Tori’s Row on 1889 Labs

Following alphabete‘s teaser review of Tori’s Row, I used all my significant twitter weight to get a sneak peek of the story.

Why was I so eager to get my hands on it? Because Tori’s Row is the first collaboration between two authors whose work I enjoy: Nancy Brauer (of Strange Little Band) and MCM (of, well, lots).

I have now read the first eight chapters, so here’s a teaser review of my own.

My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Cover image
“Supernatural thriller” is how I would classify Tori’s Row — it’s a murder mystery tinged with eerie darkness.

Now, I’m always a little hesitant about co-authored works, not because I adhere to the age-old idealized vision of solitary genius, but because I have been put off by reading books where the two voices do not mesh into one consistent narrator. Well, perhaps MCM and Brauer are psychically connected, but Tori’s Row reads like the work of one hand, to the point that even I — as familiar as I am with the styles of both authors — could not tell who was responsible for what.

The Plot:

I’ll let the blurb speak for itself:

Tori McNulty has problems. As she’s putting her life back together, she’s attacked in Boston’s South End. She doesn’t remember much: mostly blood-drenched pavement and the crumpled body of her assailant. The good news is that she’s uninjured and not a murder suspect. The bad news is the obnoxious young man in 18th century dress shadowing her and confusing, violent flashbacks. Tori must figure out what happened that night before her stalker gets to her or she goes completely mad.

What I read — the first eight chapters — sets the scene and begins to introduce tantalizing clues, and was only just enough for me to start formulating hypotheses of my own.

Thoughts:

The story begins immediately after Tori is attacked. She’s under shock, confused, disoriented, and this really carries through into the text. The reader only knows what Tori knows, and so it’s all a little confusing, but what else would you expect from a murder mystery?

With each chapter, more is explained, both from Tori’s past and family life, as well as from the night of the attack. The slow reveal’s just fast enough to keep you clamouring for more, although I imagine it’s going to drive a few readers mad trying to piece the facts together.

While I enjoyed the first two chapters, I have to say I wasn’t properly intrigued until Chapter 3, with the introduction of the “obnoxious young man in 18th century dress” — he is the most colourful character on set, the most conflict-causing and fascinating (and potentially the sexiest?). His presence is the deal-clincher for me. As soon as he enters a scene, the mystery has a point of reference that you can track. Tori’s numb shock over her attack seems to fade when he’s around, and their interactions seem the most real. I’m definitely looking forward to reading more about him.

I’ve only read eight chapters, so I’m a little hesitant to comment on the other characters, but none of them really caught my fancy. There seems to be a lot of tension between Tori and her family and friends, and they are perhaps a little sidelined by Tori’s growing focus on getting to the bottom of the attack. Not that I really minded: I too want to know what happened on that night!

As for the writing itself, I’ve already mentioned the surprisingly seamless collaboration between MCM and Brauer; the story has their combined strengths, and is a quick, compelling read. The dialogue in particular is very strong and natural-sounding, although perhaps the story is a little dialogue heavy as I found myself wishing for more description. Character portraits were a little clothes-focused, and I didn’t get as strong a sense of setting as I would’ve liked. The story is set in Boston, but — having no idea what Boston is like — I found it hard to picture Tori’s environment.

There are definite moments of strong description, such as the eerie flashbacks that seem to hold the clues to the mystery, but less so in Tori’s day to day life. This could be intentional (a reflection of Tori’s shock, perhaps?) and I’ve only read the first part, so I’m hoping the next parts will have a little more meat on their bones.

In either case, I have to say the story intrigued me, and I raced through the sneak preview in record time. Put it this way: my reaction when I reached the end of the eighth chapter was the rather ineloquent “AAAHHHH!!!!”

In sum, Tori’s Row promises to be a suspenseful dark read that may drive you mad, but in a good way. Recommended for thrill-seekers, paranormal enthusiasts, history buffs… and the insane.

(Any guesses on what the title actually means?)

******

Tori’s Row will be updated every Monday starting from tomorrow. Be sure to check it out! Not convinced? Watch the trailer and see if you can remain unmoved.

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About A.M. Harte

A.M. Harte writes twisted speculative fiction, such as the post-apocalyptic Above Ground and the zombie love anthology Hungry For You. She is excellent at missing deadlines, has long forgotten what ‘free time’ means, and is utterly addicted to chocolate.
This entry was posted in Fantasy, Reviews, Webfiction and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Tori’s Row on 1889 Labs

  1. Nancy says:

    Thanks muchly for the review! MCM and I are so glad you enjoyed it. :D

  2. Pingback: New: Tori’s Row! Also: site revamp and a newcomer | 1889.ca

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