Author: Briana Morgan
Publication Date: 30 April 2022
Available As: Paperback and e-book
A local legend gone haywire.
A small-town cop.
An impossible eyewitness testimony.
Which is easier to believe—that killer mermaids exist, or that one person is worth risking everything for?
The Reyes Incident is the latest release from the terrific Briana Morgan; it’s the tale of Sergeant Andrea “Andie” McCollum, who is reassigned by her superior (who also happens to be her father) to test her mettle on cracking a homicide case involving Olivia “Liv” Reyes. The book alternates between Andie and Liv’s perspectives, with a few email interludes between Andie and other police officers and Chief Roger Alameda, as Andie interviews Liv regarding the fates of her four friends and Liv tells a surreal story of monsters and murder. Both characters are at least bisexual, with Andie being in a troubled same-sex marriage that’s on the verge of total breakdown, and much of the book’s focus is on Andie finding solace in her work and getting closer to not just the case, but the Liv as well. Liv used to be the camera operator for her and her friends, Alex Dang and brothers Ben and Ryan Jenkins, who worked on a YouTube channel where they explored urban environments, local legends, and forbidden areas. Liv used to date Ryan, and the two have a frosty relationship since their break up and Liv heading off to film school, and she’s hurt to find that the group have effectively replaced her in the intervening years with the good-looking Claire Thibodeaux, but can’t resist taking Alex up on his offer to explore an abandoned military bunker in the middle of the supposedly haunted Dawsonville forest.
Much of Liv’s narration is geared towards giving background on the group and her regrets about losing touch with them, and her criticism of Claire’s lack of intuition regarding camera footage for the venture, as well as her pondering her own conflicting feelings towards her former friends. However, a far greater concern rears its head when the group encounter three cannibalistic and sadistic mermaids (Harper, Sidney, and Molly) within the bunker; the sirens captivate them with their appearance and hypnotic words and song and lure them deeper into the facility where they toy with them, attacking at random and tearing them apart one at a time, with a particular focus on the males in the group. In the present day, Liv is a shellshocked and traumatised woman who is only comfortable confiding in Andie, but she’s also the prime suspect in the case since all anyone else knows is that four people are missing and she showed up at the police station covered in their blood. While Chief Alameda cautions Andie on getting too close to Liv and the case, and even tries bringing in a fellow officer to help keep things impartial, Andie is captivated by Liv’s story and sympathetic to her plight, and goes out of her way to coax more of the story out from her. In it, Liv tells a harrowing tale of her and her rapidly dwindling group of friends as they desperately tried to get to safety, fashion a means to fight back, and even bargain with the sirens for safe passage out of there.
Briana’s description of the killer mermaids’ bloodlust and aggression was a particular highlight for me; Harper, in particular, takes a perverse pleasure in feasting upon her prey and their only concern is keeping their hunger satiated, though there’s an undercurrent of patriarchal backlash woven into their surprisingly tragic backstory, which touches upon inhuman scientific experimentation on otherwise innocent creatures. These aren’t your Disney-fied mermaids, either; they’re far more in-line with the sirens of Greek literature that lured in sailors with their song and feasted upon them, and are depicted as both beautiful and horrific creatures. There’s a lot of mystery surrounding them, which I love, and Briana only vaguely touches upon how they came to be and even weaves a subtle suggestion that Liv could just be telling a fantastical and horrific story to cover her own actions. With a brisk pace and a nice variation between the chapters, The Reyes Incident was a great little read; I found it enjoyable and engaging thanks to the way Briana describes her main characters and their complex feelings and relationships, and was particularly taken by the more monstrous and gory aspects of the story. I rarely say this, but The Reyes Incident was a book I had trouble putting down as I kept wanting to read another chapter to see what happened next; Briana builds tension and dread in a very effective way and I kept waiting to see how the mermaids were going to strike and eviscerate their victims next, and Briana delivered every time in this regard. The squeamish need not apply here, but I absolutely loved it and Briana only sweetened the deal with an ending that leaves plenty of room for reader interpretation.
If you’re interested in checking out The Reyes Incident, and to learn more about Briana Morgan and her journey as an author, visit the links at the top of the page.