For Rent Series #1
If character shapes destiny, what happens when place shapes character? One by one the residents of a spooky apartment building in Venice Beach, California are about to find out. "For Rent: Dangerous Paradise", the first in a new series of For Rent Mysteries by Eric James Miller, follows spunky young journalism student Dana Santoyo as she struggles with her clairvoyant gifts and races to figure out who killed her neighbor. Moving from unit to unit, chapter by chapter, the clues unfold from multiple points of view as Dana helps two L.A.P.D. detectives unravel a spider web of secret lives. "For Rent: Dangerous Paradise" will appeal to anyone who has ever lived in an apartment and had suspicions about their neighbors or wondered about previous residents. Who killed Serena Andrews and where is her missing son? Why is the building's past so violent and cursed? Step inside 399 Broadway to find out.
For Rent: Dangerous Paradise by Eric James Miller is a highly recommended mystery that just happens to also be the first book in a new series.
In For Rent: Dangerous Paradise opens with Dana Santoyo, a journalism student, trying to earn a little extra money by cleaning out the apartment of her neighbor and friend, Serena Andrews. Serena just disappeared along with her teenage son without a word to Dana. Their apartment is located in Venice Beach, CA. "Situated just three blocks from one of the most eclectic, heavily visited beaches in the world, her neighbors buzzed in and out unpredictably, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Like any modern bohemia, few residents had regular jobs. (Page 5)
Dana wonders why Serena left, but realizes that looking through her things while cleaning might "unlock the mystery of what made her neighbor and best friend Serena Andrews skip town so suddenly. If Dana could figure that out before anyone else, she knew it might help her finally finish her journalism degree and unlock her own future." (Page 6)
But the apartment at 399 Broadway has other even older, hidden secrets. Dana, who is also clairvoyant, has noticed dark spirits flittering around the apartment building assaulting her senses on the edge of her perception. First a "dank chill assaulted Dana's sense of smell. Then her sense of touch. She searched the dark gray shadows quivering in the back corner of her bedroom. As usual, her eyes played tricks on her. But she knew she had to say something because he was there, watching her. Again. She spoke hesitantly into the void as vague flashes of human suffering flickered across her mind's eye. 'You keep quiet and mind your own business,' she whispered." (Page 5)
As Dana is cleaning two detectives show up and she learns that Serena was murdered.
"Deceased? You mean missing," Dana corrected.
"No ma'am," he said. "I'm afraid not. Last Friday Serena Andrews was found dead inside her car behind a convenience store out in Barstow."
"Barstow?" Dana blurted. "What the hell was she doing out there?"
"That's what we're trying to find out. Initial forensics suggests she'd been there a few days before someone found her." (Page 15)
Thus begins the apartment by apartment interview of all the residents. Rather than taking a Rear Window-esque approach and only allowing us to know what the residents tell the police or what we can see about their secret lives, we are privy to what they are really thinking and plenty of dark secrets they are all harboring.
Miller is a good writer which helped elevate the plot for me. I like the apartment by apartment reveal of secrets as the tension mounts. I was less of a fan of the secret spirit residents of the building, but Miller did a nice job tying them into the plot without having it become more a ghost story rather than a mystery. There were some nice twists and turns included that will surprise readers. Dana is an appealing main character who should inspire readers to want to follow more of her adventures in the second book in the series due out this summer, For Rent: Haunted Neon.
Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of the author for review purposes.