Even as Amazon’s focus turns to its bevy of beefed-up e-readers, its fledgling publishing imprints are quietly releasing some of the better genre books around. In the wake of the excellent Wayward Pines series comes J. Lincoln Fenn’s Poe (October 22; 47North), winner of Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award …which is sort of liking winning a “Best Child” award from your own mother. But I digress.
In Fenn’s engaging debut, college drop-out Dmitri is a masterful obituary writer for his local rag in New Goshen, but he’s a man without a rudder, still grieving the loss of his parents in a horrendous car accident, and desperately craving a girlfriend. With a stroke of dumb luck involving ass polyps, Dmitri is assigned to cover a local séance at the mysterious Aspinwall mansion on Halloween, where he has a gag-inducing meet-cute with his dream girl, Lisa.
Suffice it to say, the séance goes horribly wrong: after falling through rotting floorboards into a forgotten well, Dmitri wakes up in a hospital after being clinically dead for two hours. Hailed as a miracle of medical science, Dmitri attempts to reintegrate back into his life and reconnect with his dream girl, but harrowing nightmares/visions––along with the arrival of a spleen-eating serial killer––have him questioning his own sanity.
The tinder-dry wit of Fenn’s first-person voice carries the story through some grievously uneven moments. While it remains a fun read, Poe is tonally all over the place. The narrative vibe drifts from paranormal mystery to coming-of-age novel to mental health expose, rendering Fenn’s debut completely unclassifiable. But its imaginative vision remains undeniable. Hitting the high notes of multiple genres, her talent is wicked raw and proudly untamed. This is Fenn’s first novel––I can’t wait to see what comes next.