Unholy Ghosts by Stacia Kane
Downside Ghosts #1
May 25, 2010
Mass Market Paperback, 352 pages
Source: Purchased a copy from my local Chapters.
Steam factor: 3 out of 5 cups of steamin' smexy goodness.
THE DEPARTED HAVE ARRIVED.
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. Enter Chess Putnam, a fully tattooed witch and freewheeling ghost hunter. She’s got a real talent for banishing the wicked dead. But Chess is keeping a dark secret: She owes a lot of money to a murderous drug lord named Bump, who wants immediate payback in the form of a dangerous job that involves black magic, human sacrifice, a nefarious demonic creature, and 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.
I recently had a poll posted asking visitors to vote on what popular series I should read and review. While I had Stacia Kane's Downside Ghosts as an option, no one voted for it! Well, I just couldn't leave it sitting on my TBR shelf any longer. After reading a lot of praise for this series, I had to find out what all the fuss was about. Sorry voters.
Actually, I'm not sorry. Unholy Ghosts is one of the most original books I have read in a very long time. A lot of urban fantasy/romance books follow a specific plot line where the kick ass heroine beats up a few bad guys, saves the day, and then gets it on with the uber sexy hero. It's pretty much all puppies and rainbows by the end. However, with Unholy Ghosts, Kane takes readers on a dark and gritty adventure where there are no puppies or rainbows in sight.
After ghosts rose up from the grave in 1997 and killed a two-thirds of the worlds population, the old religions were abandoned and the Church of Real Truth, which is based on magic, was embraced as the only means to fend off another ghostly attack. Caesaria or Chess Putnam works for the Church as a witch and a Debunker; a person who banishes ghosts back to their resting place in the City of Eternity. However, Chess spends most of her income from investigating hauntings on her drug habit. As the story progresses, we learn that Chess owes a ton of money to her drug dealer Bump. In order to remedy her debt, Bump enlists Chess to investigate a supposed haunting at an airport, which he plans to use to transport drugs. However, when Chess begins her investigation, she soon learns that there is far more going on at the airport than just a simple haunting.
Chess is one of the most screwed up protagonists I have ever encountered. However, she is also very complex and extremely likable. While at first I didn't know what to think about her being a druggie, I came to understand her drug habit is just a part of who Chess is. She is flawed and deals with a lot of her emotional issues from growing up in the system by getting high. She isn't a hero and never claims to be. To me, Kane actually gives a more realistic view on how someone befitting the hero stereotype would actually cope in real life. However, I do hope that one day Chess will learn how to deal with her issues without turning to drugs. Just say no kids.
Another standout character in the book is Terrible. Like Chess, he is the anti-hero. Often described as being ugly, with his muttonchops and bowling shirts, he is the classic example of it's whats on the inside that counts. In the beginning of the book, I was scratching my head trying to figure out Terrible's appeal, but by the end I could understand why Chess is attracted to him. To Chess, Terrible isn't ugly, that's just the way he looks. Although Chess becomes involved with a rival gang member, Lex, I am officially on Team Terrible.
The only thing that did bug me about the book was the way some of the Downside residents spoke. At first, I couldn't decide if they were pirates or all had Scottish accents. Maybe they are Scottish pirates? After a while though, the disjointed speech grew on me. I just wish there was more explanation as to why people speak that way.