lives? Answer: no one who didn't need something.
"Aw, Angela." Archer was grinning at his cousin, who looked capable of murder, or at least assault. Leah didn't blame her; she couldn't imagine growing up in such a din. "I missed how you shriek us into submission."
She let out a snort. "Sure you did."
"But listen, can I get a ginger ale or something for Leah? It was a long drive and she-"
"Long drive?" a cousin (or brother) asked. "From where? We all live in Chicago."
"Yeah, but they're suburban, we're city."
"Which suburb, though?"
"Unless the suburb is five hundred miles away, it's not a long drive."
"A suburb five hundred miles away isn't a suburb, you deeply pathetic idiot."
Then the ghost drifted by, and Leah-who hated clichés-nearly jumped out of her skin. At least, that's what it felt like. She did a double-take and realized that this woman-whoever she was-was just a shell. A living breathing shell, a walking talking ghost. "You need something to drink?" the ghost asked vaguely. "Nice flight?"
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
So, I’ve had this book in the pile since June – hoping to find the time to get the first in the series read before starting this. All good plans and all that, and the time never opened up- and fortunately there wasn’t a real need for me to read the first to understand this one. And believe me, there is plenty happening in this story, and it does start a bit strangely with plenty of historic information provided for people whose lives will impact the characters here. The start of this story feels very chaotic, a chaos often reflected in the interactions in the Drake family – the stars of the show – with Leah (from the first book) becoming more of a secondary character and bringer of sense (and some of her own concerns) into this story. But I digress This is essentially the story of Angela Drake, de facto mother and father figure of her household full of brothers and cousins, each with their own quirks and approach to life. She’s been the parent figure for years – since her uncle’s death, father’s imprisonment, and her mother’s retreat into her own grief, and she’s also working hard to make up for the mistakes in her past lives. Yes, Angela is an insighter, but one who would prefer not to see past lives or deal with that, at least not until she’s managed to solve her father’s murder and get her uncle out of jail. When her cousin Archer and his fiancé Leah Nazir arrive, Angela is a bit in awe of Leah, but hopes that she can provide more information that will bring them closer to the truth. When the second detective interested in the case, Jason Carpenter, with his sock collection, general dysthymia and an attraction to Angela that he can’t deny no matter how hard he tries, the story starts to turn a bit, as no new information is forthcoming, her father is pushing them away and refusing to allow visits, and Angela can’t let go – even faced with all the dead ends. When you add in her obsession with Jason, Leah’s pregnancy, Jack’s mood swings and a mother who is so disengaged as to be ghostly, the story brings in excerpts from diaries, thoughts, references to oddness galore. Oh there is so much information to process, information that just seems to add to a miasma of strange and disconnected until the threads start to work together into a story that is both darkly humorous and compelling. If, as Angela believes, her father did not kill his brother despite confessing, who was responsible and why. And just how many roadblocks will she have to face in her quest, or will she ever be able to ‘make up” for her own past lives shortcomings. And what about her sock fetish – yes, she’s intrigued and can’t wait to glimpse Jason’s ankles every time they meet. Honestly, I was confused as all get out in the beginning of the story, and never quite sure just how all of the seemingly random insets would come together in any meaningful way – but I persevered specifically because my curiosity wouldn’t let go. With insets of humor that mixed outright laughs to clever placement that reveals itself gradually, the story picked up in pace and understanding about 30% in, and I had to know what happened. Why was Jack so moody, why couldn’t Leah sleep, were the Drakes ALWAYS so loud and irreverent, and would Angela and Jason ever overcome her own issues about her life and past lives? So much goodness – including mouthwatering culinary creations from Jack, love and understanding that was offered unconditionally, quiet advice and hope for the future. I ma
This review was written by Marie for Ever After Book Reviews blog: I love a good romantic mystery. MaryJanice Davidson is no stranger to this, and flawlessly delivers a wonderful paranormal story with great characters and plenty of light-hearted humor. I truly enjoyed this story. I was a little sad that Leah took a back seat to the secondary character’s story arc, but I loved her interaction with Archer. They are just the cutest! The thing that I love the most about this series, and this book, is that it’s so unique. It’s unlike other books that I’ve read, and that keeps the whole thing new, exciting, and never boring. Full of mystery, excitement, and the kind of humor I enjoy, the second installment of the Insights series is a fantastic read that you’ll be happy you picked up. ***I voluntarily read a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and feelings are my own***