Reviewed by Wendy Hawkin
J.P. McLean speeds us down a deftly drawn and dangerous new road in Blood Mark, the first book in her new paranormal thriller series.
Baby Jane Doe is abandoned at birth at the Joyce Skytrain Station in Vancouver. Perhaps her mother couldn’t stomach the blood-red birthmarks that snake around her body from head to toe; the marks that have caused her shame and humiliation and made her an object of study. But why are they there? Who are her parents? And why did they abandon her to the foster care system? Perhaps Jane’s mother had a premonition her daughter would be gifted with a supernatural power impossible to contain.
Jane is a lucid dreamer. Her nightmares drop her back in time where she’s able to see and hear disturbing scenes: a woman held prisoner, a man murdered. McLean drops new characters into the narrative as Jane’s dreams become more advanced and the introduction of a merciless, narcissistic, psychologist spins the plot into overdrive.
But time travel is always problematic. When Jane realizes she can physically materialize within a dream as a kind of shadow and interact with objects, the stakes rise yet again. She could issue a warning or save a life. Change history. But should she? To manipulate an outcome could create a paradox; a causal loop that would affect the future and hence the past and on and on it goes.
Enter Ethan, a handsome bar manager who sees beyond Jane’s blood stripes to the beauty beneath. Ethan is the man we all pray is good because, with Ethan, Jane’s birthmarks began to disappear. But is Ethan her chance at a normal life? Her soul mate? Or are his intentions more sinister?
Someone has been trying to murder Jane since she was born. McLean continues to flesh out Jane’s backstory through her lucid dreams, even as the blood marks on her flesh diminish. What was their purpose to begin with? What will happen when they all disappear?
McLean’s writing is clear, gentle, relentless, and original. Triple viewpoints interweave— Jane, her best friend Sadie, and Rick, the twisted psychologist—and drive the plot like Jane drives her Honda Rebel 500. The language is gritty casual as befits a contemporary novel where one woman works as a prostitute (Sadie) and the other, in a greenhouse (Jane) and both seek solace in bars.
Yet McLean’s high octane concepts drive our intellect. We learn of lucid dreaming, cataplexy, and dabble in Inca myth and ritual. These are ordinary characters faced with extraordinary circumstances and the author keeps us guessing until the very end. McLean is the author of The Gift Legacy—a highly praised six-book series about a woman who learns she can fly. Odds are, Blood Mark will fly too … right off the shelves.
Blood Mark is published by WindStorm Press.