Breanna Lucci says The Reyes Incident is an unbelievable tale of murder, mermaids, and forbidden love.
[THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS]
The Reyes Incident (2022) is the latest novel by Briana Morgan, author of Unboxed (2020), The Tricker-Treater, and Other Stories (2020), and Blood and Water (2015). It centers on Sergeant Andie McCollum, a small-town detective, and Liv Reyes, a 24-year-old woman who enters the police station covered in blood and ready to talk. The novel jumps from Andie’s perspective to Liv’s and throws in scatterings of police correspondence, which craftily offers the views of other characters.
The novel begins with Andie’s perspective; she has just been reassigned to Liv’s case—presumably because they are both women and members of the LGBTQIA+ community. While telling her story to Andie, Liv takes over the narration and throws us into the midst of an abandoned war bunker. While explaining how her friends fell victim to the mysterious mermaids who swarm inside, she never fails to leave out the gruesome details. Her story is horrific, bloody, and borderline unbelievable. Andie is undeterred and unquestioning as the lines blur between professional and personal, and she soon finds herself unable to distance herself from Liv or her wild tale.
I was excited to read The Reyes Incident. How could you not love a story about killer mermaids and a small-town detective? Unfortunately, it’s possible. While there is no shortage of gore, there’s a painful lack of character development and continuity.
The character of Andie is lackluster at best. We are unaware of what she is feeling and experiencing. Her growing feelings for Liv do not appear until the final paragraph of a chapter, and then the story jumps back to Liv. When we get back to Andie, she is pulled into the Chief’s office and nearly removed from the case. She and Liv have become so close that it prompts her partner to report it. While piecing together that the two had a love affair, I wish it had been called out to us. It feels like the romantic relationship was rushed, which is sad because I think it would have offered a lot to the story.
Similarly, there are a lot of unexplained character components. Andie and her wife have a son conceived when her wife was cheating on her with a man. Their son has died, which is extremely important to their marriage, but that is the only information we get. Morgan neither explains how he died nor explores how it affects Andie aside from her surface-level guilt and anger. Morgan briefly describes how Andie’s police partner also lost a young child, but again, no further information or turmoil sprouts from there.
What the story lacks in character development, it makes up for with the otherworldly killer mermaids. The creatures are beautifully crafted, making readers feel unsettled in the best ways. They have just enough humanity to make their murderous intentions feel real. Their backstory is intriguing. The bunker they reside in is spooky, with Morgan’s descriptions throwing readers into the thick of the eerie setting. Liv and her friends don’t stand a chance, so Liv’s survival creates a lot of mystery. Morgan is on to something special with her ability to develop impactful horror scenes.
The Reyes Incident was interesting enough to keep me turning the page. The characters lacked proper development, especially Andie, but the visions of mermaids hungry for flesh kept me intrigued. This novel is an excellent introduction to the horror genre with intense gore that will churn even the strongest stomachs.
The Reyes Incident is available from several book retailers, and a complete list can be found on GoodReads.