Instrument of Justice
by C.B. Anslie
Westwood Books Publishing LLC

"I’ve never known what I was meant to do in life. What my purpose is. It is like I know what I am but not who I am or why."

There is much going on underneath the surface in Anslie’s slim, fast-paced, genre-bending novel. There are actually two stories here combined into one book. Some parts hold intrigue, while others leave the reader feeling a bit left in the dark, fostering a sense of mystery and uncertainty throughout the book.

The story begins in 2006 with a young Sevan and the death of his best friend, Zach. A tormented Sevan reveals Zach’s heart was weak—the cause of his sudden death—while he had excellent hearing with the “range and acuity of a canine.” This bit of information clues the reader into something going on, but we never quite learn what that is. At the same time Sevan ponders this, he encounters a rabid husky dog. In a fight or flight moment, Sevan uses a kind of mental power to kill the dog, an event that haunts him. This singular event seems isolated and unrelated to anything that follows other than Sevan’s incessant guilt over killing the dog. There is also an underlying, mysterious story between Zach and Sevan that leaves the reader wanting to know more, but this isn’t Anslie’s focal point.

We jump ahead ten years to 2016. Sevan and his wife, Mayson, are massage therapists with a business and are also expecting a baby any day. The couple harbors psychic abilities: Sevan is a telepath due to a “quirk” in his genetics that enables him to communicate with his mind, while Mayson is an empath who can “sense and experience the physical feelings and emotions of others.” Their worries over their child inheriting psychic abilities are understandable. In their discussions, we learn about the Institute of Psychic Development (IPD) and how Sevan and Mayson benefited from a free education at such a place in return for several years of service. But this is the only time it is mentioned, nor are we are given a further explanation regarding their time at the Institute or what kind of service they provided. Nevertheless, the discovery of an abused client prompts Sevan into action, while Mayson is confined to bed rest at home to protect her from potential insanity from the trauma of their client. At this point, Mayson thus becomes a background character, and not much else happens with her in the book.

The ensuing events involve murder, vengeance, and life-threatening actions that put Sevan on a kind of journey of self-discovery. He alludes to a darker side of himself, but we never fully learn what he means. Ultimately, he unburdens himself at one point with a confession to his aging confidant—a priest-like man called The Confessor—about killing the dog. It seems The Confessor aids Sevan at moments of personal crisis, but a deeper explanation of their relationship and connection is never explained. Still, when The Confessor appears intermittently throughout the book, his sparse appearances are the most compelling moments.

As Sevan’s story seemingly wraps up, Anslie utilizes an unusual narrative move, transitioning from Sevan to another story connected by means of a dream, and reversing time again to 2004. Why these events happen in 2004 is unclear, but the second story introduces Sig, a chopper pilot, and his evolving relationship with Sky, a healer and clairvoyant. A terrifying vision makes Sky fear for Sig’s safety, while the rest of their story is primarily about their blooming relationship. This part of the book shifts first-person perspectives between Sig and Sky, another unusual narrative choice. Then Anslie brings us back to Sevan once more in the closing chapter, where Sevan assumes a new responsibility and finds a new-found purpose in life. All of this is a bit jarring, the two storylines seemingly unrelated other than the fact that Sky and Sevan have similar powers.

Written in the present tense, Anslie’s narrative makes for a quick read with a sense of immediacy for the reader. It is a fairly straight-forward plot of a man’s vow of vengeance before it segues to a minor storyline where the book seems to lose its sure-footedness. Despite the structural issues of the novel, Anslie presents some engaging elements that make for a fascinating book. The various unanswered questions add to the mysterious nature of the narrative. The author seems to be setting things up for a potential series where these characters will be inextricably linked in some way, creating the anticipation that perhaps we will unlock more of the overall mystery in subsequent stories.

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