Title: Neon Fever Dream
Author: Eliot Peper
Length: 210 Pages
At a Glance: A lesbian mystery/thriller that will keep you glued to the pages!
Reviewed By: Ben
Blurb: A dark secret hides in the swirling dust and exultant revelry of Burning Man.
Asha Amarasuriya is bored and struggling to get by as a martial arts instructor in Oakland. When an enigmatic seductress offers her a golden ticket, Asha decides to take a leap of faith and head to Burning Man. But there is more than meets the eye at the infamous desert pilgrimage and Asha gets sucked into a quest to unravel a sinister mystery at the heart of Black Rock City.
Will Asha and her friends survive to expose the shadowy conspiracy? By the time the Man burns, their lives will have changed forever.
Review: I am so glad someone recommended this book to me. I didn’t read the blurb (easy to do when you read ebooks and all you have to do is click on a file and you’re in), but even if I had read the blurb, I don’t know if it would have prepared me for this thrilling of a story.
Asha is a completely relatable and kick-ass protagonist. Not only is she an immigrant from Sri Lanka, but she’s also bisexual (the story centers around her relationship with a woman, but I believe she mentions she finds men and women attractive). She teaches Krav Maga at a studio in Oakland, California, and is completely bad-ass. That’s where she meets our love interest, Lynn, a journalist who inserts herself into Asha’s life and Asha is immediately taken with.
Lynn is an interesting main character. The story is entirely told from Asha’s point of view, and because Lynn is rather secretive, she remains largely an enigma throughout the novel. I oscillated wildly between trusting her completely and not trusting her at all. I felt satisfied with her character and that relationship I had with her as a reader; she made sense to me. She also provided an excuse for many plot twists and was an excellent tool for Peper to dig deeper into Asha’s psyche.
The setting took place at Burning Man, a festival dedicated to anti-consumerism and self-expression, which traditionally culminates with the burning of a large wooden sculpture of a man. It is a humongous event and because of its near lawlessness, it can be dangerous. Lynn drags Asha to the festival for a good time, but Asha realizes too late that there is much more going on at Burning Man than meets the eye, and before she can better assess the situation, she finds herself in extreme danger.
The plot was the huge win for me. I was surprised time and time again. At the outcome of every plot twist, a good mystery will leave me completely flummoxed, while at the same time slapping my forehead with a, “Of course that happened! How could I be so stupid!” I did that at least three times while reading this book. Maybe more.
This novel gave me everything I wanted in a thriller—surprises, quick pacing, great characters, and a colorful setting—while opening my eyes to a larger world. I also deeply appreciated how Asha was more than the sum of her parts. She had incredible agency and bravery. If I had daughters, I’d want them to turn out exactly like her.
You can buy Neon Fever Dreams here: