Melissa Olson has achieved something quite unique, she’s added a brand new type of supernatural to the, by now normal, mix of vampires, werewolves and witches. Scarlett Bernard is a Null, she creates dead spots for magic. In her presence, vampires and werewolves become human and witches cannot cast spells.
This is a truly odd, negative, superpower. It doesn’t turn Scarlett into an apex predator but it does give her some protection from them. She lives in a niché where she can be used by the various supernatural factions to clean up messes, usually deaths, without being a threat or being threatened. She is valuable because she helps keep the “Old World’s” secrets.
At least, that’s how we see the world at the start of the story.
The plot places, Scarlett in a situation where she has a deadline to prove she had no involvement in some gruesome killings or face execution. The twists and turns of the plot are perfect for building a picture of the supernatural world while making it satisfyingly difficult to figure out who is guilty of what.
I enjoyed the fact that Scarlett, because her powers are essentially negative, couldn’t just use muscle or magic to solve her problems, she had to use her brains and rely on her friends. This made the whole story more engaging.
Circumstances have thrown Scarlett together with a freshly promoted plain-clothes LAPD officer, Jesse Cruz. He is new to the “Old World” and becomes the device through which much of the exposition is done. He is also a very moral person (hey, if you can accept that LA has vampires, werewolves and witches, then is a moral LAPD officer such a stretch).
I didn’t like Scarlett very much at the start of the book. She seemed glib, superficial, numb as well as null and I didn’t much care what happened to her. As the book progresses, two things change, Scarlett’s back-story of trauma, guilt and exploitation is revealed and, partly in response to Jesse’s reactions to the Old World and partly as she slowly realizes that she actually has some friends, Scarlett takes stock of her life and her attitudes and starts to make changes.
By the end of the book, I was interested in Scarlett and the world she lives in and ready for another instalment.
“Dead Spots” was an entertaining read that had some problems with pace and perhaps a little too much exposition, but which appealed to me because of its flashes of originality and the intelligence and pragmatism of Scarlett Bernard.