Final Call, by Rachel Ann Nunes, is the third book in a series featuring imprint-reading police consultant Autumn Rain. Imprints are images and emotions left behind on objects by people who treasured them or had strong emotions while holding them. As the third book in the series, the characters were well-established, and the author was able to jump straight into the mystery with tiny little explanations and recaps here and there. This book stands on its own, though I do think that there are bits here and there where it would do the reader good to have read the other two books first.
Since it’s unlikely (though not impossible) that you’ve read the other Autumn Rain novels, let me take a bit of time to summarize some recurring characters, my initial reactions to them (back when I read the first book, Imprints), and then delve into how I think everything’s held up now that we’re on Book 3.
When I first read Imprints, everything about Autumn was awesome. She is a barefoot, organic food-eating, herbal tea-drinking, antique store-owning, somewhat-hippie who is a blackbelt in tae kwon do and also happens to read imprints on objects. She was also adopted and was separated from her twin, Tawnia, at birth, but before the start of the book they found each other again and are now best friends. Everything about Autumn was so cool, so different from any female protagonist that I’d ever read. She was laid back, charming, and did I mention she walked around in bare feet everywhere and was a bit of an herbal tea lover? Autumn was so well written that I fantasized walking barefoot everywhere (which I now do on occasion), and her interest in herbal teas sparked my interest as well (my grandmother, whom I never met, was an herbalist, and this book helped to reignite my curiosity in my past. But, ahem, I digress). Autumn was also smart, a bit sassy, and willing to dive into dangerous situations to help solve murders and missing persons cases.
Fast forward to Book 3, and I still really enjoy Autumn Rain. She still feels true to character, is still smart, and shows grit and courage in finding the truth and protecting her loved ones. I still really love her as a protagonist, though I don’t know if I’d love her as much if I hadn’t read the other books. She is an established character, as are the other main characters in the book, so not much time is spent on her quirks and more time is spent on the case. This is something that I feel would detract from the book for first-time readers, and is common with the other characters, which is why I would recommend reading the first book if you have to choose one in the series.
Jake and Shannon:
Jake and Shannon are the love interests (Shannon is a man, something I forget each time I pick up an Autumn Rain book. I’ve known too many female Shannons).
Jake is awesome: black, with dreadlocks, Autumn’s best friend, and he owns the herbal shop next door. The first two descriptions are important because it’s the first time I’ve read, in a book from this publishing company, of a black love interest, with dreadlocks no less, who is charming and witty and so likeable that I fell in love with him from the first page. Not that an interacial love interest has never occurred in books from this publishing company, but this is the first time I’ve seen it. And, this was the first time I ever thought that dreadlocks could be cool instead of gross.
Jake has known Autumn from long before the series began, and he knows about her reading imprints going in. He knows exactly how to comfort her and calm her when she reads negative imprints, and he is all gentleness and sweetness.
Shannon is a police detective, and is at first hesitant to believe in Autumn’s abilities. They have a somewhat jarring relationship at the beginning, but she is drawn to his curly blond hair and dreamy blue eyes, which makes her feel guilty because she is also in love with Jake. By the time the third book comes around, Shannon believes in Autumn’s abilities and has decided he must do everything he can to protect her. He’s a decent guy, and he luckily realizes that he can’t be overbearing and keep Autumn away from everything because she would just slip out a window and investigate anyway.
This genuine decency between the two men creating this love triangle is an interesting thing I usually don’t see in fiction. Usually, a love triangle with a woman at the center involves one dangerous guy and a second, more dangerous guy, both of whom actually have terrible traits that I wouldn’t want any woman to fall for. But here, it’s hard to root for one guy or the other because they’re both genuinely good guys. Still, I kind of wish that Shannon would, y’know, maybe fall down a well. Or at least find a different girlfriend.
