Mae Malveaux, an attorney with Minneapolis Child Protective Services, is burnt-out, tired and frustrated. Passing on an invite from Jill, her flirtatious coworker, Mae just wants a quiet night in. Leaving the office late, she's surprised to find the Heritage Line streetcars up and running and hops aboard, eager for a quick trip home.
But this is no ordinary streetcar. Death is one of its riders, and Mae is thrust into Annwn, a realm of magic and danger.
"Your transfer, miss. You'll need that."
Mae's life is turned upside down as human and fae worlds collide. Her budding relationship with Jill takes a perilous turn when they are hunted by mythical beasts, and Mae is drawn into a deadly power struggle. With Jill at her side, Mae must straddle both worlds and fight a war she barely comprehends, for not only does the fate of Annwn rest in her hands, but the lives of both a human and fae child...
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Somewhere in the world, at any given moment, Roy Orbison is singing.
Mae Malveaux blinked at her reflection in the washroom mirror as she slapped a bit of water on her face.
And I really need a vacation.
She sighed and returned to her desk, trying to tune out the tinny music coming from the office to her left. She had left her door open in a vain attempt to get some fresh air in the windless space her desk and file cabinet were wedged into. Instead, her neighbor's radio was filling the airspace. For the sixth time today, she had heard Roy Orbison singing. It was starting to get under her skin. She did not understand why the fates seemed determined to haunt her with the voice of a dead man in large sunglasses.
An opened folder sat waiting for her return, right where she had left it. This particular case was another thing Mae did not understand. Despite persistent abuse and neglect, on four occasions, judges had returned Chrysandra Arneson to the custody of her mother, Marie Arneson.
Child Protective Services, after contact from school officials and doctors, had removed the girl from the home within six months after each judicial order. Now Marie, having completed a drug rehabilitation program and found gainful employment, was again seeking custody of her twelve-year-old daughter.
In each of the previous rulings, the judges had cited the need to "keep the family unit intact" as one of the driving reasons for returning the little girl to her mother's care.
Mae suspected it had more to do with the woman's family being white, wealthy and suburban. The Arneson family, already established among the elites of the Twin Cities after decades of doing business in the brewing and milling industries, had made a fortune in the 1950s when the public transportation system in the Twin Cities switched from streetcars to buses.
Mae had spoken to the child's grandparents, but while they were happy to be her temporary guardians, they did not want to be responsible for Chrysandra long term. Instead, the elder Arnesons were single-minded in their belief that Marie was a good mother and that for some reason the State of Minnesota had singled out their precious daughter for harassment. Mae felt the Arnesons were willfully ignoring evidence that Marie was abusing their granddaughter, pretending the constant parade of bruises, burns and broken bones over the last three years were all accidental. The identity of the child's father was unknown, and Marie Arneson and her family refused to share any information about him, closing off that avenue of aid from Mae.
Mae groaned with relief when the song ended and she heard the solid click of the radio being switched off. She had the beginning of a migraine. Walking into the meeting with Juvenile Court Judge Slotky on a matter unrelated to this case, she had found herself in an impromptu negotiation conference with the attorney representing Marie Arneson. Judge Slotky seemed sure they could work out a deal without the need for a court session.
This morning's ambush was bad enough, but William Jefferson Hodgins's refusal to take her seriously had infuriated Mae. At one point Hodgins and Judge Slotky began talking to each other as if Mae were not even in the room. The "old boys" in local law circles saw her childlike frame, pale complexion and thin, slightly stringy blond hair, and brushed her off. Mae had refused to agree to anything and stormed out of the judge's chambers.
"Hey, I thought you left hours ago."
Mae looked up, startled by the voice.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Helllllllllllo boys and girls!!!!!!!!!!! This result is for everyones favorite story. Type everyones favorite at the top and put the name of the nook book and the person with the most votes wins!!!!!!! Remember, i stop counting posts on March first!!!!!!!!!!!! HAPPY OSCARS!!!!!!!!!
I have listened to the audiobook version of this story several times. This is well written with good dialogue and strong female characters.
Last Car to Annwn Station is not about being lesbian or being bisexual (the two leads Mae and Jill are each), and the sex is the soft-sell kind, not graphic (a plus IMHO). Instead Last Car to Annwn Station is about magical streetcars, faeries, Welsh mythology and magic, and saving the world from the greedy, self-interested and moneyed powerful creeps of the world. It started a little slow, certainly strange. But you won't be able to put it down during the last third of the book. I read into the wee hours to figure out how it would all resolve.
In the interests of fairness, I must disclose that I am a personal friend of the author and his family. I like many different kinds of books and authors, and I like them for different reasons. One thing they all have in common is that the books are interesting. Other strengths and weaknesses vary from book to book. Where Michael Merriam and Last Car to Annwn Station shine are in the realms of story and character. The story sets a good pace, and feels neither rushed nor plodding. There are really three storylines at work. Two are intimately related, and the third is tangled up in their dance. Mae Malveaux is a CPS case worker who has stumbled across something hidden while trying to protect a young girl named Chrysandra Arneson. She's warned off the case, which has been closed irregularly by the county attorney. Shortly afterward, she begins to see strange things that have no right existing in the staid world of the Twin Cities. A ride on a ghostly trolley car changes her life forever. At the same time, we learn of a young girl being held captive and writing letters to a wall in her room with a smuggled pencil. It quickly becomes apparent that the girl is somehow connected to the Arnesons, and whatever strange activity Mae has tripped over. In the midst of this chaos comes Jill, a fellow county employee and long-time friend of Mae. With timing that couldn't be worse, she begins to pay serious court to our confused heroine, getting herself involved in the mystery as well. The story unfolds well, with revelations and events coming along quickly enough to keep it interesting but no so fast as to feel chaotic and confused. The story ties romance, mythology and mystery together in an enjoyable package. The use of the unknown kidnapped girl as a viewpoint character removes some of the mystery, but allows us to know in a vague way what the Bad Guys are up to, and prevents many things in the final confrontation from feeling like a convenient deus ex machina. The romantic subplot is handled in a believable and appropriate fashion. Romance and its attendant dramas are not the motivating factor for the overall plot, though they have a predictable effect on the actions of some characters. The choice to make the main character's love interest a long-standing friend was a good one: there is no way a relationship budding this quickly between strangers would have been believable. The characters in the novel are very well realized, including many that have relatively little active time in the book. Motivations and relationships are complex, and some are pleasantly left vague instead of being artificially tied up in a neat package. The antagonists, though quite vile in sum, are not two dimensional and have their own multi-layered reasons for their actions. I would like to have known a bit more about the personalities and motivations of some of the supernatural entities, but at the same time their vagueness lent them an air of inhumanity. The only real issue I had with the book was an occasional area where the language felt stiff. Merriam's prose is straightforward and to-the-point, rather than beautiful or lyrical. This works for his style of storytelling, getting the words out of the way of the story and its characters. However, there are times when I felt like the dialog in particular was begging for more shorthand or contractions, and the text's more formal tone interrupted the rhythm in my head.