Review: Riley Parra Season One

Riley Parra Season OneRiley Parra Season One by Geonn Cannon
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It seems every year I’ve been reading a book about a detective working in our world, if our world was an urban fantasy. The last two I’ve read Dead Witch Walking and Neon Noir: A Delilah Street Paranormal Investigator Anthology were in an alternate Earth where it was known that there were supernatural beings. This book is more like Buffy in that a couple folks know that the supernatural – Angels and Demons in this case – are real. Otherwise it’s more or less a normal world. Although, unlike Buffy, God’s side actually has something to do rather than sit by as demons just run things.

Mr. Cannon has titled this book “Riley Parra Season One” and it does indeed read like a novelization of a TV show. This book is a series of cases that, all together, tell a coherent story. Our main character is a lesbian detective on the police force working in a city that, like many cities, has a chunk of once-vibrant downtown that is slowly falling apart. I’m not sure what future books in the series hold, but there is definitely not any gentrification going on here. Like a good, modern Batman story, the city itself almost becomes a character and it definitely affects those living and working within. Detective Parra very quickly finds herself in the center of a battle for dominance of the city between Heaven and Hell. But, returning to my Buffy comparison, Detective Parra doesn’t find herself with the new job of simply kicking butt for God – she still has her detective day job.

What I enjoyed most about the world Mr. Cannon has created here, is that it is dominated by women. I’ve never (in other fiction) seen a police department so dominated by women. Ms. Parra’s partners on various cases are all women. Her boss is a woman. The doctor in the morgue is a woman. We later meet a veteran of the war in Afghanistan who is a woman. While the head of the demons is a man, many of the demons Detective Parra interacts with are inhabiting female bodies. So, having just attended Farpoint 2019 where quite a few of the panels I attended were focused on representation (including female and LGBT+), this was quite an apt book to be reading. Also, by avoiding too many men in the story, Mr. Cannon avoids a lot of unfortunate tropes. On the LGBT+ front, as far as I can remember (having read this book piecemeal over a few months) no one cares or makes a big deal about the main character’s sexuality. In fact, at least once if not more than once, her partners help her hook up with others on dates. I’m also happy to report (another topic that came up during a Farpoint panel) that Mr. Canon has avoided the catty female trope. The women in the story treat each other neither with contempt (or “bitchiness”) nor girl power all the way! It’s just a bunch of professionals interacting professionally.

A few tidbits that don’t deserve their own paragraphs:
As far as detective stories go, you may or may not be able to guess the endings, but since many of them involve angels and demons, sometimes that can allow a bit of a cheat. So for me that kind of detracts just a little from the fun of reading a detective novel. On the other hand, because we’re learning as Detective Parra does, it’s more excusable.

This book has some pretty explicit sex scenes. It’s up to you to decide how well they work. I thought they were somewhere between acceptable written and well written, but I’m not a connoisseur of lesbian fiction so I don’t know if there are tropes being used badly. That said, it’s a remarkably small portion of the book. Out of some 520 pages, maybe 30 pages total? And that’s mostly boosted by the end where there are two short stories – one a prequel and one an interstitial which are 100% just porn. So if you like the idea of LGBT+ detectives and just feel squeamish about the sex, you can pretty easily skip through the tiny handful of scenes.

I got this book as part of Story Bundle’s LGBT+ Bundle and I was pleasantly surprised (not because I thought I wouldn’t like LGBT fiction, but because it’s a bundle so I was taking a chance with an author I didn’t know).

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