Autumn was separated from her sister Tawnia when they were born in order to fulfill an adoption contract that was created before their mom realized she was carrying twins. Their mom died in childbirth, so they couldn’t ask what her wishes were. Autumn was adopted by the people who cared for the twins’ mom before she gave birth, Summer and Winter Rain (seriously), and Tawnia was sent away. In the past couple of books, Tawnia has served mainly as an extra person to show how similar and how different twins can be, an unfortunate placeholder. In this book, however, Tawnia is given a few more characteristics and actually has an important place in the plot. Honestly, this is one recurring character that I wish the author would flesh out more. So far, the only interesting things about Tawnia are that she’s a mother, an artist, likes theatre, and sometimes draws real-life events that occurred in the recent past (instead of reading imprints).
Alright…those weren’t exactly short summaries. But anyway, characters are always important to me, so I tend to think about them a lot. Moving on…
In this book, Autumn is asked to investigate the disappearance of a boy’s sister, Rosemary. In her investigation, Autumn learns that Rosemary just landed a lead role in a play being put on by a small theatrical touring company. This play is supposedly cursed–each time they’ve tried to perfom it in the past, people have gone missing or died. And it looks like the curse has returned: while at the theater, Autumn comes across the corpse of another woman who had taken Rosemary’s role after Rosemary disappeared. Because of imprints Autumn reads, she fears for Rosemary’s life: she must find her before Rosemary becomes a second corpse in this production.
The mystery was decent, though I wish there had been more time spent on developing the crew of the company. I’ve been in theater (albeit in background roles), and it would’ve been interesting to see if the interactions between the different players were in any way similar to what I’ve seen in my experiences. However, there wasn’t very much time spent at the theater itself; most of it was spent elsewhere–at Rosemary’s parents’ house, investigating a cabin, wrestling in the mud with suspects that were trying to escape.
I also felt like the book was spending too much time on a secondary story, one involving Autumn and Tawnia’s search for their biological family. The author spent a little bit of time in each book with Autumn and Tawnia wondering about their past, talking about how their mother had run away from home while still pregnant because her mother practically kicked her out. There were some major developments on that front in this book, which pulled away from the main story. In fact, the end of the book was a cliffhanger in that regard–they learned about a member of their family, and an article in the newspaper stated that that family member was a suspect in the disappearance of a child. Tune in next book to get started on that mystery, which should have all been contained in one book! (I honestly do feel like those bits could have all been placed in the next book (which I haven’t read) in order to make a cohesive whole. It’s one of the major bits that makes it so this book can’t stand on its own without the rest of the series)
This book, like the other books in this series, is pretty clean in the romance department. There are no steamy sex scenes, the kissing is pretty mild, and the longing is kept to a minimum. That’s something I like about this series–it’s mainly about mysteries solved through paranormal means, and the romance is more for character development than anything else. Not that I don’t like romance, but when I’m reading a mystery I’m reading a mystery! Yay!
Now, for the bad bit: since Jake and Shannon were set up well in the previous books, very little time is actually spent with either of them in this one (another thing that could have been remedied by keeping the family-related mystery in its own book). If you haven’t read the other books, you know (because Autumn tells you–this is a first-person narration book) that Jake is her best friend and that she’s still in love with him, you know that Shannon and Autumn used to be at odds with each other and that now she has a serious crush on him, but you don’t really see enough interplay between the three to understand why Autumn’s having such a hard time deciding if she should pursue one or the other. You know, because Autumn tells you so, that she recently broke up with Jake, but you don’t get to see Jake’s awesomeness. There’s a bit more of Shannon in the book, but the romance in this one feels more like it’s just to move Shannon and Autumn closer to being an actual couple. Which makes me upset because Jake and Autumn were already a great couple. And remember what I said earlier about not wanting romance in a mystery? Well, the way I feel, if you’re going to have romance it should be done right. Make it feel right. I also care about characterization and character growth, so if you’re gonna make one character decide to stop loving one character and love another, you’d better make the effort to do it right. And make it so anyone jumping in mid-series understand why it’s important too, since the books seem to be made to stand on their own.
This book is a fun, quick read. I liked it almost as much as the first book in the series, Imprints, and a lot more than the second book, Shades of Gray. If I hadn’t known it was a third book and had jumped in, I may have been. However, as a third book in a series, it does pretty well. Reading it was a pleasant distraction, and I may eventually pick up the next book in the series (given my track record with this series, it will probably be in a year or so).
And Autumn Rain is still an awesome protagonist.