Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Spotlight Review: Unholy Ghosts by Stacia Kane
Chess Putnam Series, Book 1
Triumph City (somewhere in the USA) - 2020 (or so)
It has been twenty-three years since ghosts revealed their existence to the public, and while doing so, exterminated two thirds of the world’s population. They’d have murdered more if not for the intervention of the Church of Real Truth, the only entity that was able to exert influence on the spirits through their use of magic. After that day, the world gave up on the traditional religions of old and embraced the new, more powerful Church and its employees, people like Chess Putnam.
Chess works as a Debunker. If people have a ghost, they want Chess (with all her witchy skills) to investigate and send the spirit packing to the City (the underground home where the souls of the dead—most of them anyway—now reside). It’s a bonus that they get paid by the Church for letting them investigate and escort the ghost to its intended home. The bonus for Chess comes when the people are lying; that’s when the “debunk” part of her title comes into play, and she gets a tidy bonus instead when she reveals the truth. She could really use one of those bonuses right now as she’s into Bump (her drug dealer) for a huge sum, and he wants his dough. Although, he does have an offer for her that’ll clear her debt, get rid of the ghosts (or people faking them) at an abandoned airfield so he’ll have an easier time getting his product into town. Maybe I shouldn’t call it an offer; after all, he can always have Terrible (his enforcer) break her legs if she refuses. But when the airport shows signs of not just ghosts, but demonic rituals, Chess’s debt to Bump becomes the least of her problems. Add in the new ghost in town (appearing to many Church employees; he’s more powerful than your average spook) who seems to have nothing but the worst in mind; a new and insane attraction to Terrible; a rival drug dealer’s plans for Chess (some of them involving a very personal relationship), and suddenly life’s a whole lot more complicated, not to mention dangerous, for this ghost hunter.
There are plenty of UNHOLY GHOSTS in this tale, and doing her best to defeat them is Chess. It’s a bit of an understatement to say that she’s not your typical heroine. She’s dark, tortured, wild, and, with the exception of her loyalty to the Church (who gave her a purpose in life), not much inclined to give her loyalty or friendship to anyone. Of course, with her history, nobody could blame her. It’s that history (and I’d have to think the crazy world she lives in) that makes her turn to drugs and the escape (real or imaginary) they offer. I can’t help thinking she’d be a better Debunker, not to mention a more well-fed one, if she’d give them up, but then again, I’m sure most of us have a few vices we’d be better off without as well. That’s probably part of what makes Chess surprisingly realistic. She may not be the girl next door, but there’s an appeal to Chess that makes you want to know what she’ll do next.
Edsel, a market dealer, is the closest thing to a friend Chess has; he’s also the guy to know if you need magical info the Church would rather you not learn. Elder Griffin (a Church worker) is one of Chess’s favorites; Goody Tremmell (in charge of the reports desk at the Church) is definitely not. Doyle (a Debunker) and Chess once slept together; he’d like that to happen again. Unfortunately, he’s got a rather big mouth, and Chess doesn’t like her private life made public. Randall Duncan (another Debunker) just wants everybody, including Chess, to like him. Goody Glass, on the other hand, makes no bones about her disdain for Chess (the feeling by the way, is mutual). Lex is arrogant, handsome, and trouble on two feet—just the kind of guy Chess usually goes for (he works for Slobag, Bump’s competitor). I’ve already mentioned Terrible (I can’t help but wonder if he picked that name, or if it was given to him), but I’ll confirm here that he is as you’d suspect—huge, brutal and one mean son of a gun. He’s also surprisingly normal; much like you or I, he views his work as just that, a job. Whether or not he’d be a wise romantic choice if Chess were looking to make one remains to be seen.
Can Chess defeat the dark ghost? Will she give in to Terrible’s surprising appeal, and what about Bump’s competition and their plans? You’ll have to read the book to get the answers to these questions, and in the process you’re sure to come up with more. Luckily, the next books, UNHOLY MAGIC and CITY OF GHOSTS are due out in early and late July. If you’re looking for something different, dark, and a bit wild, then Chess Putnam and the world unleashed in UNHOLY GHOSTS is sure to fit the bill.
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