Penumbra (Spook Squad #3), by Keri Arthur (review)

October 16, 2014 Book Reviews 6 ★★★★

Penumbra (Spook Squad #3), by Keri Arthur (review)Penumbra by Keri Arthur
Series: Spook Squad #3
Published by Dell on 2014-10-28
Genres: Paranormal mystery, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 352
Format: eARC
Source: the publisher
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Also in this series: Memory Zero, Generation 18
Also by this author: Memory Zero, Generation 18

Agent Sam Ryan wants out of the Special Investigations Unit. She’s sick of the attitude from her partner, Gabriel Stern. She’s sick of the paperwork. Most of all, she’s sick of feeling lonely. But her boss isn’t about to let her go that easily. He gives Sam a choice: either stay stuck in her office or guard a clone replacement of Dan Wetherton, a government minister. Sam reluctantly chooses the latter—even though she suspects she’s being used as bait to draw out the SIU’s elusive nemesis.

Gabriel would like nothing better than to be on his own, without a partner to hold him back. Then he learns that Sam has been assigned to protect Wetherton—or whatever it is that’s replaced him. Wetherton’s clone could have come from only one place: Hopeworth, the military base that contains the secrets of Sam’s past. Determined to protect her, Gabriel is drawn into a fight against unspeakable evil. And all too soon, Sam and Gabriel discover that the connection between them is far more powerful than anyone could ever have imagined.

I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.


The third and probably last book in the Spook Squad series, Penumbra answers most of the series’ questions and resolves many – but not all – of the problems. We learn who and what Sam is, as well as the identities of some of the other major and most mysterious players, including Joe Black and Joshua. We get a better sense of what Hopeworth was up to, and the brutality of its tactics. And Gabe and Sam finally start telling themselves — and each other — the truths they’ve been hiding or holding back.

The book is almost nonstop action, and as in the first two, it can be challenging to keep track of the players, particularly with multi-shifters and clones involved. But I found the storyline easier to follow than in the middle book, Generation 18. Arthur paces each revelation perfectly, interspersing aha! moments with suspense and almost non-stop action, keeping me reading late into the night.

Sam and Gabriel are both compelling characters, though I got frustrated with Gabe’s insistence on keeping everyone, especially Sam, at a distance. As you might guess, he can’t keep that up forever, though I’m not going to give away any specifics! But this is paranormal suspense, not romance; the focus remains primarily on the multiple-but-related mysteries.

As I said in an earlier review, I really like Sam. She’s torn between wanting to know about her past, and fearing what she might find out. And what she discovers over the course of the three books is pretty hard for her to take. But she’s stronger than she knows, both emotionally and in other ways, and in this book, she seems ready to take a more active role in uncovering her past – and in pushing Gabriel. Although no-one in these books is completely good, Sam has always had a strong sense of justice and right, and she stays true to it.

The resolution of Gabriel’s and Sam’s relationship seemed a little abrupt to me, and perhaps a little out of keeping with Gabriel’s cautious nature when it comes to trust, but I found it satisfying anyway (and no, I’m not going to tell you how it’s resolved, only that it is — and that certain aspects came as a surprise to me.)

As I mentioned earlier, Penumbra doesn’t resolve ALL the issues. There’s at least one major loose end, which leaves open the possibility of a sequel or sequels. I’ve got my fingers crossed! However, given that the first two books originally came out in 2004 and Penumbra in 2009, I’m not holding my breath for a fourth book.

The Spook Squad series really drew me in. I’m now a Keri Arthur fan, and I’ll be looking for more of her books!

Note: The Spook Squad trilogy was published in 2004 and 2009 by ImaJinn Books, and is being reprinted with new covers by Dell.

10/27/14 Update: Due to a prolonged and ferocious spam attack on this post, I’m temporarily disabling comments for this post only.


About Keri Arthur

Keri Arthur, author of the New York Times bestselling Riley Jenson Guardian series, has now written more than twenty-eight novels. She’s received several nominations in the Best Contemporary Paranormal category of the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Awards and has won RT’s Career Achievement Award for urban fantasy. She lives with her daughter in Melbourne, Australia.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • COYER Summer Vacation 2014

6 Responses to “Penumbra (Spook Squad #3), by Keri Arthur (review)”

    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      They were good! The romance (or rather, potential romance) takes a back seat to the mysteries and suspense, but it’s there as a thread running through all three.

  1. Rita @ My Home of Books

    I’ve heard of Keri Arthur and was curious about her books since she writes different series, and different types of books, some more adult than others in their mature content, violence and language. You’ve reminded me that I want to take a look at her and find a book I want to check out of the library. Thanks for these 3 reviews on the series, they helped a lot.
    Rita @ My Home of Books recently posted…Random Thoughts, TTT, & Mini BreakMy Profile

    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      I’m glad the reviews helped! Several people have noted that these contain much less sexual content than her other books (basically none, in fact.) There is a fair bit of violence, but I don’t know how that stacks up against her other books.

    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      I love romance in books, but yes, sometimes I want a break from it – at least the steamy kind. I appreciate the subtler romance in Mary Stewart’s romantic suspense novels, or in mysteries like Sayers’ Lord Peter series (the four Harriet Vane books.) So this was a nice break from the usual paranormal suspense stuff.