Unholy Ghosts
Stacia Kane
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Buy *Unholy Ghosts (Downside Ghosts, Book 1)* by Stacia Kane

Unholy Ghosts (Downside Ghosts, Book 1)
Stacia Kane
Del Rey
352 pages
May 2010
rated 4 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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Chess craves the underworld of Downside and the isolation that awaits her in her apartment there as much as she does the copious amounts of pills that get her through each day. Dark days and darker nights rule in Downside, the repository of society’s castaways and a perfect hiding place for the Church’s greatest adversaries. Marked with the ritualized tattoos of her position as a Church witch, Chess’s danger is usually of a different kind — Unholy Ghosts. However, if the Church learns of her addiction, it could mean her death as well.

Working for the Church as a Debunker allows Chess the opportunity to indulge in her bad habit without much fear of anyone seeing. It also allows her to hone her magical skills and weed out the liars trying to commit fraud against the Church with false claims of ghosts. Her latest case is obviously false — a gift to her from an Elder even though she isn’t next in the queue — and would be a nice bonus. Yet that dark, lightning-fast entity she glimpses for one terrifying moment that feels like a lifetime definitely warrants more investigation. It doesn't look or feel like a ghost, no doubt some spectacular special effects the clients worked up to make her believe them. And yet…

Terrible is - well, he's terrible in every sense of the word. As the enforcer of Downside’s crime boss, everyone knows who he is and fears him as much as a ghost. Being one of the largest, most muscular men many have ever seen helps — so does the battered remainder of his face — yet his unflinching dedication to his job is the most frightening. When Terrible knocks on Chess’ door, her expectations for a good night fly away with the twist of the knob. Bump isn’t just the local crime boss: he's her drug dealer, too, and she owes him a lot. As payment, he wants her to do an off-the-record ghost removal from his abandoned airport. If she won’t, then she can pay him three times what she owes him.

Determined but unsuccessful in finding any trace of ghosts at the airport, Chess uncovers something far worse: the remains of a powerful ritual and a body whose spirit has been magically tied to it. This evil magic can be connected to none other than the Lamaru, a rogue group of mages determined to bring down the carefully reconstructed world. If this group is in action, there is far more going on than a simple haunting at an airport.

If Chess thought her life was already complicated, she's thought wrong. Adding in kidnapping, making a deal with a competing drug lord to save her life, increased sightings of the dark entity from her case and fearing the infiltration of the Lamaru into the Church definitely make her situation far more stressful. Unable to identify friend from foe while battling an entity whose strength grows unbelievably fast, Chess cannot allow evil to triumph, or the world as she knows it will fall.

Stacia Kane's less-than-ideal protagonists somehow win her readers over every time. Her eccentric style in favoring characters who cross the lines of society’s definitions of dysfunctional and lost is risky. Kane’s "Megan Chase" series is equally unique in characters and storylines, proving the success her style is generating with a swiftly growing fan base.

Unholy Ghosts is the first book to feature Chess Putnam in a series that many may — if they choose to take offense — consider a direct insult to their personal beliefs. For those who read for the sake of enjoying the fiction for what it is - pure make-believe - a spine-chilling experience awaits. Quirky characters and multi-layered mystery, heavy on the unexpected, will leave you dying for more. Due to heavy drug and moral-free content, parents should read this series to determine its acceptability for their interested teens and pre-teens.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. © Sonia R. Polinsky, 2011

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