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Scorch Mark by JP McLean

Reviewed by Wendy Hawkin

If you’re unfamiliar with JP McLean’s award-winning supernatural crime novels, you should investigate her Dark Dreams series from the beginning. The first two books, Blood Mark and Ghost Mark, are narrated by a gnarly and loveable trio: Jane Walker, protagonist, dreamer, and bearer of magical marks; Jane’s boyfriend, Ethan Bryce, swaggering manager of the Riptide bar in Vancouver; and Jane’s loyal sidekick, former foster child, and high-class escort, Sadie Prescott. In Scorch Mark, the narration expands to include Sadie’s love interest, undercover Vancouver cop Dylan O’Brien. 

In Blood Mark, we learn that the scarlet marks snaking around Jane’s body were gifted to her in an ancient Incan ritual to protect her from death. Now, McLean reveals that anyone who tries to kill Jane will end up dead themselves, and this threat has been proven true. Jane also suffers from lucid dreams in which she appears as a shadowy figure whose actions can affect history. In Ghost Mark, the blood marks transform, and she appears in her dreams dressed in whatever she wore when she fell asleep. Since she’s visible, you can imagine the problems this presents. Jane also discovers a vivid white “escape valve” on the back of her hand that rewinds a dream if she turns it counterclockwise and jumps her out of the dream if she moves it clockwise. The spectral marks remain in Scorch Mark, but in a clever stake-raising move, McLean introduces a villainous group of cowboy thugs who intend to use the marks for their own evil purposes. She also reveals much more about the old Peruvian families, the old silver offering bowl, and the Incan ritual itself.

McLean deftly intertwines three plots in Scorch Mark. In one, the psychologist who abducted Jane in Blood Mark goes on trial, and we await the verdict with bated breath. Will the defence attorneys create enough reasonable doubt for the jury to allow him and his accomplice to go free? And how will the attorneys twist Jane’s story? As is typical of courtroom drama, it’s a fist-squeezing, jaw-grinding experience for the reader. Meanwhile, Detective Dylan O’Brien is investigating “ghost guns” — a shipment of illegal firearms that have been produced using a three-D printer, and Jane is dreaming about the evil producers. Interspersed are Jane’s dangerous dreams, where she must act as a witness without being caught by the villains who are changing history. Tension anyone?

Wickedly clever, original, suspenseful, and action-packed, McLean’s impeccable writing and razor-sharp plotting will draw you in and keep you riveted. Scorch Mark is glamour and grit, spliced with a magical sense of the macabre, and wildly Canadian. Detailed, descriptive scenes of the Vancouver Law Courts will have you sitting tensely beside Jane as she watches her attacker from the gallery through thick, bulletproof glass. Then it’s a race across the country to a 12,000-acre Alberta ranch and a massive criminal takedown. 

JP McLean is a bestselling author of urban fantasy and supernatural thrillers. She’s been the recipient of numerous honours for the Dark Dreams series and her six-book Gift Legacy series. Among them are a Global Book Award, CIBA and Page Turner Award, the National Indie Excellence Awards, the UK Wishing Shelf Book Awards, and the Whistler independent Book Awards.

Scorch Mark is published by WindStorm Press, November 2023

W. L. Hawkin writes the Hollystone Mysteries, and is a recent winner of a National Indie Excellence Award for her romantic suspense novel, Lure: Jesse & Hawk. You’ll find her at Blue Haven Press in B.C.


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