Author: Stacia Kane
Publication Date: 6/4/12
Publisher: Random House Digital
[Amazon | Goodreads]
Blurb(GR): When eighteen-year-old Chess Putnam is offered the chance to train with a special team of investigators known as the Black Squad, she feels torn. She’s never been a team player and hates how one male Inquisitor condescends to “the new kid.” But at her first bloody crime scene, she gets a taste for investigation—and is hooked on the high. Though the seasoned Inquisitors consider the series of ghost murders random events, Chess starts to detect a pattern. Is a psycho killer summoning ghosts from the City of Eternity and using them as murder weapons? As Chess gets closer to the dark truth, she puts herself in grave danger and risks losing everything she’s fought so hard for.
Includes a special preview of Stacia Kane’s upcoming urban fantasy thriller, Chasing Magic!
The thing that always strikes me about these books is just how incredibly well Stacia Kane knows her own characters. Her complete commitment to painting them faithfully is reflected in every single decision they make, every word they say, every gesture, every reaction. Of course, this is something that authors are supposed to be doing, but I rarely see it at this level of detail. When it comes to her characters, Stacia Kane doesn’t write “filler.” Nothing is wasted. For example, this tiny scene from Finding Magic, where Chess is talking to a classmate (Agnew!):
“Debunking. I’ve already talked to Elder Griffin, you know, about how that’s what I want to do. He said he’d get me scheduled.”
“How – “ No. No, she wasn’t going to ask how he’d managed to do that, because it would make her look stupid. Naïve. She changed it to “How do you like Elder Griffin? He seems okay.”
With that one sentence hesitation, (along with many other scenes in this book that are just as small), she paints in a hundred tiny facets of Chess. And when you’ve finished these pages and stepped back from them, what you get is a very rare and three-dimensional view of our girl, undiluted. In this book, Stacia Kane has lifted years of self-medication and hardness from Chess and given us her much younger, much more vulnerable self.
Reading this very short novella was an intense experience, just like every other Downside Ghosts book I’ve read, but in a few ways it was even more intense. Without her usual narcotic buffer in place, we get to experience everything that Chess works so hard to suppress: the memories that invade every corner of her life, the way that her body betrays her on a daily basis, her constant need to prove to everyone that she’s worth something even though she knows it will never be true. It’s exhausting and although I would never say that it’s an excuse for her to use drugs, this story goes a long way towards explaining why she would want to.
However, the most intense and heartbreaking thing about this story is getting to see the absolute potential that lies within Chess – just how strong she really is underneath it all. I love that Stacia Kane, while showing us just how much was lost and allowing us to mourn for the pristine Chess that will never be, also celebrates Chess’ wounds. So much of Chess’ strength and her aptitude for investigation actually come from her traumatic past. Even as her past is making her everyday existence almost unbearable, it’s helping her to be tough, shrewd, and dedicated. I just know that someday Chess is going to realize that too and start to make peace with herself. In the mean-time, I am in for every page of this ride!
And if all of that didn’t convince you that this novella is worth a mere $0.99, then just allow me to innocently mention that TERRIBLE IS IN THIS BOOK. For about two sentences, but really…isn’t that worth $0.99 all by itself?
Perfect Musical Pairing
The Antlers - I Don't Want Love
Join me on Thursday for a review of Chasing Magic!