Lex Files by Celeste Castro is set in a small town in rural Idaho with a big problem. Something is terrorizing a nature preserve nearby. Some think it’s the Lake Lowell Ghost, others are convinced it’s some other evil creature lurking and no one can find the truth. Because the incident sounds suspiciously like one that happened nearly 9 years earlier, the file hits the FBI desk of Special Agent Winifred Ford. She’s specializes in cases of the unexplained, or ones involving strange creatures.
Helping her is State Fish & Wildlife Officer, Daya Soto. She is a specialist who runs the Karelian Bear Dog program with her partner Lexy. Officer Soto and Lexy are everything that Special Agent Ford is not. Down to earth, practical, friendly, and low key. While Ford burns her bridges left and right. Within a day even people on her own team can’t stand her. But her superior dictates that she must work with Officer Soto so somehow they have to figure it out before whatever is wiping out the animal population at the nature preserve leaves it bereft of life.
I’m going to say it, Special Agent Ford is an ass. She is difficult, belligerent, and lacks compassion. Her only goal is to solve the case and get out of town. Because of that I didn’t care for her much. But I think that is the point because Castro certainly provides sound reasoning for why Ford acts the way she does. Not only that, but there is character growth to be found within the pages. Much like their personalities, Soto is nearly the opposite. She’s friendly, funny, and everybody loves her dog, Lexy. They have a bond that only certain owners and pets can have. Maybe some of it is due to their working relationship, but who knows. I really liked Daya and even I’ll admit that I grew to like Winifred.
The Writing Style
The pacing was good for this type of novel. The author kept the reader in the dark about what was responsible for the dead animals. There was also a sense of urgency and anxiety that built with each incident that occurs. Cameras disappear, tracking devices go offline and online, and they discover more trouble than they can handle as they’re walking around in the dark. All of these things lend to a very X-Files feel to the entire book. A creepy paranormal mystery that is propped up and made sturdy by the author’s writing style.
I especially loved the scenes with Lexy. There was a good bit of research that went into including working dogs into this novel. From the stuff with Lexy specifically, to the other tracking dogs that were brought in to aid the search for whatever was terrorizing the preserve. I personally wanted to see the video that was referenced where Officer Soto supposedly frees a trapped moose. It’s spoken about a few times in the story as one of her popular claims to fame and it just added another layer of interest for me.
While I don’t think romance was a primary point of this novel, it was certainly there. Daya was absolutely the reason for Winifred’s “thawing”. They get to know each other fairly well as the novel progresses and the reader gets to experience some of the physical chemistry between the characters. However, I never really clicked with the romantic or lust oriented scenes. They always seemed muddled and chaotic and I guess I didn’t “feel” the connection between them like I probably should have for the romance part to work for me. That being said, the romance portion definitely got better toward the end, though their status wasn’t completely resolved. You at least see a ray of sun peeking through the clouds.
I enjoyed the premise of the entire novel really. I was a fan of X-Files back in the day and I still enjoy a good paranormal book. While I’m not really fan of mystery, I feel like there are always mysterious elements where it comes to a paranormal novel. I though the book was entertaining and could even make for a great first book in a series. I could certainly see Ford, Soto, and the wonderful Lexy working together on another case. I hope to see it actually. But all in all, I believe Lex Files to be a good read that got better toward the end.
Excerpt from Lex Files by Celeste Castro
“Special Agent Winifred Ford. Federal Bureau of Investigation.” Ford flashed her badge and then put it in her breast pocket. “I need to discuss the site of the latest attack. Grace Jewell is expecting me.”
An overeager young naturalist in a khaki uniform hopped off a stool and stood at full attention. “The FBI? Wow. Can I see your, like, badge again?”
Ford looked at the girl’s name plate. “Sure. Emma.” Ford repeated the action slowly and held the badge closer to the young woman’s face while staring her down. “The attack? Time is of the essence. There’s probably a flurry of little animals being slaughtered as we speak.”
“I hope not.” The girl’s eyes widened. “Do you really think so?” Ford only shrugged her shoulders. “Well, like, FYI we’re not really using the word attack. We’re being very particular about the words we’re using and what we’re saying. The kids are like sponges at this age. That and,” she leaned in and whispered, “you never know who is listening.”
Ford took a deep breath and narrowed her eyes. She took a step back observing a horde of kids running in circles. A handful of chaperones turned toward her now. Her impeccable attire made her a beacon amongst the sea of naturalists clad in homogenous khaki jumpsuits and black rubber boots.
