Title: Hidden Gem
Author: Lissa Kasey
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Length: 246 pages
Characters: Misaki “Aki” Itou and Detective Shane McNaughton
Sub-Genre: Paranormal, Crime
Misaki “Aki” Itou is a psi—a person with mutated DNA granting him psychic abilities. He’s also a contracted companion—a whore. It may not be the perfect profession, but having a roof over his head, food to eat, and not being subjected to torture is a dream come true. He is the top companion at the Hidden Gem, and it makes him enough money to buy the prettiest, most sparkly shoes he can find.
Shane McNaughton is an Irishman who survived the Third World War and works as a cop. Head of Missing Persons, he’s good at finding people, but after the plague of the Third mutated his DNA, he has a hard time letting anyone see the monster inside. He’s been paying for Aki’s services for two years, both the psi and the sexual kind, but he wants more from the companion.
Shane needs Aki’s ability to see into another person’s past to track down a serial killer murdering the children of rich and powerful men, but the more they work together, the clearer it becomes that they are linked through a darker past than either of them realizes.
While Hidden Gem isn’t quite set in a post-apocalyptic era, it is set after a World War III in which biological weapons were used. Fifty years later, the effect of these DNA-changing weapons has spread throughout the entire world, creating two different sub-types of humans—A-Ms and psi. Psi, unfortunately, are given away by the fact their pupils are not black, instead being a lighter hue of their iris. And, as is usual for those who are different, the human populace in general don’t trust or want anything to do with them, even to the point of teenagers being kicked out of home.
Aki is psi. Two years ago he escaped from one the concentration camps in the South only to end up wandering the streets of the North, destitute and unable to find work thanks to his eyes and human bigotry. He was one of the lucky ones. On the brink of starvation, he was offered a place to live and work—as a prostitute. He took it.
One of Ari’s regulars, Detective McNaughton uses his services to release the stress of being the Head of Missing Persons, and has come to care a great deal for Ari—Being different himself, he doesn’t have the same bias against psis. Both have pride in what they do, even if they aren’t completely happy, and they treasure any time they have together.
I really liked the way the story developed, and the side characters were as well developed as the main pair. Not only was there a few surprises, but I loved the way Aki is not ashamed of what he does. After all, not everyone could do it and he does it well. Detective McNaughton doesn’t really like what Aki does, but he doesn’t understand what Aki gets out of it. It is interesting watching the two, and the way their communication and understanding of each other changes. The way the politics of the North and South were drastically different on the surface but not as much so underneath, was interesting—and, I think, a direct reflection of current times—as were the different factions and the way each co-operated with each other when it was to their benefit.
I would recommend this to lovers of crime, hurt/comfort, science fiction, and speculative fiction. And although I haven’t read any others by this author, I’m definitely considering the next in this series.
Reviewed By: Alison
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