Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Lost (Celestial Blues #2) by Vicki Pettersson

The number one question in Griffin Shaw's life is who killed both him and his wife Evie fifty years ago.  Though he has found new love with rockabilly babe Kit, Evie continues to haunt his dreams.  It's been four months since he saved Kits life and returned to the mudflat (read: earth) but he is no closer to solving this extremely cold case.

Life keeps moving and the pures keep sending him souls to guide into the Everlast.  He may be part human now, but his duties as a centurion continue.  It is these duties that force him to do a take for Jeap Yang - a drug addict.  What he does not know is that this take will be different because not only will Kit involved, she will be introduced to a fallen.  This alone would be bad enough, but it will lead them on a trail to investigate a horrible new drug flooding the streets and confront both the Russian and Cuban mafia. Will Griffin and Kit manage to survive unscathed and can their fragile love survive all the forces which seemed aligned against them?

In The Taken, Pettersson included a strong message against violence aimed at women but The Lost, is absent such a message. Instead it seemed to fixate on fighting the subjugation of sexist patriarchal beliefs by showing women in charge of organized crime.   These women were strong but incredibly cold.  In Kit she did decide to show a softer kind of strength however but she was one person against two very domineering and angry women.  The difference between Kit and the two antagonists is that Kit is never really portrayed as having to battle sexism.  It seems to imply a sort of revenge fantasy rather than women being in control because they are powerful, organized and capable.

There was certainly more racial inclusion in The Taken but not only inclusion is good inclusion.  Once again,  Lil and Fleur made an appearance but their sole purpose was to educate Kit about Latino culture. 
"Shit, girl, he probably ain't Mexicano." Screwing up her beautifully painted mouth, Lil drew back to regard Kit with disdain. "You think us Latinas all look alike."

"No I don't," Kit said defensively, but the two women gave her matching stares, arms folded across their chests, perfectly plucked eyebrows raised in identical doubt. "You two, for example, look better than anyone I've ever seen in my entire life." (pg 89)
This was a salient point for both Lil and Fleur to make.  Despite being a good friend to both women, Kit remains clueless about Latino culture.

"Ay," Lil said, back again, rolling her eyes. "Get a Cubana talking and you might never shut her up again.'

Kit drew back as Fleur scoffed in agreement. "How come you can both be prejudiced, but I get chewed out if I even say the word Chola?"

"Because we're Latinas," Lil said as if that explained everything." (pg 90)
Kit is absolutely clueless and the fact that she actively chooses a Rockabilly lifestyle, which glorifies the past without releasing that 1950's was not a positive area for historically marginalized people speaks volumes.  Supposedly, Lil and Fleur are her friends but she knows next to nothing about their culture.  

Part of the problem with The Taken is that people of colour exist either to educate White people (read: Kit) about their culture, or are actively associated with criminal activity and poverty.  Kit's entire mission is to save the people of little Cuba. In 2013 the White savior storyline is old, tired and should be universally acknowledged as racially problematic to say the least.  To have a White woman who knows so little about Latino culture take on the role of savior smacks of unacknowledged privilege. 

Pettersson once again decided to set a story in Las Vegas but there were no GLBT people.  She is clearly familiar with the city so I personally don't understand the continued erasure.  There isn't a city which doesn't have a GLBT population let alone Las Vegas.  It was however a relief that unlike The Taken, at least in The Lost, Pettersson avoided mentioning homophobia without inclusion.

Many of the side characters were dealing with some sort of PTSD.  The pain they were living with was very graphic but the problem is that it was reduced to them simply holding onto the past and needing to let go.  This of course mirrored the issue with Griffin.  Dealing with trauma by suggesting that one should simply put it behind them is not only simplistic but disrespectful of what trauma can do to a person. 

I know that I have mentioned a lot of issues with this book in terms of marginalized characters but that aside, The Lost is truly a good book.  The ending was again predictable and I think it is because it was rushed.  Despite not being a fan of Kit, it was easy to identify with her jealousy of a woman she felt that she could not compete with.  As for Griffin, his pain becomes more real as the mystery surrounding his death and new life is explored.  The reader cannot help but root for him and hope that he finds the answers he so desperately needs.  While Griffin is rough around the edges, he so clearly feels things deeply and it is impossible not to hurt for him.  Of all of the characters in The Taken, he is the most real, though ironically, he is a man outside of time. For Griffin alone, this series is worth following. 

Editors Note: A copy of this book was provided by Edelweiss