“We were expecting Officer Daya as well?”
“Yes. Officer Daya Soto and her Karelian Bear Dog, Lexy. Looking forward to it.” Ford didn’t try to sound enthused. She pulled her phone out of her pocket.
“Me too. She’s great. She comes down here for classes sometimes. She’s legit good with the kids,” the young woman added. “Oh, my God!”
“What?” Ford jumbled her phone in her hands at the exclamation. “Did you see that post of her and the moose? Oh my God, it was lit.”
Ford agreed despite not knowing what the word lit actually meant in this scenario. In fact she had watched the post several times, at first, trying to gain an understanding of how Officer Soto utilized her service animal, which evolved into being captivated by the officer. Her movements, her hands, her light step, the care in which she treated the poor distressed animal. Ford could see that Officer Soto communicated with her work partner on a subliminal level. She shook away the feeling and used her wristwatch as a prop, hoping the gesture would send the young woman on her way.
“I’ll go and get Grace.” Emma took the cue and worked her way through the crowd of wild children running around the exhibits and other naturalists at work explaining bird migration patterns.
Ford studied the interpretive center noting the exhibits about birds of prey and riparian and wetland habitats. She realized she was visibly grimacing at watching the wild tiny visitors getting up close and too personal with a filthy-looking animal pelt display. She wondered how many different viruses lived on the dirty furs. A video straight out of the seventies was playing in a theater across the way on the opposite side of the building. There was another group of young students who stared at her while their chaperones elevated their voices to get them to focus on scat.
“Special Agent Ford? I’m Grace Jewell, executive director of the Deer Flat Interpretive Center.”
“A pleasure.” Ford flashed her badge again.
“Likewise,” added Director Jewell, an older woman in a navy pantsuit. She held out her hand for an introductory shake. “So glad we can help the FBI with the investigation. I hope you will feel right at home working with us.”
“My team,” she said as a trio of FBI agents walked through the front door, loads of equipment in tow.
“Should we wait for Officer Soto?” Director Jewell suggested.
“Not necessary,” Ford said. “First,” she pursed her lips as she thought, “we’d like to get plugged in. There are a few critical things we need to set up and apparently there are keys we need in order to access parts of the preserve?”
“Of course. This way.” Director Jewell led Ford’s team toward a closed-off area. “The code to get through is zero-one-three-one.” She punched in the numbers, the door made a buzzing noise, then popped open. “There is also a back entrance and a basement entrance, but not to worry, I’ll show you everything and get you all the keys you need to get around here. Though, there should always be one of us around here during the day.” The group followed her through the door and into the private administrative offices. “You can set up there.” She motioned to an open workspace. “You’ll have to share with our staff. It’ll be cozy.” A handful of naturalists snuck glances from behind their computers. “The staff shouldn’t be too much in your way. They are in and out quite a bit during the day when they are teaching.” A confused expression appeared upon Jewell’s face as she watched the tech team unload their equipment. “You’ll also have to share the area with Officer Soto.”
“And the bear dog too, I presume?” Ford flashed a curt smile.
“Probably.” Jewell forced a laughed.
“Why is the preserve still open to the public, Director Jewell?”
“Why wouldn’t we be open?”
“Did it ever occur to you it might not be safe?”
“Of course it’s safe.”
“It’s not very smart.”
“There is a horde of crazy kids out there trampling about the preserve, destroying—”
“I assure you they are not trampling about the preserve, Special Agent Ford. We have skilled naturalists who guide our guests around certain highly controlled areas of the property.”
“Really? I spent the last hour walking about the preserve, no questions asked by the officers on duty.”
“They must deem it safe if they didn’t stop you.”
“It’s not safe,” Ford said with a chuckle. “The center should not be open.”
“Can we please take a step back?” She placed her hand on Ford’s forearm.
“What part don’t you understand?”
“School visits have already decreased significantly once the news started taking a strange turn…”
“So, you need the funding?”
“Yes, very much so. Yes.”
Ford bit the inside of her cheek. “This puts me in a tough spot.” She sucked air in through clenched teeth.
“What do you mean?”
“The center will be closed,” Ford stated and joined her team in unloading the surveillance gear. “Effective immediately.”
“You can’t do that.”
“Federal property, federal agent’s orders. Besides, it’s out of my hands,” Ford said and took a CAT 5 cable that Grady handed her and plugged it into her laptop. “Perfect. Thanks.”
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Bits and Bobs
- ISBN number: 9781642470178
- Publisher: Bella Books
Celeste Castro Online
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