Science fiction and fantasy                                            

Unholy Ghosts

by Stacia Kane


Chess Putnam is the kind of character who finds herself drawn to the seedier side of life. She's a ghost hunter for the Church in a world where the dead have risen to plague the living. She's part of humanity's last line of defence against the vicious undead. As such she's part of a privileged caste who wield magical powers and enjoy the respect and status of the top tier of a new society that rose in the aftermath of the disaster of Haunted Week.

But Chess doesn't care about wealth and privilege. All she wants is the next fix. She chooses to live on her own in the rougher part of Downside amongst the junkies and the pimps, rather than in the safer housing the Church could provide for her. Her job is to investigate hauntings to find out whether people are trying to defraud the Church with fake ghosts, and to banish any real ones she finds. It can be dangerous work. Then Bump, a gang leader, comes along with an even worse task for her. He wants his airport cleared of ghosts and black magic, and Chess is in his debt so she has no choice but to take the job. However there are strong malevolent spirits at the airport, and people who don't want her to succeed and are willing to kill to make their point.

Stacia Kane's gritty, punkish world comes vividly to life as its tattoo parlours, markets and dark subways fizz with life, death and dissolving pills. The author gets the speech patterns of the street just right, so the dialogue is easy to understand even while it's thick with an authentic urban-ghetto accent.

Chess is a fantastic flawed character, an addict with a cynical attitude to everything and everyone. We're never allowed to forget her drug problem, and in places we're led to wonder how she can function at all. Sometimes she's fuzzy-headed, but she's not quite at the stage where drug use has ruined her looks or made her outright stupid.

Unholy Ghosts has a brilliant atmosphere and tension to it, especially between Chess and Terrible, the hard man who is sent to ensure she does Bump's bidding. Chess is to virginal what Darth Vader is to successful anger management, but remarkably this never gets in the way of the story's building sexual tension. It's never merely a question of whether she will or she won't. Rather, at issue is whether someone as disconnected as Chess is even capable of love.

This book isn't for the faint hearted, the easily offended, or people who can't eat ketchup too soon after watching Shaun of the Dead. However it's modern, exhilarating, and has more kick than Jackie Chan on an angry mule. Strong stuff.

26th July 2010

Book Details

Year: 2010

Categories: Books

    Female Protagonist  
  Not For The Squeamish  

If you like this, try:

Bitten cover    

Bitten by Kelley Armstrong
The only female werewolf in the world has to decide between life with the Pack and fitting in with the rest of humanity. Book one of The Women Of The Otherworld series.

Kiss The Dead cover    

Kiss The Dead by Laurell K. Hamilton
Juggling vampire and shapeshifter relationships whilst hunting down fang-happy leaderless undead keeps Anita Blake busy in the 21st book in the series.

Silver-Tongued Devil cover    

Silver-Tongued Devil by Jaye Wells
A series of murders threaten the fragile peace between vampires, mages, and the other dark races. The fourth in the Sabina Kane series.

5 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson