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5 Stars for Past Presence
Surely the lawyer's death is just a coincidence. People trip and fall down the stairs all the time. The pharmacist drowning in the storm pond is more suspect, but it's only after the third death when Audrey knows for sure--someone else in Soberly, Oregon can see people's past lives too.
Ever since the age of fourteen, skin-to-skin contact with another person gives Audrey Eames visions of that person's past lives. Whether just a glimpse or an entire scene, the images Audrey receives can be benign and commonplace, or they can tell her of significant events, such as how that person died. And now Audrey knows that someone in the tiny town of Soberly is murdering its residents by recreating how they've died before. What she doesn't know is who is behind the murders, what their motive is, or how to stop them.
Past Presence is Nicole Bross's debut novel, and what a debut it is. She delivers an imaginative and clever story, positing that if we indeed come back again and again, we individually retain a common thread of personality and temperament that we would recognize, even if our earthly candy coating has changed. That premise allows Bross to concoct a creative paranormal mystery, seamlessly cross-pollinating behaviors and personality traits of characters from past to present with the same people playing out similar fates in different times.
Bross's writing is smooth and open; her characters, contemporary. Audrey's aunt having a wife, Audrey's steamy biracial relationship with Kellen, and even her extrasensory abilities can be still be edgy topics but here are expressed naturally, without feeling forced or awkward. One gets the feeling there may be a little something in the author that likes to color outside the lines of social conformity, which makes her a great match for readers of modern fiction. Nicole Bross's Past Presence is a thoroughly satisfying curl-up-in-your-pajamas-and-read-it-straight-through supernatural delight. You're sure to enjoy it whether this is your first lifetime or your fifty-first.
-- Colorado Book Review