Unholy Ghosts

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Unholy Ghosts

Chess Putnam, #1

On another blog I saw a poll up asking if having a main character who is addicted to a substance (drugs, alcohol, some weird supernatural thing) is a turn off for the reader.  Other than minor alcoholic abuse in young adult novels and one instance of a supernatural drug abuse problem, none of the books I've read have had main characters who were addicted to anything (unless you count life-threatening situations).  Chess, Unholy Ghosts' main character, is addicted to more drugs than I can name.  Some of which seem to be like the drugs you can get in the real world and some of which are completely foreign to me. 

And I would be lying if I said it didn't make me uncomfortable.  Every time she agonized over needing another 'Cept' or accepting a line of powder (or three), I squirmed a little in my seat.  Did it ruin my enjoyment of the book however?  No.  Not in the least.  This isn't to say I didn't judge her pretty harshly whenever she let the need for drugs interfere with her job (her legal or illegal one), but I didn't let it cloud how I felt about the book as a whole.

Chess is a different kind of tough as nails heroine running around so blithely in urban fantasy and paranormal romances today.  Her issues only get worse as the novel continues.  In fact for every issue she seemingly conquers, the resulting resolution is ten times worse.  Do a little job for Bump (her local drug lord), her debt erased, ease of conscience...except that job then becomes a living nightmare.  Take on a cake walk assignment to get a little cashflow from the Church (the legal magick-users and frontline defense against the ghosts who have risen)...and her living nightmare just had quintuplets.  So very little goes right for Chess in this book that I wasn't surprised when the opportunity to just let go of this mortal coil presented itself, and she was sorely tempted.

This a certain cadence to the speech patterns of the recurring characters.  The higher-ups in the Church liked their 'thees' and 'thous', Debunkers like Chess and Doyle spoke normally,and  street folk like Bump and Terrible spoke in a slow, drop half the syllables and add new ones kind of way.  Since the Downside, where Chess lived and spent a fair chunk of the book in, was meant to be the slums it made sense that the folk who grew up and operated within its boundaries would develop their own way of talking.  It fascinated me, new speech patterns and slang always fascinates me and authors who weave it into their novels so effortlessly impress me.

The relationships between the characters were mostly of the 'scratch my back, I got yours' variety.  Its fair to say no one trusted anyone with so much as a sheet of paper out of their sight.  Though as the novel progresses Chess finds herself relying on Terrible (Bump's enforcer) and Lex (rival gang leader) more and more.  Terrible is looking out for Bump's in interests, but there was definitely more there.  Lex was looking to scoop Chess up for his own gang's purposes; Chess was a rare commodity, a Churchwitch with a heavy drug addiction and heavy power to boot.  Those who don't want her dead want her to be indebted to them so she'll help them out.

I liked Terrible.  He warmed up considerably as the book progressed and I felt so bad for him about two-thirds of the way in.  In his world he isn't a bad guy; he's doing a job he can do well, but that doesn't mean he goes off the hook for no reason.  Lex was a different story.  He was all suave and 'I know what you want baby' towards Chess.  Smug is a good word for Lex.  I wanted to punch him half the time, but there's no denying he was an intriguing character.

I can't wait to read the second book Unholy Magic and the third City of Ghosts.  Chess' problems seemed to be resolved for the moment, but even as she said that she was cooking up a plan likely to land her in the stews.  I can't wait.

Book Blurb for Unholy Ghosts


The world is not the way it was. The dead have risen, and the living are under attack. The powerful Church of Real Truth, in charge since the government fell, has sworn to reimburse citizens being harassed by the deceased.

Consequently, there are many false claims of hauntings from those hoping to profit. Enter Chess Putnam, a fully-tattooed witch, freewheeling Debunker, and ghost hunter. She’s got a real talent for nailing human liars and banishing the wicked dead. But she’s keeping a dark secret from the Church: a little drug problem that’s landed her in hot and dangerous water.

Chess owes a lot of money to a murderous drug lord named Bump. And Bump wants immediate payback. All Chess has to do is dispatch a very nasty species of undead from an old airport. But the job involves black magic, human sacrifice, a nefarious demonic creature, and crossing swords with enough wicked energy to wipe out a city of souls. Toss in lust for a rival gang leader and a dangerous attraction to Bump’s ruthless enforcer, and Chess begins to wonder if the rush is really worth it. Hell, yeah.

Night Owl Reviews Jun, 2010 5.00