Book Reviews

Book Review: The Darby Shaw Chronicles

This week I wanted to highlight a book series that I recently devoured. The Darby Shaw Chronicles by Liberty Speidel have been on my radar for at least a year, but I didn’t start them until this month. I mostly listened to the audiobooks, which are excellent, but also read the ebooks during moments when I couldn’t turn on the narration.

I was so eager to read what came next…

I was so eager to read what came next that I really wanted to have constant access to the stories no matter my environment.

Darby Shaw is a police officer in a future Kansas City. There is some advanced technology that feels believable as the eventual development of what we have now. Changes to how law enforcement is handled also seem like a real possibility, with private companies contracting police departments across the country. A twist that seems perfect for pop culture’s long love affair with superheroes is the existence of “supers” – many humans with special powers due to a specific gene in their DNA. These supers have become widely known if not fully accepted into society.

I really enjoyed this take on a police procedural with a superhero twist. The first book, Emergence, was short, novella length. Darby discovers she is a super with abilities never seen before in any other supers. She can raise the dead – provided they’ve been murdered and she has access to the murderer.

I found book two, Retaliation, to be even better. Since Darby’s power and the background about how supers are treated were established, a fuller plot could be explored. Darby’s problems with the alphabet soup of government agencies leads to a crisis. I couldn’t put it down until I knew how it would turn out.

I couldn’t put it down until I knew how it would turn out.

There may have been some mild language, once or twice. Appropriate for the genre. No gore, little violence. Those things increase in the subsequent books, so be forewarned if you want to avoid them completely.

Book three is Capitulation. I really enjoyed this longer look into Darby’s world. There are a few things I wish would have been fleshed out more in previous books to really have the right impact here. We’re told that a couple of characters are Darby’s best friends but one we have not seen interact with her at all other than a summary of a phone call. The other has been present for legal matters and we haven’t seen them have any friend moments outside of that. Darby is even dating a man who was pretty much a non-entity to me when I read the first two books. If you can accept that these people matter to Darby despite not much time being devoted to them before, then you’ll be okay. The twists in this book were emotional. I didn’t expect them but at the same time they made sense completely with what we knew about Darby.

The twists in this book were emotional.

When I listened to the omnibus for books one through three, there was a bonus short story about a case Darby and Mark handle that leads them to somewhere in South America. I forget both the title and the specific setting, I’m sorry to say. But the story was a nice bonus and provides background that enhances your reading of book four, though it isn’t strictly necessary.

The fourth book is titled Omission, which plays well off an important element of that bonus short, as well as the events of the book itself. Speidel has outdone all her previous books with this one. What an intense and satisfying ride. This book is the most complex and well-plotted of all. I was so pleased with the ending of this book, which I had been waiting for through my reading of the entire series. I loved the way some story arcs burned slowly over the course of the series.

What an intense and satisfying ride.

I get the sense there are endless stories that could be told in this universe, and I’ll be happy to read each one. A fifth Darby Shaw entry (that other bonus short isn’t available as a separate volume, so I don’t count it on its own) will be released on September 5. The Last First Date is up for preorder on Amazon.

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