Stacia Kane, City of Ghosts

Posted July 7, 2011 by Kathy Davie in

City of Ghosts (Downside Ghosts, #3)City of Ghosts by Stacia Kane
Series: Downside, 3
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Third in the Downside urban-fantasy series set in a world where the Church of Truth governs all.

“The Church…watches you, so you can relax and live a safe and happy life.”

Sounds a bit 1984 until I got further into the book where Kane makes a good point—multiple governments battling for supremacy, racism, xenophobia, intolerance, clash of beliefs and cultures versus Downside Church rule. Makes ya wonder…freedom or safety…

The Story
City of Ghosts carries on from Unholy Magic with the sabotaged execution of the medium practicing outside Church bounds. Seems the Lamaru are getting up to something pretty horrific and it involves the psychopomps. The creatures used by the Church to escort souls to the City of Eternity where their ghosts are walled in to prevent their murderous rage from destroying the world…again.

That’s besides the super, top-secret case for which Chess accepts a special binding. Wanting that $80 grand promised her at the end of the case, Chess goes through the motions desperate to get away from her new snob of a partner, the Black Squad member, Lauren, who thinks she’s all that and couldn’t be bothered to stray from her straight and narrow point of view to investigate anything that pops up along the way. By the end, Chess is more concerned with upholding Church rule than the money. If the choice is between receding back into the mess the world was in before Haunted Week or maintaining the current status quo.

Certainly the chaos the Lamaru intend to unleash would be worse with no hope of compassion.

Along the way, Chess stumbles over a magical act entering the lists with its genetically modified children, the dogs, fetishes, and a startling look “under the hood” of the Church’s Elders. Most importantly, especially to Chess, her Church investigation in Bump’s neighborhood throws her into company with Terrible. A partnership Terrible hates and makes no bones about letting Chess know yet there is still a vulnerability about Terrible. A tenderness that Chess exploits.

The Characters
Chess gets so strung out over “bacterial stew” and worried about other people having worn a Church robe she has on and yet she doesn’t have a problem with all the drugs she takes?? I must confess I had hoped that the almost-black binding the Church imposes upon Chess would overwhelm her system to a point that the drugs wouldn’t work for her. That she’d have to give them up as pointless. Ah well, into each life a little rain must fall…should’a brought an umbrella!

A sympathetic uncovering of Terrible’s insecurities. You’d never think a man like him would have insecurities and yet when Kane reveals them…it makes sense. That Chess gets them even though the most important issue Terrible has still escapes Chess. Only book 5 may tell if she does or if we’ll continue to have to wait.

My Take
Chess makes me nuts with all the hiding she does of everything she encounters. Maybe that’s part of what makes this series attractive. Why doesn’t Chess just show the photo to Lauren? Granted the woman is an idiot, but… She knows Lauren is a glory hound…as opposed to a Hand of Glory…why not beat her at her own game with someone she knows is on her side?

Okay, she doesn’t want the Church to find out about her drugtaking, the jobs she does for Bump or the aid she gave Lex and his gang but why can’t she let on about the help her “informers” provide about this case? Although, I do suspect Kane has opened that door for it in the next story. I loved Elder Griffin’s query to Chess after the battle…and Chess’ response.

Absolutely fascinating all the permutations. Felt like I was in an Anita Blake story with all the action taking place. Maguinness and his double-dealings. The unexpected benefits of Chess’ living in her neighborhood and developing relationships with her drug dealers. Lex and Terrible working together, admittedly on a pretty important errand. Chess’ unending attempts to talk to Terrible. Make him understand what and how things happened.

The Cover
The cover of the version I read is almost perfect. A tattooed Chess in a little-too-casual pose thinking it over outside a Downside alley. Rather reminiscent of most of her investigations in City of Ghosts let alone where the story’s penultimate ending occurs. This ultimate end also reflected in its title.

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