Habitat for Human Remains


Fiction - Paranormal
256 Pages
Reviewed on 08/08/2017
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    Book Review

Reviewed by J. Aislynn d Merricksson for Readers' Favorite

Scott A. Lerner’s Habitat for Human Remains is fifth in the Samuel Roberts series. Roberts is a cynical private practice lawyer with an interesting 'hobby’ of fighting the forces of darkness. It's not a hobby he’s chosen. It just seems to find him. This time it comes in the form of a seemingly lucky break when Avery, a lawyer from a far more prestigious law firm, calls Roberts, wanting him to accept a murder case. Mr Avery represents the family's estate, and says he wants Roberts to handle the murder case to keep things from getting complicated by another lawyer at Avery’s firm handling it. Avery accepts the retainer fee with no balking and no haggling, which makes Roberts wary, though he still takes the case. He agrees to visit Blake's mother, Edna, at the home she and her son had shared. His friend, Bob, ends up joining him for the visit, where they tour the home and attempt to speak to the staff. Only the butler, whom Roberts equates with Lurch, is mute. Mrs May is blind, and Ms Harris is a prickly porcupine who clearly did not like Heather, the deceased, at all. Examination of Blake's rooms, set up like a small apartment, reveal both a trash chute and a dumbwaiter, and though neither seem likely to have allowed access to another assailant, it allowed them escape.

The accused is Blake May, a sufferer of chronic, crippling agoraphobia, which had rendered him unable to even leave his rooms, much less Frost House, the estate in question, in several decades. Blake also suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder. Given that the body was so badly destroyed that identification became impossible, it begs the question of how Blake could have done it. Yes, the remains were found in his rooms, but the average human is not able to reduce a human body to mere scraps without tools and considerable noise, never mind a person suffering from such a severe phobia and obsessive compulsive disorder. It's hard-wired into most sufferers to be scrupulous with cleanliness and/or neatness, making it highly unlikely that Blake is the culprit. Cue the creepy goings-on. What really happened in Frost House that fateful night, and how does it relate to the history of this proud Victorian-era home?

This is an urban fantasy tale that fits right in with The Dresden Files, the Eric Carter series, and the Iron Druid Chronicles. A locked room mystery worthy of Sherlock Holmes, flavoured with the spooky elements of Grimm and The X-Files. I love that Samuel and Bob are very nondescript characters rather than sexy, young (looking) characters. I like that too, mind, but it's nice to see average-looking characters as the main ones. Between the two, they reminded me a lot of the Lone Gunmen conspiracy group from the above-mentioned paranormal drama The X-Files. There is great use of dialogue in the story, and each person has distinct accents and inflections, making them much easier to bring to life in the mind's eye. I loved the sarcastic and cynical interactions and self-assessments Samuel had. He's clearly been through the wringer in the past and has reached the point of a resigned 'que sera, sera'. Lerner had engaging description as well. I loved the compass rose floor. I would so very much love that in my own house. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and will be digging into the other Samuel Roberts books soon (I hope!).

Jack Magnus

Habitat for Human Remains: The Samuel Roberts Series, Book 5 is a dark paranormal fantasy novel written by Scott A. Lerner. Sam was surprised to hear that his newest client actually lived in the old Frost Home. Going past it even now reminded him of the creepy thrills he’d felt as a kid walking past the haunted-looking house on his way to and from school, but the offer that Devin Avery, Esq. made in securing Sam’s representation of Blake May was entirely too financially appealing to pass up. May was accused of murdering his girlfriend and somehow turning her remains into an ungodly pile of bone bits, tissue and shredded clothing. The defendant, who lived in Frost Home with his elderly, blind mother, was an agoraphobic who never left his rooms on the the second floor of the decaying house. He was presently being held under observation at the Marquee Mental Health Center. Sam and his best friend and sometimes detecting partner, Bob, were fascinated by Blake’s collection of Star Wars and other geek paraphernalia, though getting up to the second floor of the spectral residence meant meeting up with a butler who seemed suspiciously like Lurch from the Addams Family, and the very unpleasant dowager, Edna May. The Frost Home had a history that reached back to the 1800s when Joseph A. Frost built his mansion on property rumored to be Indian burial grounds. Sam and Bob would have to brave the spooky old place and its residents in their quest to exonerate Blake May.

Scott A. Lerner’s dark urban fantasy novel, Habitat for Human Remains: The Samuel Roberts Series, is the fifth book in his paranormal series, but don’t let the number of the book deter you from diving into this exciting and thoroughly entertaining novel of suspense. After reading just a few pages, I began looking up the four preceding books and making plans to read them as well. Anyone who’s familiar with Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files will remember, no doubt, the rush of delight they felt on getting to know Butcher’s iconic wizard and paranormal investigator, Harry Dresden. Lerner’s paranormal attorney, Sam Roberts, is in no way derivative of Butcher’s work, but the thrill of discovering a first-rate paranormal investigator series was definitely on the level of that experienced when meeting Harry Dresden for the first time. Lerner’s haunted house, the Frost Home is deliciously spooky, and it reminded me of the old decrepit home I used to pass on my way to school as a kid. Sam and Bob’s informal partnership is flat-out marvelous. I loved watching as they eat their way through endless orders of takeout and diner specials and binge-watch horror movies, and their action scenes are definitely not to be rushed through. I had a grand time reading Habitat for Human Remains: The Samuel Roberts Series and am looking forward to reading the preceding books in the series. I also hope that the author might consider dreaming up some new adventures for his paranormal team of experts. This dark urban fantasy is most highly recommended.

Sefina Hawke

Habitat for Human Remains by Scott A. Lerner is a paranormal fiction novel that would appeal most to a mixed audience of young adults and adults who enjoy supernatural mystery/thriller fiction. Sam Roberts has been hired by a wealthy law firm to act as an attorney to Mr. Blake May. Blake May, an agoraphobic who hardly ever leaves his rooms, has been accused of murdering his girlfriend, Heather, yet the police cannot locate the murder weapon. Sam not only needs to solve the murder to get Blake off the hook, but also navigate and survive the haunted house that Blake resides in. Thankfully Sam is not alone as he has his friend, Bob Sizemore, to help him uncover the true evil behind Heather’s murder. Will the pair be able to solve the murder or will Blake take the fall for a crime he did not commit?

Habitat for Human Remains by Scott A. Lerner has an eerie cover image that hints at the evil forces at work and the heroes that will go up against this evil; the use of silhouettes instead full character images added nicely to the spooky ambiance of the book. Scott A. Lerner was clearly in his element with this story as it was the perfect balance of mystery and thrills that kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time. I very much wanted to find out who was responsible for Heather's horrible death, and if the evil forces behind her murder could be stopped. Sam Roberts made for the perfect protagonist with both his experience with evil and his ability to persevere in difficult situations. Overall, I enjoyed reading this novel and I really hope the author decides to write a sequel in the future!