Title: Unspeakable Words (The Sixth Sense: Book One)
Author: Sarah Madison
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Length: 200 Pages
Category: Paranormal, Mystery/Suspense
At a Glance: The real strengths in this novel came from a well-paced mystery subplot and the idea of a man suddenly discovering he now has extraordinary powers that he has no idea how to handle.
Reviewed By: Sammy
Blurb: 2nd Edition
Special Agent John Flynn is everything Jerry Parker is not: dangerously handsome, coolly charismatic, and respected by his peers. Special Agent Parker is dedicated and meticulous, but his abrasive personality has given him a reputation for being difficult. When new information on a cold case appears, Parker is assigned to work with Flynn, and the sparks fly as their investigative styles clash. Contact with a strange artifact changes everything when it bestows unusual and unpredictable powers on Flynn… and the two men must learn to trust each other before a killer strikes again.
Review: I have enjoyed this author’s work on many occasions and this novel had some great moments in it, but Unspeakable Words also left me rather at a loss primarily because I felt little to no connection to either of the main characters. This happens sometimes, and I feel it is through no fault of the writer; rather, it simply was not a novel that I felt drawn to and so I want to be extra cautious in this review to find the merits of this story, for they were definitely there.
FBI agent Jerry Parker is analytical, clever and has a memory that rivals no other. However, it is these merits that also find him failing to really connect relationally to the rest of the agents in his field office. In fact, when the story opens we are told that Jerry is often critical of others he works with, and given his prickly demeanor and slight OCD tendencies, it becomes quickly obvious why he is also a bit of a loner. He hasn’t had an intimate relationship for some time due to a cheating ex-boyfriend who treated him poorly, so Jerry has little idea of what is in store with him when Special Agent John Flynn comes to town to follow up on a new lead on a cold case.
Flynn is one smooth customer. Rarely ruffled, always professional and very determined to bring cold cases to a close, he is also tortured by a past that includes a dead sister who was killed at a young age. It doesn’t help that Flynn’s survivor guilt stems from the fact that he was to be watching his little sister on the day she was murdered. These two opposites are thrown together on a case that will test their limits in more than one way. When Flynn handles an artifact that seems to send an electrical charge through his body, the end result is a newfound ability to hear the thoughts of everyone around him. While this may be great for catching killers, it is so overwhelming for poor Flynn, and he and Jerry try to find a way for Flynn to learn to block out the cacophony around him, and that includes Jerry’s own lusty thoughts about his new partner.
I will say that the author clues us into the idea that this is the first in what looks to be a series of novels. Since this story dealt almost exclusively with these two agents, I am fairly certain we will see much more of Jerry and Flynn in subsequent installments. I’m grateful for that, for one of the main criticisms I have of this story is the shallow backstory of both Flynn and Jerry. Instead of giving us a deeper look into what made these guys who they are today, the story really stayed in the present—instead, focusing mostly on Jerry’s struggle to keep his feelings for Flynn hidden and their time together professional. Due to that, I really had a difficult time getting a feel for what kind of person Flynn was and whether he was in fact bisexual, or potentially gay and questioning. For me, this caused how the two men interacted toward the end of the story to feel forced and uneasy.
The real strengths in this novel came from a well-paced mystery subplot and the idea of a man suddenly discovering he now has extraordinary powers that he has no idea how to handle. I felt Flynn’s struggle with what happened to him in the museum was very real and, in turn, believable. He didn’t immediately assimilate this new power he had thrust upon him, nor did he handle the immense pressure that came with it. Jerry, in his turn, was then a soothing presence for the stressed Flynn—a true turnaround for his character which had been noted as impatient and critical of others prior to this. Both men grew into different people during the course of this book and as they became what can only be described as better people, I found myself liking them more and more.
While Unspeakable Words is not my favorite work of this author, Sarah Madison nonetheless sets up an intriguing new series with two men who I believe will continue to grow and develop, which will only make them even more appealing to the reader.
You can buy Unspeakable Words here: