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Omens by Kelley Armstrong is the start of the Cainsville series. Olivia Taylor Jones is living a dream life as the daughter of a wealthy family in Chicago. She spends her time as a volunteer and active and is engaged to a handsome tech firm CEO. Everything is perfect until news breaks that she's actually the adopted daughter of convicted serial killers.
Now the very family that has loved her and raised her are shunning her. Her fiance wants his space and she's left to fend for her own against the onslaught of paparazzi.
Rather than hunker down, she decides to face her past head on. With very little in the way of pocket change, Olivia takes a taxi to rural Cainsville. Now in the road trip horror sub-genre, the person who arrives by taxi is certain to be either killed or assimilated by the town. In Olivia's case, she's already part of it, even if she can't remember being part. Her return is more like the swallows return to Capistrano.
As this is a multi-book series, there's not much in the way of overt paranormal shenanigans. But the town is being set up. It's a strange place where very few children grow up and those that do are eager to escape until they're old enough to miss the place. Again, there's a bit of a migratory animal feel to the set up; this time more like salmon who are born up stream but spend the bulk of their lives at sea, only to return to spawn and die.
There are also mysterious gargoyles hidden around the place. It wouldn't surprise me if the gargoyles have a paranormal purpose but here they are introduced as guardians of the town. A new one is added each time someone manages to correctly identify and count them. It's a slow and arduous process, one to be proud of, and one that Olivia seems naturally talented at.
It was the description of Cainsville that kept me reading more than anything else. I'm an absolutely sucker for these weird small town stories, especially the ones bordering on horror. Cainsville reminds me of other favorites, like Santaroga, Woundabout, and Stepford.
My one niggling complaint is the inclusion of Welsh phrases. Olivia keeps having them pop into her head and she's eventually told that they are important, magical phrases, but they're awfully close to a the sort of Welsh you see on roadsigns, in, well, Wales. There was one phrase in particular that used the word ffordd (road) that made me giggle. It's a word that's understandably everywhere in the cities: ffordd briefart (private road)and unffordd (one way) for instance.
None the less, I have book two, Visions on my TBR and am planning to keep going. There are currently three books, with two more in the works.